by Wil Barrett
January 16, 2017
According to talkback radio, today is apparently what’s known as ‘Blue Monday’. At first I was quite excited about that and the prospect of listening to New Order tracks back-to-back all day long, but I’ve since been informed by my magazine comrades that it’s actually Not A Good Thing™ – the day, not New Order.
As the third Monday in January, today is purportedly the most depressing day of the year for those living in the Northern Hemisphere. Xmas and New Years seem like a distant memory, everyone’s back at work after the holiday season, and the true brunt of winter is starting to kick in. Plus, a whole lot of silly people (including Chipps – bizarre right?!) are partaking in “Dry January”, whereby they abstain from the amber nectar for a whole four weeks in some kind of detoxification process. I am no doctor, but that surely cannot be good for you.
Blue Monday is a new concept to me, given that this is my first full British winter. Typically January is a bloody awesome time of year for me back in Oz. It’s sunny, hot, and the days are long. After work bike rides are aplenty, and mid-week beers at the pub watching the sun go down is the mandatory method for finishing said rides.
Sure, the excitement of Xmas and New Years has passed, but the beach beckons, and many peeps make their way to campsites post-Xmas for a few weeks before the kids are due back at school in February. Many of us mountain bikers head to the mountains to escape the clutches of the city for a few days of singletrack bliss. Of course there’s the odd groan here and there for those heading back to the office for the start of the new year, but for the most part, it’s summer good vibes all round.
So, how am I finding the British transition? The shorter daylight hours, the incessant drizzle, the grey skies and the lack of Vitamin D? You know, it’s not been as bad as I was expecting (*knocking fist repeatedly on wooden desk*). While I was worried that I might go a bit bonkers with “Valley Fever”, given that most of the horizon surrounding us here in Todmorden is taken up by steep valley walls that stretch up high into the skyline, I don’t feel I’ve gone any more loopy than usual. My wife may disagree.
I must say, bike riding has helped immensely though. With a wardrobe stacked full of winter riding apparel to test, I’ve had zero excuses in the gear department when it comes to getting out and spinning the pedals at least once a day. I’ve also been loaded up with high-powered LED test lights (watch out for that group test coming soon), and along with all of the various bikes, bits and bobs that are on the test roster, there’s been no shortage of reasons to get out and hit the trails.
Mind you, I’ve also been informed that this has been quite a mild winter so far, and in typically pessimistic British fashion, that I should still remain alert and worried for “when the REAL winter hits”. But to be honest, that has been the last bit of motivation I’ve needed. Before I arrived in the UK, I was a self-proclaimed “fair weather rider”. Basically if it was raining or was about to rain, I wouldn’t go riding. My (and many other Aussie mountain bikers) motto was; If the rain drops, the bike stops. I mean, who would willingly want to get cold, wet and filthy while subjecting their bike to bearing-destroying muck?
Things have changed with the transition somewhat. Now, if it isn’t absolutely bucketing down, then I’m on the bike and telling myself to make the most of the mild conditions while they’re here – that I should consider myself lucky, and that the weather could always be worse. Just fit a mudguard, grab the raincoat and waterproof booties, stop complaining, and get out there.
For this week’s Monday Morning Debrief, the Singletrack Staff & Contributors crew has indeed been getting out there. As you’ll see below, cold riding conditions can not only be endured in the search for adventure, they can also give way to stunning days on the bike. And when that happens, all of the filth, crunching gears, numb toes, frozen ears seems to be forgiven and forgotten.
“A window of opportunity presented itself between feeds (I’m Mum to a six month old who doesn’t like bottles) to get out and ride in the snow locally in the Yorkshire Dales. With my other half riding in the morning, I was given the last few hours of light to ride. A frozen stream bed with a sprinkling of snow on the top made for my only lively descent of the day, the light and the views were fantastic!” – Katherine Crompton.
