Snow ride with slush and puppies... and pictures!

A writeup with quite a lot of UPDs and resting time. Good job I brought my camera as there are some snow pictures to look at.

I never ridden in snow before and I wondered what the best terrain to ride would be. Once again, the beginners paradise that is Norbury Park is calling me for an XC (X/cross Country) ride. I choose not to risk getting to the south car park, since that is accessed by a very steep narrow road that would not be gritted and only those privileged to pay a sky high road tax would have a car suitable of getting up it.

Instead I choose the north car park, which is the most popular and hence there are about five other cars there. A couple drive away, while a couple more are freshly locked up as their occupants walk off. My legs are covered with shorts and 661s just like summer and they feel okay, even though I’ve yet to start riding. But my top half seems XC (Xtra Cold), even though I have a long sleeve polyester T-shirt, a short sleeve poly T-shirt on top, and a blue fleece.

Since the car park surface is silver packed reflective ice on the bottom, I walk the uni out of the car park and into the subtle downhill access track. Holding onto a post, I mount and ride off on the track that has seen it’s fair share of 4x4s and tractors since the snow fell. There’s a stripe of snow in the middle dented by footprints of both shoes and paws, either side is slushy brown depressions. Not being able to make up my mind I zig zag across all three and notice that the snow gives a smoother ride at the expensive of much bigger rolling resistance.

Less than sixty seconds later I see the gang who left their cars not so long ago; two adults, about four children and about three small white dogs leashed with luminous red tape, walking spread out along the width of the track. Even though the distinctive sound of snow cracking under my tyre is audible they don’t seem to be hearing it, so I say “Excuse me please”. They part ways to let me through, one of them says in a female voice “That’s impressive”.

I plod down the track to the bridleway crossroads, and here the brown slush disappears leaving pure snow across the width of the track, here is that subtle uphill that goes on and on and on. No four-wheel tracks are evident, but plenty of footprints dotted around and bicycle tyre markings noodling from side to side. I don’t know whether it would be better to ride in the existing tyre tracks and use effort to compensate for the roughness of the fireroad, or use what little untouched snow there is for a theoretically smoother run.

Again my mind isn’t made up as I try various parts of the track, but whatever I try the soft snow is adding significant amounts of rolling resistance to the effort I need to get up this track. Very soon I pass a couple of walkers who don’t say anything and move on. As I think I’m doing well another couple with a couple of dogs are seen in the distance. The bigger of the two starts to gallop towards me without a sign of stopping, leaving me no choice but to enter safety canine time. Dismounting and placing the uni between myself and the animal doesn’t stop it from barking, but it does halt it’s legs a fair distance away.

I say “It’s alright” in a reassuring tone, and somehow it works. The dog shuts up. Once they’ve passed I start to walk up the hill slowly, but looking back it’s a full minute before the big dog moves from where it stopped to catch up with it’s tamer (that’s the owner, not me). Remounting takes a fair few attempts; mounts are hard because the snow resists the tyre taking away the control factor. Static mounts don’t work since the snow seems to prevent me from moving off, and rollback mounts don’t work because the tyre simply slides back without stopping.

Somehow I do get back on and try to continue the uphill, but the rolling resistance tries and succeeds to stop me just before the track forks for the last but steepest section. There are XC (Xtra Children) sledging on the grass in the middle who are having far too much fun to notice me. It takes six remount attempts before I’m back on… for just ten seconds before a twist forces me off. I give up and push my muni to the top of the uphill, noticing that I now feel rather hot.

Just as I reach the summit those sledging infants give me a better idea. I turn the muni around and ride it back down the hill, the snow rolling resistance somehow means nothing to me now as I roll my wheel down the hill. As I get to the gate the fun is over, I voluntarily dismount for the first time and push my muni back up the hill. I notice that during the push every now and then my tyre seems to act like a snow vacuum, picking up a stripe of snow and rolling it over the top of the tyre before spreading it back down on the ground.

At the crest just before the triangle crossroads, again I’m having repeating trouble in the simple act of getting on the muni. Trying various spots from untouched deeper snow to footprints made all the way to the stone below. I give up and hold onto a snow covered sign beside the track, I power away but the hidden dip onto the track makes sure that I get thrown off yet again.

As I walk back and prepare for this assisted remount three menacing looking loose dogs under the eye of a middle aged lady come towards me, again I step down and place my muni between them and those XCs (Xtra Canines). The lady takes the opportunity to complain about “those cyclists” who don’t stick the bridleways and how the dogs have learnt to stand either side of the path to avoid 30mph collisions (in her words), and indeed two of the three dogs are standing apart in front of me.

As the lady walks past followed by her third older dog she remarks “Impressive machine”. I choose not to get too literal since it doesn’t have a motor or an engine, so machine could be an incorrect description. A short exchange about having balance and the slippery snow not letting me do so and the lady plus dogs are away.

I see a cyclist powering his way up the hill, so I wait for him to pass before holding onto the sign. He’s pretty well dressed for the winter, apart from the sickening Robin Hood impersonation of his black lycra legs. This time this assisted freemount is successful and I get past the barrier, through the rather bumpy slushy triangle formation and onto the tarmac of the eastern path.

