Surrey Hills MTB


Surrey Hills MTB

Rootin’ tootin’ winter tyres

Howdy folks, a couple of weeks ago I was thinking I really need to re-shoe the trusty sled with some winter slop tyres, the Specialized Slaughter on the rear just wasn’t cutting it. Then after a 32 miler with Mark T in the slop and slime of Trail Break’s ‘Turkey Burner’ ride, which took in the delights of Shackleford, Puttenham, Crooksbury, Hankley and the Punchbowl, my burning thighs were either telling me ‘time to ditch the beer and turkey diet of Christmas, or find something that actually propels you forwards in the gloop that has developed during the winter period (see below).


Some phone calls to my local LBS’s proved fruitless, I would normally put a matching Specialized Butcher or a Purgatory on the rear, a combo I have trusted for a number of years (all in the 29×2.3 Grid flavour). So a few searches later I was presented with a very tempting offer from CycleStore – the Specialized Hillbilly, again with the tougher grid sidewalls (something I consider a must on 29in wheels for stability and non burping) for just £25 each. A pair arrived about three days later, and with minimal effort the old rubber was replaced and set up tubeless – swearing or lubricating wasn’t required to get them on the Easton Heist Rims with a 30mm width. Both front and back were inflated to approx 25psi.

Yee-Haa, off into the great wide open meant a Sunday morning blast up and around Hydons Ball, a good mixture of mud, loam, sand, jumps, berms and roots. Immediately I noticed a higher level of traction, deliberately trying to spin the rear proved difficult, lean the bike over, it all remained sure footed. The wide spaced tread meant any mud cleared easily. Basically I just forgot about how different these tyres were supposed to feel and just got on with enjoying the ride, attacking an off camber corner or grinding up the steep sections of Hydons – all was dealt with, no fuss, no dramas. Quite how draggy they are going to be on tarmac I don’t know yet (or really care) it’s just how long they last. To be honest It feels like I’ve literally rustled these tyres from the supplier, an absolute bargain although I’ll be more than happy to swap back if conditions improve!

Setting up tubeless was a breeze
Wide spaced knobs (snigger)
Cuts well through the West Surrey Mud

Significant Day

So today is a most significant of days – one of the original TFITers, our one and only Mark T has reached his 50th year.

Now I won’t wax lyrical about what a genuinely top dude Mark is – mostly cos he’d hate it – but I have to say as one of the “TFIT originals” who headed out into the Surrey Hills (some would argue to escape the joys of having young children… but I digress) to start the institution that is TFIT – the rest of us are eternally grateful.

I also will not mention OR pay tribute to the special “Mark locations” that are dotted around the Surrey Hills (raising the overall elevation by at least several feet), his multitude of awesome bikes with perfectly setup suspension, uncanny ability to locate “foam parties” at great distance (like some kind of beer soaked homing pigeon), preternatural skill at opening pubs that are firmly shut (for quite serious and sober reasons…), all round appreciation for late night roast beef and of course his ability to crash into “Mark shaped holes” with more style than anyone I know!

So Happy Birthday Mark – have a great one!

20 to 30 minute Hike-a-Bike

So I’m still obsessing about Mont Jovet. It’s getting a bit worrisome to be honest. We are under 3 months from our Les Arcs trip and I simply keep thinking about the phrase “20-30 minute Hike-a-Bike” described on The Inside Line site…

The phrase fills me with a certain amount of dread for two specific reasons:

  1. Many moons ago on the first TFIT Morzine trip a certain Greg LB took us on a “slight trail detour”. That would be a slight trail detour that was straight up (and I mean straight vertically up) the side of a valley in Switzerland. We all made it to the top (and the ride down was simply epic) but Oh my God it nearly killed me.
  2. The ability of anyone who rides a MTB to underestimate the obstacles ahead for the benefit of those who are unaware. You know, it’s the phrases like “Oh it’s all downhill to the pub from here” or “Yeah, just a short easy climb”… only for the horrible truth to be revealed in a bucket full of sweat and usually excessive swearing.

So in preparation for this and because I needed to spend some time fettling my Scout’s suspension I’ve spent quite a lot of this weekend out on my bike including a cheeky old-skool ride up to the PB with Mark T and Bob M.

