Ride report: Saturday 13th April MTB Leatherhead

Five riders met at Cheam Station Southside for the off road ride to Leatherhead: Mick Curtis, Bill Martin, Andy Huddart, Dave Rapson and myself leading the ride.

Our ride took us through the lower south west corner of Nonsuch Park, avoiding joggers and dogs, then out across the Ewell Bypass to the start of the Hogsmill River. After that a few minor route variations were used to get us to ‘Butcher’s Grove’ in the north corner of Horton Country Park before we followed the access path running at the back of the houses to Castle Hill. Upon joining the road again at the top of Castle Hill we had a fast descent and a run up for the next short, sharp rise. We waited for a moment at the top for some to catch their breath by the village shops on the Gilders Road roundabout which is  just up the road from Chessington South Station.

After crossing the Leatherhead Road we headed up Barwell Lane towards the bridge over the A3. Dave Rapson asked me if we were going to get our feet wet in the infamous ‘Flood of Doom’ around the back of the farm? This time as it had been frosty overnight I decided to use the bridleway just beyond it. The bridleway is normally very boggy and muddy this time of year, but I was counting on the previous night’s frost having frozen it for an easy passage. Upon starting the bridleway we found it fairly solid and powered our way down it at speed finding only the last few yards were boggy with the odd deep pot hole or rut.

At one of these mud-filled pot holes I gave it a little boost of power so as not to get stuck in the mud  and immediately heard an unpleasant sound as I bounced out of the hole akin to metal cracking. I stopped just short of the bridge over the A3 to investigate, alas it was all too clear immediately by the lube oil hissing out of my rear shock cylinder that my ride was over for the day and something probably expensive had failed internally. After a little debate I decided to limp back to Cheam where my car was parked and the rest of the group would ride on to Leatherhead with Bill Martin taking over the lead. Mick Curtis chose to ride back with me as far as the Leatherhead Road and then take the flat direct route to the cafe in Leatherhead.

As I started to retrace my steps the pressure in the failed rear shock continued to hold steady, although about 50% less than it should’ve been given the amount of extra sag and piston travel length lost. I began to work out in my mind the smoothest route back together with the straightest possible line. The route I chose was pretty much the same as I’d come out on except using more of the road and entering the south west corner of Nonsuch Park as it has relatively smooth road/path surface. The suspension continued to hold without further loss, but it was clear as I was peddling that the damping system had failed, for as I peddled the rear of the bike bounced up and down like ‘Skippy the bush kangaroo’. I had to take it very easy and hope I didn’t end up walking.

Slowly and steadily at around 8mph I carefully threaded my way back and started to try to remember the information on the rear shock and its mechanism. The front suspension forks have a ‘dump valve’  installed so that if you hit a bump too hard pressure will momentarily be released to avoid mechanical damage. I wondered if the same thing was included on the rear shock, was it just a case of re-pressurising the unit? However I did dismiss the idea fairly quickly given the colour of the fluid that hissed out! Soon enough I was entering the streets of Cheam and getting closer and closer to my goal – my parked car – with no further loss of pressure. I reported to the rest of my group my safe arrival at the car and headed home for an early bath whilst they enjoyed elevenses in Leatherhead.

After looking at Dave Rapson’s Strava map of the group’s ride without me, I saw that they had followed pretty much my intended ride route before my untimely departure with my lame steed. Bill Martin will fill you in on the rest of the ride in his report.

For me the failed part didn’t bring any shocks (no pun intended!) upon dismantling it, and my first words were ‘catastrophic failure, non repairable’ as can be seen in the pictures!

For me 14 miles, time irrelevant given the circumstances!

Paul White

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