Perfect winter conditions, and a broken bike.

The temperature yesterday never rose above freezing but this morning was more like 5 celcius. We had strong winds from the east yesterday whilst today the wind was still blowing strongly, now from a warmer southerly direction. With no rain or significant snow since early last week it’s amazing how dry the ground has become. The surface water has disappeared leaving a parched top layer over hard frozen soil beneath. The occasional muddy patches left behind are also rock hard. I don’t see how winter weather could leave a better surface for mountain biking.

My Trek 29″ wheeled bike needs the gear change servicing by replacing the cables so I used the Boardman FS Pro full suspension bike with it’s 27.5″ wheels. I hadn’t even washed it since my last ride because it had picked up so little mud. I fancied 3 laps of the purpose built trails on Healey Nab so took a short road section to the canal and climbed straight up the open field, which makes a fast and thrilling descent. Half way up was a mini glacier which could have been a real danger later if I’d hit it at speed. The hardened ground would definitely not be good for a high speed crash! I was soon up to the woods which top the hill and the frozen conditions remained.

The trailhead was very dry.
More like a desert than a scene from North West England in winter.

A group of Ebike riders were chatting at the trailhead and I let them start their descent first. On the red graded downhill I don’t suppose a heavier but power assisted Ebike has either an advantage or disadvantage over a conventional bike so I used my familiarity with the trail to catch them at the bottom of the hill. The corners are quite gritty at the moment and the replacement gravel is sitting on the surface, not bedding in. It makes the limit of grip unpredictable so it’s best for me to ride more cautiously. The bermed (banked) corners are a safety feature in some ways but if you do slide and go over the top it’s a different story. I enjoyed my drop down and climbed back to the top by the same route as before for a second lap. First I rode the top loop in 2 minutes 18 seconds which is the fastest time this year! I don’t imagine this will last for long. I used a black graded option on my second descent of the front of the hill and climbed back up for a third downhill. There were plenty of riders taking advantage of the conditions, today. I put some effort in which I’m sure was worthwhile from a training point of view but at the moment I was just glad to get a really good ride out of it.

After my third downhill I continued with a loop which goes the wrong way down part of the red route climb. It’s always entertaining and leads to the open descent down towards town. I was cautious half way down at the icy part I’d spotted on the climb earlier. I rode along the bottom of the hill and lifted the bike over a stile. When I got back on I turned the pedals but was rewarded with no forward motion. I took the rear wheel out to investigate but couldn’t fix the problem. The spring which pushes the pawls out in the freehub had broken. The little catches were now unable to grip the teeth inside the hub so I wasn’t going anywhere, except on foot. It should be an easy fix but I think I’ll allow Ben at the local bike shop to do it. He could also replace the wheel bearings for me at the same time. Normally, because the rest of the way home is mainly down hill, it would have been easy to get home by rolling along. Today, though, the southerly wind was against me so I had to do a lot of running whilst pushing the bike. It wasn’t my first time.

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