You may or may not get our newsletters but in the last two I referred to winter riding. What is more, I’m looking forward to it. On Saturday the trails were drying nicely under the sun and gale force winds. I was praying that the forecast would be right and we would get an overnight freeze. I went to bed excited about the prospect of our first winter ride and was not disappointed. The trails were either dry or frozen first thing: bliss!
I had planned to ride the Niner RLT9 cyclocross bike with my brother and we were to be joined by two mountain bikers, however, my bro cried off and I chickened out and packed my mountain bike too. But when it came time to leave the lure of the cross bike proved too great and I went for the skinny wheels. Good chioice!
This year has been really unusual. Up until today whatever and whenever I have ridden it has been fairly warm and reasonably dry, so any rain, mud and today cold has been a novelty to be enjoyed. And enjoy the frozen trails we did. Cold is not a problem as one just wraps up. I had my Northwave Celsius boots so my feet would be warm and dry. I love riding frosty trails and today we had the bonus of clear skies and a bright sun. It was true Bluebird.
Why are frozen trails so good? You get incredible grip and your bike stays clean. You can ride places that were previously impossible. However, it needs to be really cold and preferably frozen for several days. So this Sunday was just a taste of what it could be as, under the powerful sun, the trails were beginning to melt by 9am. Melting trails are a no no. The mud sticks, wheels slide and if your luck is bad the transmission can clog up and the inexperienced usually wreck their bike by ripping the derailleur off.
It was interesting the compare the CX bike against the mountain bikes. Climbing the CX was way ahead with the tables reversed descending. Anywhere the trails got smooth the Niner RLT9 surged ahead. The challenge for me was to keep the gap down as close as possible as soon as it got technical. With 35mm tyres and no suspension you soon learn to pick the best line and float the bike over any root or rock that can’t be avoided. My confidence kept increasing as the ride went on only to be rewarded with a blow out hitting big flint at the bottom of a fast descent. Next week I’ll be tubeless and running 40mm tyres (WTB Nanos). There will be not stopping me then.
So what is the point of a CX bike? 1, it’s fast and light. 2, it climbs really well. 3, it makes even the most mundane trails exciting. 4, it requires skill – it is making me a better rider. 5, it eats up road and fire road miles. What else? It can be used for touring, you can jump it and ride staircases and other stuff that is usually limited to a mountain bikers. Oh and most of all its fun because it’s so quick.
I am really enjoying this new riding challenge and learning about technique and set up. Who’d have thought that I’d be running lower air pressure than my mountain bike? The Niner RLT9 really is a joy to ride. It is surprisingly comfortable. It handles the technical stuff really well and the head angle inspires confidence in corners. It rails round the bends and takes off a lands with grace.
Here’s the ride. I must have switched the Garmin off when I punctured hence the unusal start point