17 Mar, Bat n Ball, Farnham, (9,14)
Conditions under rubber:
Dry, with some moist mince at the entrance of Alice Holt.
Sandy and abrasive near the Frensham Pond.
Very wet, with risk of drowning at the Pierpoint Farm river crossing.
Slight smell of ‘Moist Tarmac’ throughout.
Backdrop: The backdrop to the first Farnham-based ride wasn’t looking good – SHABI confusion between a “lock-down” and a “lock-in” had coincided with the annual SHABI accreditation audit, conducted by a local representative of the Council Of Very International ’Diots, established in China in 2019 (Note: In China, Idiots are not allowed to refer to themselves with an ‘I’ as it is a totalitarian state and therefore an expression of the ‘self’ is forbidden. Although eating Bats is allowed on a Tuesday evening). In-line with all audits worldwide, the audit would be conducted by a DFB (Why ARE all Auditors DFBs?), but operating strictly incognito, so as not to arouse suspects suspicion. In a blatant attempt to appeal to the COVI’D auditors’ Tuesday evening dining habits, the Bat and Ball pub in Farnham had been specially selected.
Pub staff quickly confirmed that strangers had been recently spotted in the area and this was quickly dismissed as routine witchcraft, although these were clearly unprecedented times and shocking scenes were apparent from the start:
Smashie was late arriving [Horror!], despite having been to the same start point only 3 days before for the recce
Faffy was ready 5 mins before 5 mins before 6:30 [An event literally never before witnessed in the known, universe]
DFB was present [On an actual bike, and it wasn’t even the Christmas dinner] – it couldn’t be him could it?
A New Person (also known in some circles as a ‘Stranger’) was present. Vouched for by LBD but sporting very suspicious antennae and, as a result, immediately named “Grasshopper” – it couldn’t be him could it? No – not fat enough, doesn’t eat Bat.
The key criteria for the annual SHABI audit were simple enough to follow, aligned to the SHABI initials:
1) Rides must be Sussex and Hampshire based.
2) Riders must be a member of an Association (i.e. Minimum 10 people).
3) Riders must be able to ride a Bike.
4) Riders must be Idiots.
5) Six additional “tiebreaker” questions, randomly selected from club rules (there are only six anyway) to demonstrate compliance were:
i. Prompt 6:30pm pedal-off
ii. No riders lost en-route
iii. No falls
iv. No mechanicals due to neglect (rider or bike)
v. Back in time for dinner being served
vi. £17 quid at the pub
6) Finally to ensure complete impartiality the Auditor must not also fit into the category of a “Rider” nor attend any “Ride”.
A score of 1 out of 6 is required for re-accreditation.
9 riders were present, all of whom were happy to confirm they were “In the Club” (Q2 FAIL):
DFB (Potential Q6 FAIL)
Love Bus Driver
Big Ring (* on Old Faithful due to a pre-ride mechanical on the new bike)
Faffy’s ride planning had gone well, he was keen to show off the best that the Surrey (Q1 FAIL) North Downs had to offer. He hadn’t got back to the pub on time for dinner ever in his life and wasn’t going to start now - the three hour recce ride on the previous Saturday had proved that. But, by applying advanced trigonometry, time space continuum modelling and pound-cost averaging analysis, the three hour time in reality had been successfully proven to be achievable in just two.
At least that was the plan, and at 6:30 precisely, they were off – or at least DFB was, he’d seen enough (for his report????!!!!), and at some unspecified time after that (Q5 FAIL) the group set off over the Bat and Ball footbridge and up the singletrack, following the course of the River Bourne in search of Alice Holt.
DFB’s troubling early disappearance had provided a distraction for people easily distracted and the first challenging suburban road crossing proved just too much cognitive load for Big Ring and Tonka who became promptly lost within sight of the Car Park (Another Q5 FAIL). After some extremely inefficient re-routing directions were provided by Faffy, along with an apology for losing them so soon, the group were promptly rewarded by a muddy section (missed on the recce) which was categorised as “Mincey” by all, and quickly reallocated to the “archive” folder in Faffy’s brain. The top of the first major climb was now in sight, as was the local shop in Rowledge and the rubbish pub which closed long before a global economic depression had been invented.
