Why wouldn’t you go mountainbiking in the snow?
I had a fab day recently with a couple of friends from The Ski School, riding a local bit of singletrack near the Cairngorms village of Carrbridge. Well, I was told it was singletrack – it was all proper buried under fresh snow. Nevertheless, it made for a great ride, with some testing ups, slidy technical off camber traverses and downright anything-goes descents!
At one point, I decided to let the two avalanche poodles go first before I chose my line. One indicator of snow depth was Martin, stalled up to the wheel hubs and standing up balancing on the crossbar. Nutter 🙂 And Amanda upside down in a killer drift. My line maintained some speed through shallow grippy snow, allowing me to punch through drifts on a rolling course between rock outcrops and juniper bushes. Until I lost the front wheel in a filled in bombhole and totally went over sideways. But at least the others didn’t see me 🙂
We found the bikes all performed great, considering we had done very little of this sort of thing before. Despite ‘fatbikes’ being seen more frequently around here, our 26″ full sussers and hardtail, with tyres ranging from wide and grippy tubeless Hans Dampfs to narrower loose treads, all seemed to go fine. To be honest, with the snow hours old and the temp a bit over freezing, it was pretty grippy. As much as anything, keeping the gear right to avoid wheelspin, knowing when to ‘go for it’ through deeper stuff and being uber gentle on the turns meant everything went pretty smoothly. The tactics we employed on the descents were a bit different. More along the lines of ‘Let’s get down there as fast as we dare, try and miss the trees and don’t worry about what might be under the snow’. Which seemed to work most of the time 🙂 And when it didn’t, it was a total hoot.
In terms of kit, we were all riding in stuff not much different to summer (I don’t know if that says more about Highland summers or winters!). At valley level, we were good for about three hours until the light just started to fade and warm enough as long as we kept moving. My SPDs did pretty well, though did ice up a bit towards the end – be prepared to clear them if need be (I’ve heard about folks peeing on them for this reason). Anything that keeps your hands, feet and butt warm and dry is a bonus; I’m now a total convert to waterproof shorts and overboots and my trusty 3mm wetsuit socks were fine. And it’s still a crazy challenge venting enough heat on the ascents and keeping your hydration bite valve from freezing.
All in all, a great birthday ride with daft friends in brilliant conditions. I mean, brilliant friends in daft conditions.