Not worth riding?

There have been few times in my entire mountain biking life when, after a ride, I’ve thought that it hadn’t been worth getting out. After almost a fortnight with snow on the ground the temperature has now risen causing the remnants of the snow to turn to a mixture of slush and hard, compacted ice with a wet surface. The slipperiest it could possibly be. I managed to walk the dog without falling over but even Freddie was sliding around at times. My only hope was that our local hill, Healey Nab, would be high enough to be colder, retaining the crisp snow. Alternatively the trails might have been used enough to have scrubbed the ground clear of snow and ice. I started by using the main road rather than turning right out of the gate because the road and pavements near the house looked deadly.

Things were OK until I took the dirt road along the bottom of the hill. Here the compacted ice became more like glass as I proceeded until the bike turned sideways. I stayed upright but decided to walk for a short stretch. It’s curious how I managed to ride the bike on the ice but once off the bike it became uncontrollable to push. Friction is the product of the coefficient of friction and the reaction of the ground, which basically means the weight pressing downwards. With less weight pressing down you get proportionally less friction but it should mean that the tyre still provides enough grip for a now far lighter bike. Did Newton get it wrong? I got back on the bike as soon as I could and decided to take the short, steep route up the open field. I was working hard in the mud and slush, trying to avoid the icy parts and rode almost the whole way to the woodland which tops the hill.

Under the cover of pine trees there was nothing frozen, just sticky mud before a return to ice on the more open areas. I’d hoped to ride 3 laps of the hill for fitness if conditions allowed but it wasn’t looking good. I reached the trail head and could see that the downhill sections were much as the climbs had been with a mixture of slush, mud and ice. The top loop, in the opposite direction was a little better, being slush, not ice. It can’t have been often in the entire history of cycling that slush seemed like the preferred surface! I knew that 3 laps would be no fun so I carefully descended by the red graded downhill and another treacherous dirt road with a topping of ice, to the north end of the hill. It was all road back to home. Had it been worth riding? It was nice to get out but it might have been better for exercise to do a road ride, since the off road was no fun at all. I’ll just have to keep plugging away until the worst of the weather passes. It’s really just a matter of keeping some fitness at this time of year.

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