Again an even covering of snow makes this hard work, but at least the track is level and I power myself along it. Plus there are bits sheltered by trees that have escaped the snowfall altogether, on just the type of terrain where I guess I’m least likely to need them. A few moments along and I divert to the viewpoint looking down the hill, drawing a weaving thick tyre track onto the relatively bare canvas that has just one set of footprints and one set of pawprints.

end of part one

part two

I rejoin the path and make it over what I think is the first speed bump, except it’s the second. Somehow I have absolutely no memory of going over the first one, I didn’t see it and I never felt myself going over it either. Another cyclist joins the path ahead of me, looking very much like the one I saw earlier, I guess that’s mainly because every cyclists winter wardrobe seems to be the same for the tight bottom half.

Very soon he stops, dismounts and seems to do something with the chain on his bicycle as I overtake him on the subtly increasing gradient. Even this slight downhill is a relief to my legs as I make it further down, even over the next speed bump. As I approach the fork I need to take to continue the loop I hear his freewheel just behind to my left. I enter the fork and the smooth downhill suddenly becomes a rough uphill, time to haul on that handle. To my surprise he didn’t continue on the tarmac path as most other two-wheelers do, but overtakes me slowly in granny gear. No words are exchanged between us, for some reason I prefer that kind of passer-by.

A little bit of snowy flat with hardly any tracks or prints on it at all, and then a short but steep stony downhill follows, exciting me as the stones are only known about when my tyre jolts over them. I enter the south car park and as I expected no cars are there, and no car tyre tracks either. However, tyre tracks do haunt the short country lane that I turn into and head up. Like the first access track I have a choice of soft snow in the middle or slush on the sides.

It’s not long before I reach the short stony uphill on the right opposite the cottages, and just as I expected, my legs run out of power once again before I reach the top. A couple of remount attempts later and I ride over that bit that normally becomes a mudbath outside the summer with no problems. As I go around the bend my tyre slips sideways and a running UPD happens, so it’s another five or so remount attempts of varying strategies before I’m back on.

The snow conceals the lumpy mud that’s frozen solid, and for some reason it seems a little easier to ride that. Two XCs (Xtra Cyclists) side by side are seen coming the other way, and for some strange reason I hear the word “unicycle” being uttered from one lycra legged pedaller to the other. They change to a single-file formation on one side and one of them says “That’s impressive”. The second time I’ve heard that today, but for the first time in many years it seems justified as I bound over the invisible snow covered stones and roots.

Now it gets downhill and technical with the expected gully on the right side of the fireroad that soon crosses over to the left and back again. The gully is completely invisible on my right, but somehow I seem to know exactly where it crosses over, and my usual tactic of descending into the gully and riding it out works. It seems a lot softer, but again it’s hard work for my acheing legs.

The home run consists of two fireroads that seem to have bricks and rocks embedded into the ground at odd angles, since it’s totally level all the way it’s a piece of cake (with white icing) to trundle along the road. Halfway there’s a junction with an access road that leads uphill, a patch of snow and ice have melted on that road completely leaving a large patch of rare black in this white landscape.

As I arrive at the next crossroads I see a bunch of about six people walking from the opposite bridleway who look like they’ll turn left and head the same way as I will do, namely up the access road back to the car park. The group seems to consists of two adults, four children, and as we approach the junction I notice three small white dogs leashed with luminous red tape.

Riding up the access track, a subtle uphill, but for some reason it’s always easier to get up this one. The snow is starting to melt, hence there’s more brown, less slush and less white to choose from as I homeward bound. As I reach the top the brown on the right bizarrely disappears, leaving a half brown and half white surface. Just at the last second I see the white on the right conceals an irregular pothole covering almost all the right, and so I keep to the left.

I arrive at the car park and turn left through the narrow pedestrian entrance with a wooden pole in the middle, but the turn is far too tight and the ice slips my wheel away, leaving me to stumble down. Across the slippery car park I walk back to the car, and as I put the muni away I notice the wheel is much much cleaner than it ever has been for a long time!

The snow belt didn’t reach this far North. So although I did have the uni in the car today, there was no chance of riding the white stuff.
So the nearest I have come is in reading your excellent descriptive write up.

Many thanks.


Can I join in?

Great write up.

It was nice to ride with you, so to speak. As I have a cold and sore throat I’m not venturing out in what little snow we have here :frowning:

Nice pics too. (I didn’t see them the first time cos the resident brat was being a bit of a pain in the backside).

I love the snowiness when the snow is still on the branches of the trees. I took some pics at work yesterday cos it looked gorgeous.

No it ain’t. Look up “machine” in the dictionary.

I understand it was common in the early days of cycling (even before the advent of chain drives) for cyclists to refer to their machines as “my machine”. Some of us still do :slight_smile:

Nice RR, BTW. I think I’d have enjoyed muniing in the snow yesterday, except that I had to work and we didn’t have a great deal of snow. There was just a thin covering, with a layer of ice underneath, with which my arse made contact when my bike disappeared suddenly from under me on the way to work. I had to straighten the handlebar, and I had to get tools out to straighten the boom, but fortunately it’s quite hard to hurt yourself falling off a USS recumbent.