Monday, December 05, 2005

Snow Job...

Finally shook my cold and got out in the cold tonight on the fixie for the first snow of the winter. Didn’t live up to the hype from local prognosticators, most of whom quickly changed their tunes when reality kicked in, as if they hadn’t said earlier exactly what they said earlier, which was that we were in for some fairy decent accumulations. Four to six inches my ass.

Oh well, it’s white, it’s beautiful, it’s time to ride. Called up DT, since he’s my usual snow bro and a fixed gear freak, and we met up with Gary, JoeP, and Dave at Wakefield around 7 pm. The other three were riding single speeds, and had been doing so for about a half hour by the time we ran into them, so they were pretty well primed. The snow had let up a bit by this time, and the flakes had shrunk to the size of dust motes. Since I had recently found my "lost" camera, I packed it along with me.

This was my first off-road ride in the snow on the fixie, my fourth fixed MTB ride overall. I suspected up front that my WTB ExiWolf 29er tires, an excellent (though heavy) choice for hardpack conditions, would likely be pretty poor performers in the slick stuff, and I was right. It didn’t help that the trail conditions were a bit more sloppy than we expected, the result of air temperatures that were hovering just below freezing, not low enough to really harden the earth beneath our wheels.

We started in the “bowl” area, which was in relatively good shape. Early on, we broke trail on virgin snow, but soon we ran into another set of tracks, the rider having long since vanished into the night. The usual sounds of tires crunching trail debris were swallowed up in the frozen fluff, and this uncanny silence, coupled with the bluish hue at the periphery of our headlamps, added an eerily beautiful ambiance to the woods surrounding us that is really the best part of snowy night rides. It’s an almost subliminal sensation that’s difficult to describe in words, but one that makes you smile unconsciously in appreciation all the same, a little bonus that the folks sitting at home transfixed by the vapid glow of the TV just don’t get.

Logs were tricky, as they usually are under such conditions. Anything that wasn’t perpendicular to the trail tried to reward the rider with a rear tire slide out, followed in close proximity by an instinctual dab to counteract the unwelcome physics. Still, most anticipated the angles and rode on without incident. Low lying branches triggered snow bombs with even a slight brush of the shoulder. Oddly, though I was running less air pressure in my tires for the sake of traction, I didn’t experience the usual pedal strikes that are the plague of a low-slung bottom bracket coupled with a fixed gear setup and a dose of inexperience.

It wasn't long before the snowfall began to pick up again. We left the bowl area and headed over to the race section, much of which was transformed for the better over the summer by the sweat and sinew of some hard-working MORE members. We figured this area would hold up well to the conditions, and we were right, for the most part. The only sloppy areas were the twin switchback corners out near the power lines, which were much more exposed because of the lack of tree cover.

At this point, Gary decided he'd had enough, and peeled off back to the cars. The rest of us did a short loop on the race section, digging the new mini-bridges over the eternally muddy stretches that led us there. I found that braking with my legs in the snow was enough to give me control without bothering with the front disc, allowing me to maintain critical front wheel traction, and this added a whole new and enjoyable element to snow riding. The loop went quickly, but the beer was calling to us. Back at the cars, DT, Gary, and I hung out in the elements just long enough to kill a beer or two; JoeP and Dave took off for home. Although the snow was a bit of a disappointment, it beat the proverbial hell out of rain. And, with a bit of luck, this little teaser was only the beginning of much better things to come this winter.

6 comments:

rickyd said...

Sounds like I missed a good ride. Still healing from the previous day's crashes. Keep on going out there and I'll see you one of these days.

DiscoCowboy said...

Tomorrow night Wakefield, the new bike shall ride!

If we're lucky more snow will be falling by then.

Jill said...

Oh wow... looking at pictures of stump jumping in the snow. You guys are truley hardcore.

gmr2048 said...

Don't believe everything you see on the internet. It's all trick photography. We were all actually sitting in a bar drinking when those photos were supposed to have happened. God bless Photoshop.

iconoclasst said...

So that's where YOU were. I was wondering...8^)

Tim Wise said...

Man i like the pics ... heavy looking ... big wet mutha flakes. Yeaa i love the silence in the snow . very trippy