Your annual lecture.
Today, some of the trails were just, and I mean only just, frozen. I was out early, to get some grippy-trail-excitement. Proper frozen trails can give you more fun than even the best dry summer trails. Why? Perfect grip both up and down. Some trails, unrideable even if the best of weather, suddenly become your favourites as the frozen dirt offers more grip than you could ever dream of. Add a dusting of snow and you’ll be in heaven. You’ll also come back with a clean bike!
However, these comments come with a warning. Ice melts. If the frozen trail you are on thaws, the top layer will peel off and stick to your wheel, with each revolution getting thicker and thicker. Your 27.5 becomes a 29er is seconds and then a fat bike 29er. Obviously the transmission will clog up with the overspill of dirt. Now, you tough guys who are used to mud will just say “man up and power on through!” Nearly every e-bike rider will whack it in turbo and ignore the impending disaster and ride on.
Unlike the messy mud from heavy rain this melted dirt contains more than just clay. It has all the detritus of the South Downs: bits of gravel, flint, chalk, grass and twigs with a consistency of wet concrete. When you dollop this onto your Eagle 12speed chain, despite Sram’s awesome design, it jams up in the derailleur, your cranks force the chain round and the rear mech pulls off. You are looking at a £100 to £200 bill. One reason for not choosing a £600 Sram Axis rear mech. Shimano riders are vulnerable too.
If the trails melt I’d recommend walking before you have to walk home. You can avoid any problems by checking the weather forecast and, obviously, getting out at dawn.
Today the trails were only just frozen but, fortunately, had already dried out enough to make for a reasonably good and not too muddy ride. A nice way to start the year. Today’s problem was the number of fallen trees. Most of the best trails are blocked. Let’s hope we get a deep frost before the winter is out.
What about the cold?
If you have to ask, you’ll never really enjoy a full 12 months riding. There is enough clothing and information out there so that no rider need be uncomfortable, too hot or too cold, regardless of the weather. The problem arises when your priorities are wrong. Riders, males are worse, often prioritise bicycle hardware over items of clothing. Usually the component doesn’t make you a better rider but riding more does. Today I did not get cold or hot, I was just warm a toasty all the way round.
I have written a frozen trail warning once or twice every year since I first had a website 15 years ago. And it’s still good for business, some people do it more than once too!