Last week was to be a Big Week. 3 Big Rides with a couple of turbo trainer sessions in between. Tuesday’s ride went well, I felt good over all my favourite hills and Thursday’s ride started well – clear skies and not too much wind had me cruising over through Clitheroe grinning from ear to ear. I could see a bit of what looked like haze on Pendle Hill, but didn’t think anything of it until I started climbing up the Nick o Pendle climb, when I realised it was a (very) localised snow storm. “Oh well”, I thought, “as long as it’s just here, that’s OK”.
Then I glanced behind me at the rest of the route and realised that it was hidden under a pitch black blanket of wintery storminess. Eek.
Luckily, I managed to get round and off Pendle Hill before the snow hit properly (those descents would be terrifying in the snow and the climbs would be nigh on impossible, so getting stuck in the middle of nowhere was a real possibility) and for some reason decided that it wasn’t snowing enough for me to sack off riding over Waddington Fell. After all, once I was over it I would have to choice of a number of routes of varying height, depending on how the weather was affecting the roads. So up the slope I span, trying to ignore just how dark it was getting and how people in the Moorcock Inn were giving me funny looks as I rode past.
By the time I crested the summit and slithered over the cattle grid the snow was falling heavily. I stopped and pulled on my waterproof and zipped up everything I had to keep the heat in and in the time that took, the road pretty much disappeared.
I have never ridden so slowly down a hill before. The only bit of tarmac still visible was right in the centre, so I crawled down right next to the white lines, only daring to move over into the middle of the lane when a car coming the other way forced me to. My slick tyres slid around under me and drifted across the snow at the slightest hint of a breeze as I fought to stay upright and keep the speed under control on sections where I’d normally be hitting 55 – 60mph. Suffice to say I wasn’t hitting those speeds, in fact I was barely into double figures, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell from the faces I was pulling. As the increasing wind buffeted me and sent me slithering across the road over and over again I started to consider whether I should be getting off and walking down, before realising that the sides of the road were sheet ice and the ditches to either side were ankle breakingly well hidden, so I carried on and managed to get down to Newton in one (slightly shakey) piece.
I had hoped that being down off the tops would mean calmed weather, but in the valley, heading back towards Dunsop Bridge (having already decided that riding up over Tatham Fell would be properly stupid), the snow just got heavier and heavier until just riding in a straight line along the flat was testing, to say the least.
All my routes suddenly seemed like a stupid idea, in fact even just getting home was going to be a bit of a struggle. I took the flattest route I knew – descents now being several times slower than riding on the flat and climbs being a case of “pedal as smoothly as you can until the road tyre gives up traction, then get off and walk”.
A couple of people in vans and 4x4s very kindly pulled up along side me (or, more accurately, skidded to a halt looking a bit confused as to why they were still moving with the brakes on) and offered me a lift, pointing out that it was snowing and probably quite dangerous. It was, but some part of me didn’t want to give up, despite hardly being able to see, as the snow was settling nicely on my eyebrows and eyelashes – I couldn’t even shake my head to knock it off as the sudden shift in weight would kick the back end out!
I eventually got home some 5hrs 20 after setting off, having ridden less distance than I would normally do in 4hrs and felt a bit guilty about it, so jumped on the turbo trainer for an hour, partly to get a bit more of a workout and partly to warm up a bit!
Sunday was also meant to be a Big Ride Day and after Thursday’s bad weather reducing the ride I made sure I have the right tyres for the conditions – some lovely studded Schwalbe Snow Studs. Sadly, after one crash a few minutes down the road from home on a slightly downhill section of sheet ice and lowering the pressure in the tyres as low as I dared, the wire bead in the rear tyre split and burst through the carcass. Fixing the puncture wasn’t a problem (it was a bit of a faff, trying to keep the sharp edge of the braken wire away from the new inner tube), but the tyre had become totally misshapen and simply would not stay on the rim, so I had no choice but to walk the 7 miles I’d managed, back home. Along icy roads wearing super stiff carbon soled SPD shoes.
That was not fun.
I’ve ordered a replacement for the knackered studded tyre, though I doubt it’ll arrive before Christmas and sadly the weather’s still rubbish and is forecast to carry on being rubbish for the next few days, meaning that tomorrows planned 7hr ride might well turn into just riding up and down a short section on the one main road I know has actually been gritted, until I get bored and slither home in a foul mood!
It does look kind of pretty out there though!