It rained quite heavily last night, washing away the remnants of the snow at home. After the horrible trail conditions on my last ride it seemed prudent to do a road ride and not allow myself to be tempted onto the dirt. I wanted the ride to have some training value so a hilly route seemed like the best choice. Mountain biking tends to need more power for hill climbing and less high speed spinning than road riding but steep ascents would make the ride closer in style to my chosen discipline. I chose to ride to the high point on the road crossing the West Pennine Moors between the villages of Rivington and Belmont. From home at 297 feet above sea level I’d climb to 1,073 feet. I could see from home that Winter Hill, rising to 1,498 feet appeared clear of snow.
I miss the action of off road riding but have found that working hard on a road ride gives it some interest so I started quickly on the Trek 29″ wheel full suspension MTB. After the mainly ascending roads to Rivington Village I began the almost unbroken climb to the top. 2 road cyclists were descending very cautiously and one informed me that it was very icy on top. At first I didn’t notice anything frozen on the road, only later seeing some patches of slushy ice. I stopped at the top to take 2 pictures where I chatted to another rider. He also warned me how treacherous the road was coming up from the opposite direction to me. I asked him about his interesting bike which was very much a hybrid. It was like a gravel bike but had wider rims shod with skin walled Maxxis mountain bike tyres. He had lived in the area years ago and had returned before Christmas to look after his mother who, sadly, was ill. He asked me about routes he could take back toward Egerton and, when I explained it, said he fancied Belmont Road and George’s Lane to then descend the trails to Rivington Barn. I pointed out that it was very rough and that he may regret it without suspension but he was undeterred. I stayed to take some photos as he departed.
I turned across the road and found my back tyre sliding on the white line in the middle. I realised immediately that the left hand side of the road was in the shadow of the dry stone walls for much of it’s length. I was very cautious but could still feel some slipping. Later as the road turned more steeply downhill the combination of gravity and black ice was deadly. On one section I decided to stop as a car approached from the opposite direction. I touched the back brake gingerly, which was enough to lock the wheel. I just couldn’t get my speed down and daren’t risk the more powerful front brake. Fortunately the driver noticed my difficulty and stopped to allow me to pick the best line down the hill. I shouted my appreciation as I slithered past, out of any real control. I kept the speed down as best I could and even used a section of dirt at the side of the road as I dropped to Rivington Village. After this there was no more ice but I’d rather lost the joy of the thing. By the time I reached home I could certainly feel the effort in my legs so the ride had served it’s function. Useful if, at times, terrifying.