As we were pushing up a particularly vertiginous climb to the top of the bowl I was talking to Bob about bike carrying (i.e. the 20-30 minute Hike-a-Bike) and he was wondering if there is such a thing as an MTB shoulder strap to make a climb not only hands free but also slightly easier than slinging your steed over your shoulder.

So this morning a quick Googleisation revealed the answer is basically no (unless anyone can enlighten me otherwise?) which I am very surprised about to be honest. I found a bucket load of advice on bodging straps and backpack mounts but none that really came up with an answer. I did however find this extremely enthusiastic video from Dan Milner on Epic TV giving sage advice on hauling your rig the right way. Maybe it’s just a bit of well placed padding with some good technique then? We’ll see.

I also took out the GoPro as it was such a glorious weekend and while filming down Flat out Fun managed to capture me completely stuffing up a corner and eating some dirt. Best thing about a GoPro sometimes is seeing how appalling your line choice and body/bike position is (guilty) just before you hit the floor!

So as penance I thought I’d share this “how not to ride a corner” snippet. What a tool!

Crooksbury on a Smuggler

So it looks like Hoong K and Stephan F had some shenanigans up at Crooksbury Hill this weekend which I thought I’d share.

According to Leigh B this little section is known as the “Whoop Whoops” – which is a deeply appropriate name I think. Still fairly sure I could not find this if my life depended on it though!

Mucking about with the Parrot Bebop

Well, snow or no snow, I decided I needed to cheer myself up yesterday (more on why I needed to be cheered up later this week) and I should probably get the drone that I’ve “accidentally purchased” with Matt W out and to have a go flying it “on the trail” as it were.

The Bebop 2 is a properly funky bit of kit and Matt and I are trying to make sure we are capable of taking this thing out on a ride, without the need for the ride being all about the filming.

Or at least thats the plan!

So to that end, we’ve bought a groovy little Lowenpro bag which takes the drone, two batteries and the props all snuggled up with lovely padding. It’s also small enough to strap to the back of a pack – although I’ve not tried that yet.

The Parrot also has a big chunk “Sky Controller” (the big joysticky thing above) which you attach your phone or tablet into and use to fly it. The Sky Controller is really good and very easy to use, even for a fat fingered goon like me (which is saying something) and it has a massive range extender transmitter thingy on the top so you can fly it over a km away from where you are (not tried that either!).

However, and more realistically for MTB, you can fly the drone just from your mobile – which is what yesterday was all about trying out. So I headed up to the Devil’s Punchbowl and walked down to one of my favourite trails “Flat out Fun”, determined to try some drone camera angles imagining I would be filming some bikes. Take a look at the video below to see the first results.

So, initial conclusions are:

  1. Controlling the drone from the phone is really scary – and much harder than using the Sky Controller. I was totally paranoid about the wireless range between the drone and the phone. Not helped by the fact that the live stream to the phone starts to break up after about 20 metres.
  2. Cold is absolutely no good for battery life – I got just over 15 mins of flight time from each battery
  3. “Buttons are not toys”. If you randomly press things when flying a drone weird things will happen which will totally freak you out. If you want to see what I mean, forward the video to 2.44!
  4. You really do need a good open trail to film BUT the opportunities for awesome camera angles are just brilliant

So the next plan is to try out both the “follow me’ functionality as well as the waypoint flying stuff. I suspect if I’m honest the drone is probably better at flying itself than I will ever be. However, I do need get out on the bike and film some TFITers coming down the same trail – what could possibly go wrong?

Trail Days

Now I’ve got to be honest – nothing quite beats that ‘new bike’ feel.

The joy. The utter pleasure. The all encompassing frisson of slinging your leg over what is always a substantial outlay of cash. It’s awesome. Of course there is always the n+1 rule and a lot of us are blessed with experiencing that joy more than once. Those with n+1 bikes are many.

And then there is Matt W.

Matt is what you could refer to as a ‘frequent renewer of bikes’. Since I’ve known him he’s had 5 (I think) and he’s now moving onto his sixth. Yep, Matt has acquired a new bike and I believe if I have interpreted the ‘bad poetry hints’ on Whatsapp correctly, his new Transition Smuggler will be getting it’s first outing this evening.

