Winter looks as if it is about to arrive. If you are a whimp or just unaware of how great winter rides can be you may think that it is time to pack up until summer (or stay indoors on a turbo). However, it can be one of the best times to ride - especially if we get a really cold snap. Why so?
The Good: The ground freezes and so there are no mud issues, grip increases so fast times, tricky descents and impossible climbs all become easy... well, easier! The added bonus is that when you arrive back home, your bike just needs a dust down.
Sheer bliss but these rides come at a cost. You need to get up at the crack of dawn before the trails thaw. Essentially, you snooze, you lose.
The Bad: Why bother getting up so early when it will be warmer and prettier when the sun comes up? You cannot ride those incredible trails when they melt. The thawed layer will stick to your tyre and more mud will cling with each revolution. Unlike the soft clay generated by rain this mud is full of grit and stones. At its worse it is like thick, wet concrete with about as much gravel in it too. Your bike will grind to a halt and your fun will be over. If the frost is not too deep then the trails just become slippery and very, very messy.
The Ugly: Every year I write a warning note like this and every year riders turn up here with their rear derailleurs ripped off, chains broken, hangers bent and sometimes wheels trashed. You see it is common practice to think all you need is more power to get your bike through the sludge. When the mud gets so thick that it jams up the transmission and the chain will not flow through the mech breakages may occur under load.
I make it sound terrible but I am giving you the worst case scenario. What usually happens is you have a great ride and then on the final run home your pristine clean bike suddenly picks up more mud that you could ever imagine as you cruise over the track that has been in the sun. All your plans for a nice breakfast are put on hold as you have to spend so long cleaning your bike.
You have been warned. Now set the alarm and enjoy!
Nice and clean after an hour and a half of frozen trails 26/11/17. I left at 7am, it was still dark!