Cycling and Snow
Heavy snow disrupts cycling? Not as much as some other forms of transport. With some 30cm of snow falling on much of South East England overnight, transport of pretty much every description short of walking was affected badly on the morning of Monday 2 February.
Not one of London’s 8,000-odd buses took to the roads; rail lines stood silent as soft, sticky snow built up over rails and sleepers; car owners either gave up trying to dig their vehicles out of snowed-in driveways or resigned themselves to crawling along hard-packed ruts.
Did this stop RCUK getting out on the bike? No way, although we did make a small concession to the conditions and break out the mountain bike. Road tyres are fine in fresh snow provided it is not too deep, but won’t ride on top of the hard-packed stuff, instead cutting down to Tarmac and both slowing and unbalancing the rider.
Not that we went for proper knobblies. Instead, we pressed an ancient pair of Continental Double Fighter Supersonics into service – alright, left them on the wheels ‘cos we couldn’t be bothered to change them – and, for easy footing in the event of a slide, rode on the flat, toothed side of pedals with an SPD fitting on one side and a toothed, flat side on the other. The machine is a late ‘90s Greg Fuquay steel hardtail with RockShox SID fork and 1996 Shimano XTR eight speed groupset. Retro or what?
Our garb will remain secret, but let’s just say it is unlikely to have received the approval of Dave Arthur wearing his Bike Magic hat. It did involve baggies, so we were part way there.
The route was easily chosen; with main roads likely to be a slushy hell, we set off for an hour of fun in the direction of Banstead. As it turned out, the only slushy road was Carshalton Road, beyond which lay miles of virtually car-free hard-pack snow. For the most part the Supersonics flew across the stuff, providing just the right balance of grip and speed. So fast were they that we overtook a couple of cautiously-driven cars on Sutton Lane, only to discover the tyres’ Achilles Heel.
In places the snow had been churned up enough to break up under the front tyre, deflecting it sideways. At this point a knobbly might have found grip and allowed us to steer; the Supersonics found none, leading to a series of exaggerated swerves as we attempted to recover balance. Some succeeded, others didn’t, but although we dropped the Fuquay several times, none could be classed as a ‘fall’. If anything, the ride was boringly uneventful, enlivened only by the occasional shout from approving 4wd drivers and snowball whizzing past. It was also surprisingly warm, although flogging an mtb across packed snow was never going to be anything else.