It’ll be bling. It’ll be custom. It’ll be a thing of unfeasible beauty. It will without a doubt be 100% Matt. As with all prototypes, details are a little thin on the ground at the moment (I’ve seen the frame but not the finished product) but I will post something here as soon as I can so we can all revel in the creation.

And speaking of new bikes – a few of the TFITers have signed up to the excellent sounding “Trail Days” run by Specialized. It’s a free demo day of the latest and greatest that the chaps from the US have to offer from the Turbo Levo, all-new Enduro, Stumpjumper and Rhyme models.

I am very interested in having a crack at the Stumpjumper – which has always been a personal favourite (until I discovered my Bandit) and riding it on vaguely familiar trails will be awesome. We’re heading to the session at Peaslake on 21st May.

I highly approve of manufacturers showing off their hard work this way – and let’s be honest, it’s always gonna makes that n+1 decision that bit easier to make!


…She is a thing of beauty.

So a productive hour or so was spent yesterday afternoon fitting out the MVOJ to receive 18 ( dear God, yes it’s 18) bikes, bags and associated gubbins.

Matt W showed off his construction “skills of perfection” by using a set square in a “It has to be right” kind of way. Well it’s amazing what you can achieve with some pallets and screws is all I can say! However, we do indeed now have a two-tier “love tunnel” in the back of the MVOJ.

Back of fag packet measuring indicates that with front and rear wheels off (and maybe pedals, we will see) we can get 12 bikes on the bottom with the rest going on the top. This leaves plenty of other room for bags to fill in the gaps.

James G however is going the full monty, having apparently converted his YT Capra into a “Minecraft MTB”. Now that’s a thing of beauty Mr G.


Just a reminder to all. Packing the MVOJ starts from 17:00 onwards this Wednesday at Matt’s house. Oh, and I have to say I am extremely impressed with the news that Leigh B and Buz are being dropped in Witley at 2:30pm on Thursday afternoon.

What to do with and hour and a half before the man n’ van leaves Witley? Oh.. yeah… pub…

Oh yeah – weather update – nom, nom, nom:



Classic TFIT 

They happen far less frequently than I’d like but I’m glad to report that last night was a classic amongst classic TFITs.

The whole crew were out for the first time in a long while, since David D’s pizza-maggedon birthday I think, and everyone was in fine pre-Morzine form. We also managed an “old-skool” ride up to Hascombe and ending at the White Horse who’s beer was in extra-special tasty form. Oh yeah, Steve had a ‘tail-whip too far’ moment on the 17th hole on the way home. Thankfully he was ok, but it was just like Morzine Plaza two years ago.

I also realised last night we have reached the ‘golden time’ of the year.

We’ve reached the time where the sun does not set until well after 9:00pm (permitting comedy photos with fallen trees…), the trails are (mostly) dry despite recent soakings and you stand a reasonable chance of standing outside the pub talking MTB crap in t-shirt and shorts.

June is just awesome!

So last night we also saw the arrival of Malcolm’s Whyte T-129 RS and what a beauty she is too. This was only his second outing so it’ll be a while until we get a full review but after a few of us including your’s truly had a quick spin around outside Mark T’s house the initial impressions are very good. I am interested in the rear tyre clearance as Malc pointed out but I think that’s a minor thing. The bike is a looker with some nice detailing and I have to say I don’t think it looks like an overly ‘huge’ 29er – the frame is perfectly matched to the wheel size. I think Malc is very much in the “OMG what a difference stage” (the Whyte is a long way from his old Boardman) but has already noted the improved rolling and gravity assisted abilities of the bigger wheels.

So, three more TFITs until Morzine. I hope they are all as dry and as warm as this one, oh and finally, good luck to Mr F this weekend as he rides the enduro at Tidworth.

Mucking about on Mare Hill

So impromptu call came over the Whatsapp waves earlier from Steve F who was dropping off at cricket practice – “Anyone fancy Mare Hill?”.

The call was answered by Andy C, me and Hugh C (potential TFITer at some point in the near future!!).

I’m still nursing my head so took the phone with me and made this hastily put together tribute.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: