Trans Surrey HIlls
Lying a stones throw away from the capital, the Surrey Hills lie to the south of London. Whilst the Hills can’t rival the mountains of Scotland or the Alps, the Surrey Hills has one up when it comes to fun and flow, with trails littered in different directions everywhere you ride.
Words by: Rachael Walker
Photos by: Roo Fowler
Lying a stones throw away from the capital, the Surrey Hills lie to the south of London. Whilst the Hills can’t rival the mountains of Scotland or the Alps, the Surrey Hills has one up when it comes to fun and flow, with trails littered in different directions everywhere you ride. Such is the calibre of the trails, born and bred Surrey born MTB pro’s, such as Olly Wilkins, Brendan Fairclough and Bernard Kerr, still choose to call this area home. Most people will think of the smooth sculptured trails of Peaslake when you mention the Surrey Hills, but this part of the world has so much more to offer. Pockets of of trails are scattered from the south-westerly edge of Surrey all the way up to Dorking. Most riders will head to one of these areas, but a few years back, my partner started a personal challenge of linking up the areas using the vast bridleway network Surrey offers.
Since then, the annual TranSurreyHills challenge has evolved and become one of the highlights of our personal calendars. The route evolves each year depending on what trails have appeared that year and what the conditions are like. Spring is the perfect time for the ride, the trails are at their prime and nature hasn’t yet taken over with the overgrowth. The TSHs is by no means an established event, it's not a race, but there are some unwritten rules….
- Minimal public roads can be used to connect the trails
- We aim for 100km as a minimum distance
- Fun is the main aim of the route, it’s not about distance bashing - the KMs mainly join up the fun. We choose to use medium travel suspension mountain bikes for maximum stoke on the technical descents
- The best food stops are a must!
We pick Monday, May 1st as the date for this years edition. I’ve invited my old friend Julia along for the ride, she’s only ever ridden in Surrey in the winter when the trails are a little grim. This is the perfect chance to show off some of the highlights of each area. She’s one of the few friends who will always say yes to a big old mission with a 5am start. I know she will love the 120km route we have planned.
The forecast is mixed but warmish. We’re going lightweight with minimal kit, just a Copilot Jacket and Northwoods Windshell strapped to our handlebars - praying our optimism pays off. It’s 5am as we’re getting ready, the streets are empty and we can’t wait for what’s to come.
We head up towards the Devil’s Punchbowl, National Trust land with some beautiful bridleways running through it which take us in the direction on Thursley. What I love most about this route is how the land is constantly changing. We’re on loamy trails one second and on the sandy almost desert like commons the next.
We’re making good progress, its only 9am and we’ve already nearly covered what most people would do in a normal days ride. It’s not a race, but we’re determined to keep moving, all those 1 minute stops add up and we have a long way to go. After riding mainly off-road trails all morning, we jump onto an old railway line which is now a cycle path towards our “second breakfast” of the day. We’ve covered 55km already and we’re starving. We inhale our food and have a quick chat about the next section towards Peaslake, once there, we’ll mainly be be riding technical off-road trails all the way to the “finish line”.
We arrive in Peaslake via a couple of classic trails, Secret Santa, Supernova and Graveyard. Peaslake is rammed and it's hard to find a spot to sit for our next dose of calories. The scene here exploded during Covid and its showing no signs of slowing down. Conscious of time, we never stop for too long, we keep moving and head towards Holmbury Hill for some more classics, Yoghurt Pot and Crackpipe - one of my favourites, slightly steeper with some super fun turns, I laugh as I can feel Julia on my wheel almost crashing as I try to keep up the pace.
We’re ticking off the KM’s but the legs are starting to get a little heavy as we approach Redlands for some of the most technical trails we'll ride all day. I need a quick fix of sugar in the form of hot chocolate to get me through this final push. The trails here are steep, technical and so much fun. Later on in the year this will be “loam-central”, but for now, we are treated to grippy dirt with a coating of moss. We drop into the trail and I immediately veer off into a tree laughing, my head is fuzzy and legs feel like jelly, but that’s ok, it’s been the best day so far and we’re determined to make it to the end.
Julia is riding blind, has no idea how far we have to go and what’s to come. I know these hills and know we have one final big climb onto the North Downs before cruising on down to Guildford. I know this last climb will be worth it, the secret single track weaves through wild garlic and woodlands scattered with bluebells.
The sun is starting to set as we make our final push towards Guildford. All I can think about is salty hot fries. We all seem to have lost the ability to talk and there’s a sense of urgency to get the fries. We find a Five Guys and sit by the canal silent in what seems to be a race to finish the fries the fastest. We deserve them. 14 hours on the trails with a tiny dose of tarmac. What a route, what a day.
Why do we do this? Adventure doesn’t need to mean flying for hours to go someplace exotic and spending hefty amounts of money. Point to point rides, big epic days and passing through different terrain can be found right on your doorstep and half the fun is pulling the route together. Sometimes the reward discovering new local spots that have been right under your nose the whole time can’t be beat. I can’t wait for next years edition.