I know that I harp on about the weather but I am British and so again I refer to our climate and some essential riding advice. Usually at this time of year I would be raving about the first winter rides with minus temperatures and frozen ground. Of course I am referring to off road riding. Riding on the road in the winter is a cold affair and there is no fun element to ice and sliding. In fact you can have more fun and faster riding on frozen trails than you could ever have in the summer. So if you are a road rider and have a fear of ice which I think includes nearly all of us, riding frozen off road trails is not only a good alternative it is easy and can be clean too.
However, there in one drawback, the temperature can change. Now just as much as your first frozen ride will go down as you best ever, your first ride on melting trails will go down as your worst! It may even cost you a couple of hundred quid too. Be warned, I will explain. First, always check the weather forecast and plan your ride. If the temperatures are going to be below zero for long enough the ground will freeze. All that horrible mud will turn to concrete and have the same level of grip too. Get out you winter woollies and set the alarm. You will need to set off at dawn or earlier. Now head off to ride all those gnarly trails that are usually too difficult in the autumn because of your fear of slipping. Now enjoy!
If you have a problem with the alarm pick: another sport. If you rise late the temperature is sure to rise too. If the trails melt your ride will turn into a mud fest. If the frost has been deep and the trails thaw then the previously frozen layer of mud will peel off and will stick and as your wheel rolls around it will pick up more and more layers like a snowball. Even riders claiming to have years of experience will often try to ride on and attempt to power through. The result is that, 9 times out of 10, something breaks. Usually the rear mech is ripped off chain trashed and occasionally the rear hanger rips off damaging the frame. Of course we welcome the extra income and work in our workshop but find running a counselling service for our distraught customers rather taxing. You have been warned.
Saturday night was our first really cold night since last winter and the signs looked good for a frozen ride but I knew that a mild south westerly was due in the morning. I headed off early and wrapped up as if I was doing the Iditabike. I had to take a base layer off by the time that I got to the Sheep Track. It wasn’t that cold so I stayed on the frozen bits, the trails that would have been dry before or under cover where the frost would not have penetrated. I only had time for a short ride due to family commitments but even if I had the time the trails were already melting and turning into a mess by 8:30.
Here’s the ride. I rode the Scott Scale 900 SL for the first time and without even trying (probably the reason why) I got a PR on a well known descent, 14th overall, not impressive I know but on an XC bike in winter and mud it shows the Scale 900 SL is not just light but knows how to go down too.