Those NOT hobnobbing it away in the Chilterns this week were Tommy, Simon, Richie, Neal, Michael, Chris, Helen and myself (Dangerous and Die Hard apparently)
As all the big riding chiefs were away or injured it was intriguing to observe who was going to step into the fray to lead this weeks ride. Like a man eager to be the first to die for his country Simon's hand was the first (and only) to rise. With no other candidates the fate of the group now rested on the shoulders of someone who had been psyching himself up pre-ride by listening to The War Of The Worlds audio book on his IPod.
After the small matter of Helen's tube being attended to by man mountain Tommy the ride set off through the single track towards Connaught Water. The pace was brisk mainly due to the calibre of the riders we had with us on this fine day. In recent weeks we have become spoilt with the unusually dry trails the forest is currently providing us with. It therefore came as a bit of a shock when we stumbled across a real boggy patch, there were some girl like cries of 'I've just washed my bike, I'm not riding through that' coming from Michael's direction, but we all made it over one way or another. Boggy patch safely negotiated the ride headed up the Sun Trap downhill, across the road and through the single track behind High Beach cemetery and then to convene at the High Beach BSH for a loo stop.
Number 1's and 2's over the ride resumed along the single track that runs parallel with the ENR towards Old Orleans roundabout. We encountered a little trail bashing on the way as Simons human satnav lost a few bearings.
At the roundabout power was relinquished and I took over as we headed towards the abandoned Dick Turpin road and towards Copped Hall downhill and blasted through Big Badgers tunnel under the M25 popping out at the foot of Rod Stewart's garden. From here we made our way up the gravel road to Upshire before re-crossing the M25 via the bridge where we swung a left at the farmers field (instead of heading towards the stables). Usually this downhill jaunt is a nightmare in the winter but today it was glorious as the full suss soaked up the bumps and the climb that is usually so awkward was a breeze. The bridle path from here took us across the A121 as we headed towards Big view.
Pausing briefly at the top we took the orignal (but often not used) banzai route down Big View skipping over the deep rutts and avoiding the sneeky logs that jutted out on the trail. From here we cut along the road towards the foot of high beach golf course before making everyone earn their lunch with the big climb up through the heart of high beach.
A swift detour through the graveyard single track then across the road and Bradley's (looking a lot less busy than usual considering it was peek lunchtime hours) was in sight.
After lunch 8 became 6 as Simon and Helen departed for their respective afternoon activities. The rest of us headed for a quick water refill stop at the High Beach BSH before ducking behind the wildlife centre, down the rollers and across the road to the drop off. Having all negotiated the double dip at the base of the drop off and on Tommy's suggestion we headed towards Omar's fast downhill via the bomb holes and down to the pond at Loughton Brook. We then rode the trails through area 51 where Richie left us and then up the hill towards Strawberry Ponds. A quick sprint down through the twisty trails to the car park on ENR, across the ENR and then briefly up the abonadoned road before cutting across towards the base of Sun Trap downhill before heading towards the Owl pub. This part of the ride took slighly longer than usual as Tommy and Neal were dragging their tongues as they rode past the Owl beer garden lit by the warm afternoon sun.
Having ignored the beckoning charms of the Owl pub we headed through the gate and along the West Essex Golf Course footpath towards the part of the ride Tommy had been looking forward to all day. Cutting across the golf course we took the hand numbing, arm tingling, bone shaker downhill where both Michael and I nearly didn't make the final corner before breaking out onto Berry Road.
The ride nearly at an end it seemed a waste to simply call it quits and ride to the car park missing the smoothe trails to Pole Hill which were effortless in the conditions. A final blast down the path at the side of Chingford Golf Course before crossing over to Chingford Plains car park where the day had begun.
A debrief in the usual trappings of the Station House ensued where we neglected to tell the bar staff there would be siginificantly less of us this week, fortunately we were joined by the Mods who helped make light work of the feast for thirty.