I used to own a mountain bike and thoroughly enjoyed going on little tours off the beaten path, even though I didn’t do anywhere near as much as I had hoped I would. Then I got a bit older and for some reason I hardly every managed to go out there and enjoy nature while getting some proper exercise on two wheels. The last time I did some proper mountain-biking must have been in Queenstown, New Zealand, some 5 years ago, it’s shameful.
So last week I decided to do something about this sorry state of affairs. On the spur of a moment I googled ‘mountain biking london’, checked out the routes that popped up on my screen, then booked a return train ticket (off-peak supersaver for just over £20) to Dorking, 35km south of the capital.
An hour later I was on a train, and another 43 minutes later I arrived at my destination. The taxi I had ordered from the train was already waiting for me to take me to the Nirvana Cycles mountain bike hire store in Westcott, 4km from the station for £9.
For £40 I hired a £480 mountain bike with helmet and a waterproof map of the mountain biking tracks in the area. I decided to aim to do the circular tour from Westcott via Coldharbour, Leith Hill, Peaslake, Polesden, Abinger Hammer, Ranmore Common, and Dorking back to Westcott (3h for experienced bikers, I was expecting it to take me more like 4.5h, including short breaks to take a breather).
What can I say, I had a fabulous time. Nature is abundant and beautiful in the North Downs. Unfortunately it started raining real hard early on, so I hadn’t even completed a third of the total distance, when I made the decision to return back to Westcott rather than catch another bad cold and live off Beecham’s All-in-One for days on end. I’m still very pleased with the decision to go mountain biking and will definitely return to Dorking very soon. Potentially I’ll hire the mountain bike in London, so that I can avoid the need for a cab. After all, the trail passes by Dorking, so might as well.