After going up, skirting Alice Holt was undertaken without drama – unlike the previous Saturday where recce team were cycling in the opposite direction to the annual Farnham Charity Run through the Northern section of Alice Holt’s forest section, known locally as “The Gruffalo Trail”.
A fast downhill section to Frensham Manor, and more mince between the Hangar and the River Wey (South Branch) led to Frensham pond with views across to the Frensham Hotel reflected in the moonlit water. A testing 45 degree sprint climb was too much for Strangley’s chain, which after several similar incidents and a total neglect of rider maintenance, was now made up of more than 50% quick-links (another Q5 FAIL). A mechanical ensued, with the repair (now only 1 original link left) quickly dispatched by Stragley’s (ex Royal Engineers) personal team of mechanics, lead by Smashie (ex REME).
A switch to sand under tyre now, just to confuse things, did just that with Strangely deciding that now was a good time to take up Tree Surgery after losing grip on a sandy corner. A great place to fall (Q5 FAIL) though with fantastic views over Frensham Pond towards the Hogs Back and Hindhead. Unfortunately it was now properly dark.
Another quick climb up to a barely believable 82m altitude provided a quick blast through the pine trees to the snack bar (Closes at 6pm on weekends and Closed for the rest of the year. 1* Trip Advisor Rating – “Rude and aggressive Snack Bar Owner” according to @justaflatwhiteplease, May 2015. – a potential SHABI start point if ever there was one.)
Faff Cheeks had calculated by now that the plan hadn’t survived contact with the enemy and the 3 hour full recce ride needed to be cut short. Using a snippet of MTB intelligence overheard in the pub a few weeks earlier, and retrieved from his vast database of route knowledge a diversion was initiated across the broken bridge over the Wey at Pierpoint Farm. Tonka looked like he was lining up for an “Evil Keneval” style crossing but an illegal hop over the fenced-off bridge (taking care over the rotten / missing sections over the swirling waters below) and in direct contravention of the Surrey CC warning signs, looked like a safer bet.
Amazingly, Bourne Woods emerged at the other side and after a long climb followed by some excellent fast downhill (C2C7 survived), the first of two tricky climbs were facing the group. The first, a fearsome incline of nearly 1.5m in length defeated all by Big Ring, pitching LBD into a mildly-impressive wheelie reminiscent of a stunt in the famous 1970s children’s TV drama “The Red Hand Gang”.
A long, not entirely appreciated at 2.5 hours into a 2 hour ride, climb up to the top of Bourne Woods was rewarded by some proper DH (Downhill), with Smashie and Faffy insisting on a “Ski Sunday” style start-gate at the very top for all. Nobody crashed, – a fact which was no doubt immediately transmitted by Grasshopper Tom back to the COVI’D central monitoring team – although some “saddle discomfort” was noted by Big Ring on Old Faithful (sans suspensione).
By this time the nano-receptors on Faffy’s baldy scalp had detected rain so some urgency was needed to get back to the pub before moisture penetration ocurred and, frankly, closing time. So a diversion reminiscent of a scene from Lord of the Rings with an ever decreasing singletrack width down to less than the distance between pedals wasn’t entirely welcome and resulted in a forced retreat. Some wiggly bits close to more water risk brought the team back out in the Bat and Ball Car Park and, once everyone had done a quick-change into their SHABI t-shirts, the staff were quick to emerge in order to establish orders for food.
“Monkfish” said Faffy, whilst standing on one leg in the floodlit car park wearing one sock and his pants. (Q5e FAIL, Q4 PASS)
Dinner bill: £17 each (£900 when adjusted for macro-economic impact). (Q5f FAIL)
Audit outcome: PASS.
THANKS FOR READING THE 1st RM AND BLOG by FAFFY!