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Bikemagic Garmin Ride Out Series – the first one

There’s loads of good singletrack around Surrey
Mike getting to grips with his Garmin Edge 800
Heading into the trees

“Right, are we all ready to ride,” I call out to the eight Bikemagic members who have made the journey to Peaslake in the Surrey Hills on a squidgy Saturday morning for the first ever Bikemagic Garmin Ride Out Series.

“Yes,” comes back the unanimous reply. A succession of beeps as all the Edge 800’s flash into life, and we head onto the trail and straight into a hill. All good rides start with a climb of course, and this ride, a meandering 30km around some of the best bits of the Surrey Hills, is no exception.

We follow the blue line on the Garmin navigation screen, overlaid onto an Ordnance Survey map, as we take in the three hills in the area; Leith Hill, Pitch Hill and Holmsbury Hill. The Edge 800 makes it so easy to follow the route as the trail heads into the woods, there’s no faffing with folding away a map and folding the mess into your backpack, just hit the go button on the touchscreen and we’re off.

The route we’re following today is a Surrey Hills classic. Despite residing just 20 miles from one of the biggest cities in the world, this area provides the residents of London and surrounding areas with some fine trails. Peaslake, our starting point, is a great focal point for the mass of mountain bikers who head to these parts every weekend, the quaint village store doing a roaring trade in homemade cakes and cups of coffee.

The gradient soon ramps up; there are some steep climbs on this route, it must be said. Despite the unforgiving conditions, it’s raining heavily in short but frequent bursts, the trails are riding well. The sandy ground does at least drain quickly and offers up a surprising amount of traction, making even the steeper slopes ridedable – if you’ve got the grunt.

What goes up must come down and it’s here that the area plays its trump card. You wouldn’t know if you’ve never been to the area before, but there’s some quality singletrack laced through the trees, and soon we’re all giggling excitedly as we flow down a narrow, arcing and curving ribbon of dirt. Some of the man-made and maintained trails feature berms, drops, switchbacks and plenty of roots and tree stumps to grab your attention. It really is a hugely fun area to ride. Once you know where to go.

And that’s the beauty of the Garmin Edge 800. It soon transpires that several people have never ridden the Surrey Hills before, some travelling quite a long distance to be here today. The area is a great example of local knowledge being essential – you could easily ride around here and miss all the good stuff.

But without that local knowledge you’re going to miss the good trails, and that is the Garmin’s major attraction. With a route downloaded from the vast choice of shared routes on Garmin Connect (or from various other websites on the internet), you can easily head to an area you’ve never been to before, download a route and enjoy the ride, without fear of getting lost or missing out on the best trails in the area. Less time wasted getting lost and more time spent enjoying the ride.

The rest of the route is typical Surrey Hills fare – plenty of lung-busting climbs, broken up with fantastic singletrack that ebbs and flows enticingly through the trees, keeping the adrenaline fix going and the smiles large. We end with a blast down Barry Knows Best, a classic trail, well maintained, full of berms, roots, narrow tree gaps, jumps, whoops and more – it’s a rollercoaster of a trail. And quite handily it brings us neatly back into Peaslake. We roll into the carpark with huge smiles on our mud splattered faces.

OK, I’ll admit we did have a slight mishap at one point, but it wasn’t due to the Garmin. Instead, a couple of riders, enjoying one section of singletrack just a little too much, missed a left turning and hurtled on for several miles. The rest of us, realising our mistake, came to an abrupt stop. This led to an impromptu split in our group, but we all later emerged on the a trail later into the route and were reunited. This might not have happened if we had set the Garmin’s to give an audible warning when off course, but due to having 12 units out together we turned it off – It might have gotten a little noisy.

And while this mishap might not have been part of the plan from the outset, it did highlight the usefulness of having the map on your handlebars. You don’t need to religiously follow the blue line that represents the route, but instead use it as a guide. There’s so many trails around this area of Surrey that you can find yourself darting left and right as you decide to following an enticing looking trail, and not fear getting lost as you can see your position in relation to route on the Garmin screen. Use it a a guide, if you like.

It was a good fun day out. It was great to meet some of the regular Bikemagic readers and forum contributors, and to put faces to names, and it was a (mostly) smoothly organised ride.

I’ll just remember the cake next time…

Below are a few of the Garmin Connect pages, where you can see the route we each rode, the distance, how long it took us and total elevation.

Stay tuned for details of the next event.

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