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Surrey Legs of Steel 2012 REVIEW

by James Berresford

The Legs of Steel is a club run Charity ride by Ful-On Tri in memory of Dave Aitchison a former club member who died suddenly in 2007. It has fast become a local institution as it is run over many familiar Surrey training roads and is easily accessible from London. Its relatively short distance, heavy emphasis on punchy climbs and position in the calendar mean it tends to attract a high standard of rider and this year was no exception but like most events this year there seemed to be more novice riders too. 

Distances:  46km / 81km
Entry fee: £29 (Profits go to Charity)
Participants: 600
Start: Box Hill, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7LB
Feed-stops:  1 / 2 
Timed:  Yes (Numbers manually recorded)
Signs: Black arrows on a yellow background
Roads:  Mixed bag. The fresh Olympic tarmac on Box Hill is still a great novelty

The Ride:

Box Hill has somehow come to be emblematic of modern British cycling culture. Its inclusion in this summer's Olympic road race placed it centre stage in the maelstrom of our recent cycling and sporting successes and the huge increase in popularity of the sport has meant a constant stream of riders week in, week out. But even before this the Zig-Zag road and hill top café were a stalwart of many club and social cycling routes in the area. So it seems somehow fitting that the ride should start here, and at 8am after swiftly collecting our bike numbers we took our place at the end of an already sizeable queue snaking all the way from café to lookout and awaited our start.  

many hands
Many Helpers Made Registration a Fast Process

The LoS is quite unusual nowadays in that it still uses manually recorded numbers for timing which means it takes some time to start everyone as they are released in small groups, this has some benefits however as it also serves to prevent the often very narrow lanes from becoming overly clogged. The start from the top of Box is very rapid and that early in the morning despite a great day it felt pretty chilly, but the cold was short lived as we soon hit Ranmore Common the opening climb. Swinging sharp left at the top to take a fast descent back towards Dorking before climbing back up on Coldharbour Lane.

box hill
Box Hill Starting Line

A fast period of short punchy climbs follows including Abinger Road and Holmebury Hill to Peaslake the home of Surrey's mountain biking scene. It was a relief to leave the hills behind for a short time as we dropped down to Ewhurst although our relief soon turned to frustration as missing a sign we ploughed on through Cranleigh. We met many making this same mistake and the sign wasn't all that clear.A quick U-turn and we were back on course though almost wished we weren't as the next test was toughest of the ride, Winterfold. Familiarity is almost a hindrance here as you know as your legs start to hurt that it only gets worse all the way up, topping out around 20% close to the top.

short steep
Short, Steep Climbs Were The Order Of The Day

The ride then swings north for some very minor valley bumps before mounting the downs again up Halfpenny Lane. Through Albery and the beautiful village of Shere, the route crosses the A25 and climbs up Combe Lane another bit of a test on tired legs. The taste of home was there though as the route joined part of the next day's Tour of Britain stage route, descending Green Dene and climbing the slow building Crocknorth Road.The route crossed the familiar Ranmore Common as we pressed on back to the very final test that the ride has been built around, Box Hill. The Zig-Zag road was completely resurfaced for the Olympic road race and not with the grit that they seem to use elsewhere. This is the finest billiard table flat tarmac and even though the speed bumps have now been replaced it is still a joy to ride on and frankly shows up the rest of the UK roads. 

New Tarmac Is A Joy To Ride On

Our efforts over we rested in the sunshine and enjoyed the coffee and cakes from the as ever well stocked Box Hill café.

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