Ten brave souls (40% of them called Simon), seduced by the promise of an inaugural loop from a new venue with a rookie RM leading, set off on Tuesday 14th September from ‘The Shed’ in Bordon. I’ll elaborate on ‘The Shed’ later – it was, after all, the undisputed star of the ride – and, in a controversial departure from SHABI tradition, is not a pub! It had been raining all day but as we gathered in the carpark, the skies cleared leaving just a few threatening storm clouds but not a drop of rain. And so off we peddled through what will very soon be an enormous housing development (Bordonia, according to LBD!)
We were very quickly off of the main roads and into the lovely flowing woodland paths of Deadwater Valley Nature Reserve (slightly morbidly named, if you ask me. Oh, you didn’t…)
And then, still with fresh legs, we emerged at the Jubilee Park pump track.
Ah, talking of which, Strangely Brown was first to venture onto the track and promptly took a chunk out of one of his fresh legs when he slipped off of the pedals attempting something that, presumably, would have been very impressive indeed.
He’s okay, but if you’ve ever seen his popular Wednesday afternoon Bowlhead Green Methodist Hall Burleque routine, you’ll know he’s going to have to tone it down a bit. By the way, if I neglect to mention anything of note from Tuesday’s ride, you should know that SB helpfully provided a running commentary of things worthy of blog inclusion. So, any omissions or errors are entirely my fault.
Pump track done with just one casualty and onto a newly-built forest trail through, um, some forest. Fairly uneventful really other than the trail being closed and my leadership responsibilities put to the test. I failed spectacularly whilst Nurse Mick raced off on an alternative path and Dobbie bulldozed through the orange plastic netting bearing the ‘Trail Closed’ notice. I’d scoped this loop twice already and, because Bordon is somewhere that typically should be avoided, I do not know the area well.
Certainly not well enough to divert from the little black dotted line that my Garmin watch urged me to follow. Anyway, after some pitiful leadership indecisiveness, we took the ‘Nurse Mick’ route and were very promptly back on the little dotted line towards Walldown Road and back into familiar territory for most.
A short little stretch of road and we were soon diving back into Woolmer Forest and along a singletrack path that runs parallel with the ‘Ranges’ perimeter track and up the first (of not many) climbs into Conford. Absolutely nothing worthy of comment to note, that I know of, for a while as we pedalled through Bramshott, past my flat, and up the now darkening little path that would normally be my ‘almost home’ final descent. Then, a high-speed, brake-smoking encounter with some pheasants on the track that leads to Ludshott manor, onto Ludshott Common and, now with lights on, some fairly technical and gnarly trails through Gentles Copse for the first wee stop of the ride.
A word of advice, if I may… I bought myself some reactive cycling glasses. They adjust to the sunlight. They’re great – I like them. And, I think we’re all agreed, they do make me look dynamic, professional and attractive… right? Anyway, I digress, but the problem with them is that they fail to distinguish between sunlight and, say, Slumpy’s retina-burning, 4M Lumen front light ‘array’. You’re ahead of me, but needless to say, I continued the loop sans-glasses and, sadly, slightly less attractive.
Right, so where are we now… Okay, we emerged from Gentles Copse, across the road into Hilland Woods (thank you Google Maps), and the first of many stops to re-inflate Genghis’s’s’s tyre. Quite useful really as I was now struggling to follow the much-researched and practiced route in the dark, such as it was, and had inadvertently got us, um – not lost – let’s say “marginally wide of the Garmin dotted line”. Actually, that’s not true, we were bang on the dotted line – just going the wrong way along it. This’ll be a surprise to most as I think I managed to effortlessly salvage the loop with absolute (feigned) confidence.
