For September we decided to hold a double event on Sunday 18th September. We planned a women's group ride and skills session for the morning, followed by a break, before the main Chiltern Hills XC Group Ride started in the afternoon - this meant riders could attend both events if they so wished.
The BMTB women's’ ride took place in the morning and was lead by Polly who set out on a Sunday morning loop around Wendover Woods with a few stops in place for skills sessions and pointers on techniques. Our riders for the day came from London and although I was not there have heard that everybody had a good morning and we’re hoping to have another ladies ride booked on our calendar soon. Keep your eyes peeled and if you have any suggestions or requests please feel free to get in touch.
The afternoon route planned was to take in a number of BMTB’s favourite trails around Wendover Woods, Coombe Hill and Whiteleaf and link it all up on the way back whilst throwing in a few great descents and some superb views over the Chiltern’s AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The route also had a few new sections we’ve not used in group rides before – and one or two small sections of trail I used to ride (race) with friends when I was a wee nipper…
The Sunday afternoon ride starting in Wendover Woods with a great mix of regular BMTB members plus 7 new riders, some coming up from central London, to the group and our youngest ever rider at the age of 11 made our group for the day and all were keen to get going whilst the sun still shone and the trails were still dry!
A quick briefing on the trails ahead and a bike check (there’s always one loose quick-release lever!) saw us on our way down to the head of the fitness trail and onto the family cycle route following that downhill. Now this is a pretty wide, flat bridleway with almost nothing to look watch out for and this was where we had our first crash of the day - Adam was trying to perfect his wheelies and went right over the back of the bike in an almost perfect dismount! After holding back laughter to check all was OK we continued downhill and made a U-turn onto another bridleway (just before we reached the B4009).
We followed this Bridleway up slightly a took a right turn (by the small section of dry stone wall) to follow another fast & winding Bridleway round the back of RAF Halton and down towards The Hale. After passing St Mary’s Church we crossed the London Road and head upwards on Bacombe Lane and took the left-hand Bridleway half-way up the hill into the woods towards the top of Coombe Hill. This trail is normally pretty grippy and thankfully the short rooty section was mostly ride able. To make the most of the short descent at the beginning of this section Chris decided to power down it to carry as much speed as possible up the beginning of the climb – all was working perfectly until he started pedaling & snapped his chain clean in half! We re-grouped at the top and had a bit of a breather and have a fig roll (thanks Adam!)
A short section of gloop came next before a visit to our local Coombe Hill Ice-cream van! Huge thanks to our ice-cream man who replaced a dropped ice-cream with a fresh one and (with extra sauce!) once he’d stopped laughing of course…
Before we got too carried away with the ice-creams we head down the hill on the road to the Bridleway and round to Chequers before bearing towards Whiteleaf and then making the climb up to the top of Whiteleaf Hill to check out the view. It’s a pretty grueling climb to do in one go so we broke it up into small sections and met up at the top for more sweets and a picture. Unfortunately my camera decided to have a bit of a wobble so if it’s a dodgy picture you can blame my phone… Everybopdy agreed that the view from the top of Whiteleaf Hill was well worth the climb and we were also glad we weren’t stuck in any of the downpours we could see towards Oxford and Didcot.
Before we cooled down too much we started the return leg of the journey taking the Bridleway from the top of Whitleaf Hill and down towards Longdown Hill Road along a long flowing bridleway that we’d not ridden in this direction for ages (Thanks Jez for suggesting we add that bit in!) The descent was great fun with a few riders racing down - narrowly missing a massive splodge of gloop that was taking over the entire bridleway – some quick reactions and some superb skills meant that everybody shot past and onwards and downwards! We then backtracked along The Ridgeway to Chequers and across the bottom of Coombe Hill, up the road to the top car park and down the Ridgeway Bridleway on Coombe Hill into Wendover.
The last leg of the ride was just up The Hale and into Wendover woods to have a sit down before driving home. Unfortunately the café in the Woods was closed when we finished but the sun was still up, the skies were clearing up and it was still lovely and warm - I’d have loved to have carried on riding now that the woods were getting quiet – hitting a few secret trails and not having to worry about walkers or horses anymore but alas I had to drive home… For me the day ended with a smile on my face (as I wasn’t locked in the car park) this song and a drive into the sunset home in time for dinner and a cold beer. Awesome!
I’d like to again thank everybody who joined us, as well as Polly for helping lead, for this month’s group ride and for making it one of my favourite group rides of the year (so far…) purely down to the friendly and relaxed atmosphere and great conversation!
Next month we’re off to Woburn Sands for an XC ride and I hope to see you all there!
Michael, on behalf of the BMTB Team.