I could tell when I walked my dog, Freddie, this morning that conditions were going to be good for mountain biking. After what’s seemed like a wet winter we now have a cold period. It’s colder than it’s been for at least 10 years with winds blowing from the east. We are more used to the warmer Atlantic winds from the south west, which usually bring rain. Today the ground was a mixture of hard frozen and very dry, after a couple of very chilly nights with temperatures well below freezing. After Freddie and I arrived home I got out on the bike. I knew that I’d be able to use some trails which have been impassibly muddy for much of the winter and could take the quickest way to Brinscall Woods. I was a bit short of time so didn’t want to ride right to the top of Great Hill. Instead I’d ride the long downhill from the top of the woods then towards Healey Nab for another good downhill. I chose to ride the Boardman FS Pro, today, with it’s 27.5″ wheels. What I immediately noticed was that I felt much closer to the ground compared to the 2 year older Trex Fuel EX8. The Trek has a 15mm higher bottom bracket (where the pedals attach) and with less suspension travel probably sits around 20 mm higher. This is a small amount but it makes a surprisingly big difference to the feel of the bike. Little things mean a lot in bike design.
I rode almost all off road to the village of White Coppice and found that the previously churned up mud was very bumpy. Without the aid of full suspension it would have been very uncomfortable. Still, it was much better than deep mud. The gravel road to the village had had water running down it which had frozen to unbelievable slipperiness. I managed to keep on the gravel and off the ice at this point. Riding alongside the goit, a straightened river, I was following another rider. In a few places the ice was right across the track and he was less willing to slow down. He turned to climb the fire road in the woods but stopped at the bottom to fiddle with his dropper post. I tried to briefly chat about the unreliability of remotely adjustable seat posts but I don’t think he spoke much English. Either that or the cold had got to him.
I climbed the fire road, still fighting the glaciers which had formed. I had to make a detour at one point around a bigger patch of ice and near the top of the climb I had to walk since there was no way around the obstruction. I climbed up the remainder of the downhill route that I’d then return by, mainly to assess the situation. At the top I took 2 photos and noticed that I’d been riding for around 45 minutes. After my last ride I complained that I had mainly climbed for 60 minutes for a short, less than 1 mile, downhill. Today’s ride had been more entertaining due to the steeper climbs and more challenging ground. Also I was now at the top of one of the best descents in the area.
I started down the trail and found some grip but the frozen ground was hard on both bike and rider. Tyre ruts were steering me in places, with the ground as solid as concrete. This was definitely not a day to fall off. The route is full of action with broken down stone walls and fallen trees to hop over. Corner after corner, sometimes single track and sometimes wider and needing different techniques. It wasn’t a day for finding the limit but the thrill of the speed was still there. At the bottom I rode back along the goit and climbed the back of Healey Nab. The ice was spread right across the gravel road but by running off the edge of the gravel, onto the grass, I was able to keep going. 2 Ebike riders were about to ride down and I didn’t envy them in these conditions. The purpose built trail down towards town looked better but I slid a little even on the first corner. What looked like defrosted mud turned out to be icy. Looking at Strava I rode the descent fairly quickly. It was as dry as it is in summer most of the way with just the odd frozen patch. The open area which completes the descent was hard frozen but the churned up, frozen mud was unpredictable so I kept the speed sensible.
It was quite a treat to ride today, with sparkling blue skies and the temperature hovering aroung freezing. I’m pleased that the cold is predicted to stick around for a while yet.