Taking the Mick:
I was excited to surprise my fellow SHABI’s with a funfair that had been on the village green at Arford on the previous two (yes two – I know, right!) scoping rides. It wasn’t there. D’oh! Okay, no problem, we crack on then along a pointless ½ km offroad path that served no function other than to avoid a 20m stretch of road and then onto the bridleway that anyone who’s done SB’s ‘Dead Cat Wier’ loop will be familiar with. You know, the one with the little bridge followed by the lung-bursting granny-ring climb and the rutted path between the fields that pops out at the top where the view, had it not been ‘the night’, is magnificent. And that’s where Mick hit the ground. I’d love to say that it was whilst attempting something ‘MacAskill-y’. It wasn’t. I don’t know – I think he just forgot to unclip. Either way, it qualifies for points. He’s fine though – no damage done and the NHS is okay for little while yet.
So, talking of Mick, here’s a thing… I felt obliged to be at the front because I’m leading the ride. That was my one job. And it was on this next part of the ride, through Broxhead Common, that Mick was also on the front, because, you know… Mick. Well, we were chatting. For future reference, for subsequent RM’s, chatting to Mick on the front of a ride makes you ride at a speed you didn’t know you were capable of and very soon you realise that there are no lights behind you. So can I apologize now for the times I’ve been quite vocal about RM’s rushing ahead leaving the backmarkers to make assumptions about route options. There’s a psychological tendency to ride a little bit faster on the front so you don’t hold anyone up but, add to that, the ‘Mick effect’ and you’ll be hauling Strava trophies. Just saying…
Time for some DH fun… We crossed the Farnham Road into some nameless MOD land on which some teenagers on chemicals have built some tracks. They’re great fun in daylight. It wasn’t daylight. Actually, I stole this part of the loop from LBD’s Strava account (full disclosure). E-Lee and I have ridden it a couple of times (Lee had a big wobble on one section) and I fully expected to spend some time just playing on the trails, looping back around and trying different ways of getting down. It was now 20:15 and I had hoped to include a little diversion through Hogmore Inclosure on the way back to The Shed but it was always going to be an ambitious loop in the time available. So, a quick break for a Genghis tyre re-inflation and we set off down what I thought was the route least likely to result in hospitalisation.
Next, riding past the enormous parade ground that was to be the site of the SHABI Purple Helmet bicycle display (That’s for another day chaps) which nobody could actually see anyway and, in some disarray, towards the bright lights of Bordonia and the promise of 15 craft ales, lagers and ciders, food from any continent you can think of and the option to try a rhubarb lager or, later:
A drink from China that looks like frogspawn and has been on Slumpy’s dashboard, in the sun, for weeks. Hmmm…
Okay, so that was the ride. You’re welcome. Now, I’m not invested in ‘The Shed’ but I think it worked very well as a SHABI ‘start, finish, eat and drink’ location. The various food outlets stop serving at 21:00 but the young hipster chaps in the burger place were brilliant – seemingly completely unoffended by ten (okay nine – Tonka went Mexican…) blokes turning up at 20:50 (oh, okay, eight – Genghis is following a strict ‘beer only’ diet) wheeling our muddy bikes right into the seating area, ordering, and paying for – another departure from SHABI tradition – they’re own food and drink in dribs and drabs. Parking was free but will be introduced imminently and despite it being, you know, Bordon, we all left with all our wheels and nobody got stabbed. Result…
Dobbie, Nurse Mick, Slumpy, Tonka (Points for DRM), Sarge (Simon), Strangely Brown, LBD, Tarmac SJ, Me (Slash), Genghis
16 miles were covered. There were two crashes – Mick (I saw that one), and Dobbie (apparently – I didn’t see it and don’t know where)
Now, this is where I have to defer to my superiors. There is some dispute concerning SHABI t-shirts. We were pushed for time when we got back to the car park and I suggested that we ride straight to The Shed and order. Therefore, only me, Genghis and LBD actually wore our SHABI t-shirts. Others claimed to have them in the car – Tonka (who I’m inclined to believe!), Slumpy, SB… I think there were more but being as how I can’t even manage my own laundry, I relinquished RM responsibility at the precise moment I took my first sip of locally brewed craft ale!
Oh, we all had food except for Genghis. SB got the shits… might’ve been the Haloumi burger… might’ve been the rhubarb lager. The court case is ongoing so can’t comment in my official capacity.
You’re all fabulous… don’t go changing
Slash / Slasher