Is it worth riding in ice and snow?

After 4 days without a ride I was eager to get out today. The problem was that I’d woken yesterday to a snow shower which had left a thin covering. We walked our dog, Freddie, and I think it may have been the first time in his three and a half years that he’s experienced snow under his paws. In the sunshine some of the snow was disappearing but overnight the temperatures dropped below freezing, preserving the rest. After walking Freddie again I set off for a ride at around midday. There was ice in our street, some of it polished to perfection, so I chose to ride in the opposite direction onto the main road which had been salted. Salt is very bad for any exposed aluminium part on a mountain bike so it’s well worth washing the bike after a ride to alleviate the problem.

On the approach to my destination of our local hill, Healey Nab, it started to be icy again. I hoped that the shortest climb, up an open field, would be frozen hard. It was icy but my wheels were sinking in making it hard going. I failed at the steepest part and reached the woodland which tops the hill. Under the trees there was no ice or snow left but plenty of sticky mud. As I reached the more open areas towards the summit the ice returned. I took some photographs from the trail head.

Great Hill in the distance was fully snow capped. The icy trail down the back of the hill crosses behind the bike.
Winter Hill, in the far distance, was cloaked in cloud.
Deep snow would have been preferable.

I asked a rider at the top, who was sessioning the descent, what conditions were like. He’d fallen off on his last attempt and warned me that where it wasn’t white it could still be frozen. I decided to be cautious and the red graded descent was really not much fun. I descended in 1 minute 49 seconds compared to a more typical 1 minute 25 but there was no flow to it, just the constant worry of unpredictable slides. I didn’t want to climb back for a second lap and rode the open area back to town, which was also uninteresting.

It was nice to get out for an hour and get some exercise but in today’s conditions the riding was no fun. I can imagine deep snow being far better because it would at least be predictable. I’ll ride again in a few days but have no idea what conditions will be like. I’ll let you know.

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