Surrey Hills and a reminder that fitness is temporary.

Blog entries have been a little thin on the ground of late … there’s no denying it. Turns out that there’s a pretty good reason for that which is that despite turning the legs over on a daily basis up and down Boris’ CS7 from Balham to the City, it doesn’t make for particularly interesting riding or reading.

But all that changed this weekend when winter finally loosened it’s grip and the UK strained its collective eyes towards the heavens to marvel at the strange and unfamiliar orange orb in the sky. Spring has sprung. I know this because there even though we’re some way off the spring ritual of girls in summer dresses with plasters on the back of their heels as legs are brought out of hibernation there are other tell-tale signs.

1) I opened a bottle of rosé on the weekend
2) I cleaned the BBQ and wracked my brains to remember where I could buy a bottle of BBQ gas
3) Full finger gloves make your hands sweat when you ride and my legwarmers have moved from the top of the kit pile to the bottom.
4) The Cycleways of London are getting crowded again as the need for lights recedes. I’m not sure why spending £30 on some lights is such a barrier to entry for cycling but you can’t deny it …. Lights and grim weather seem to be inextricably linked in the minds of summer cyclists and so as the clocks go forward, you can almost hear the creak of the door hinges as thousands of bikes are wheeled out of the shed at the end of the garden across London.

But am I really any better? I went for a ride on Saturday and was a little alarmed to realise it was my first ride of over 100km since October 6th! Coincidence? Probably not! Short days and long rides just don’t seem to go together in my mind either. With the benefit of a bit of hindsight, it’s probably just as well that goal #1 for 2014 has already fallen by the wayside. The Tour of Flanders … all 270km of it would probably have been biting off more than I could chew given my lack of winter preparation. But better sportsmen than I have missed more important goals than that.

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If this weekend has taught me anything it’s that the best training for long rides is long rides. It doesn’t really matter how you cut it, 11km of commute with just 46 metres of vertical isn’t really going to help you to feel fresh on a long ride even if you do manage it twice a day at a reasonable pace. You don’t train for a marathon by running to the bus stop!

All of which is a rather long winded way of saying that on Sunday morning I left the celebration of Mother’s Day in the hands of my children (if I had a female readership I fear they may have just logged off) and set off to meet up with Will Greig of the SWRs for a ride into the Surrey Hills. The route (courtesy of Will) was a good one and strung together various pieces that I’d done before but in isolation. Leith Hill (mercifully not straight over the top), White Down Lane (the ‘wrong’ way) and then Box Hill in quick succession were enough to find my legs out and it was a pretty uncomfortable and not particularly quick trip up Box Hill to the cafe. Going so long without a long ride, I’d forgotten how much fuel I needed on these sorts of excursions and with the single energy bar and gel I’d brought with me already a distant memory I was now running on fumes. The good news for me at this point was that everything is pretty much downhill from the top of Box Hill but the bad news was Will wasn’t in much of a mood to cruise as we took what he referred to as ‘the fast train to Esher’ where the designated coffee stop awaited.

But what a coffee stop. I wasn’t previously acquainted with Cafe Giro of Giro Cycles in Esher but I’m already a big fan. Clearly set up by cyclists with a passion and artistic flair, it offers some truly excellent coffee, really delicious cake and all manner of other food and juices/ smoothies etc in very relaxed surroundings. Classic Tours of the past played on a screen in the background while the walls were adorned with some excellent cycling photographic prints. They even provide a free lock for your bike and I would definitely recommend a visit by incorporating it into your next ride in the area.

With the sun out, some lemon drizzle and Victoria sponge working their restorative magic and the threat of unhappy spouse if I overran my earlier arrival estimate I was able to round things off without any further issue although I still can’t figure out the one way system in Kingston (I know there’s a quick way through it by bike but I never find it) and the climb back up Copse Hill into Wimbledon is a uniquely unenjoyable slog at the end of a long ride. But all in all an excellent morning on the bike and a great way to kick start the summer’s riding with an eye on the Ride London goal. (No I didn’t get a place in the ballot. Plan B didn’t really come off either. Plan C is in full effect but I won’t tempt fate by writing about it just yet!) Strava map of the ride plus the usual profile etc is here.

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