“A ‘significant’ birthday provided the perfect excuse for a few days off work and a trip to the Lakes. The weather can only be described as ‘January’ but in between the wind and prescription of every kind there was Saturday.” – Rachel Sokal.
“The Cairngorms briefly turned into Norway, with soft, dry snow and people skiing down the high street. They even pisted the XC ski trails at Loch Morlich! The trails in the forest were riding brilliantly once someone big and strong had been sent ahead to break trail, and every fatbike owner within 100 miles seemed to have come to join in the fun. The smugness was short lived – its now become 8 inches or more of slush that’s set to hang around like a bad smell all week.” – Huw Oliver.
“I managed to do a half decent Doctor Doolittle impression yesterday after rescuing a very small/cold/hungry puppy who we think had been abandoned out on the moors above Slaley Forest in Northumberland. Winter had paid a brief visit here and the moors were sub-zero and snow covered, so sub-optimal for dumping a tiny puppy.”
“She was pretty enthusiastic about not being eaten by a large buzzard that was circling overhead, so after we fed her an energy bar we managed to cram her into my pack for the ride off the moors back to my van. She’s now safely in the very good care of the lovely people here – http://www.dogandcatshelter.com where hopefully she’ll have a somewhat happier and safer life!” – Olly Townsend.
“Even Surrey had snow this weekend. As far as I know, all local tiny puppies must have been warm and cosy in front of an Aga, listening to the shipping news and dreaming of kibble, as I did not find one shivering on the trail side. Frankly, having read our hero Oliver’s post, I now feel somewhat short changed. So, rather boringly in comparison, here are some pictures of the Surrey snow. Which I had to myself as the roads into the trails were somewhat tricky. Such fun but no puppies.“- Adele Mitchell.
“This weekend was spent, rather than riding a bike, refreshing on the first aid skills required if it all goes wrong on a bike. Saturday (cold, fresh snow, bluebird skies) was spent indoors staring out the window over to Gypsy Glen whilst doing practice CPR whilst Sunday, the outdoor day, was wet and windy and spent quite a while lying on cold, snow melt saturated ground completing many different first aid scenarios. I can’t emphasise how much was learnt and that every serious rider should do some first aid training, as removing the fear of coming across an accident is so important. If you ride regularly it’s a matter of when, not if, you have to help at an accident. Lying on sodden ground for up to half an hour also provided another good test for the One Gore GTX Pro Jacket. Review coming soon!” – Tom Nash.
Our own tame Fresh Goods Friday-er, Hannah, got out for a very slithery ride in Calderdale Valley aboard the Liv Hail test bike that we’ve got on for review at Singletrack.
Hannah wasn’t the only one carving it up on the weekend, with Social Media main-man, Andi getting all kinds of loose in a muddy forest. Try not to yell out “WATCH OUT FOR THAT TREE ANDI!!” while watching this one.
Chipps also rolled tyres over trail, with some solid weekend saddle time aboard the Robot R160 we’re also testing at the moment. Despite the superbike status, this is one discreet machine that loves hiding in the bushes…
Fellow Singletrack and Grit.cx conspirator, Tom Hill, celebrated his birthday in style over the weekend, with an icy and muddy ride in Calderdale Valley, complete with a mid-ride tipple. This is how you do winter.
Hours of riding, wheel swapping, tyre changing and lens cleaning today on the muddy tracks around Gisburn. Currently on test for @singletrackmag is a set of Ci31 Carbon wheels from @wildernesstrailbikes and those bulbous Minion WT treads from @maxxistires – stay tuned for more in the upcoming issue of #SingletrackMag! . @extra_uk #maxxisminion #carbonwheels #wildernesstrailbikes
Of course it isn’t always fun and games on the bike – sometimes you have to spend hours on your own riding around in circles changing tyres, swapping wheels and adjusting things like cockpit positioning and suspension settings. For a bike nerd like me, this is what I define as fun. Throw in digital tyre pressure gauges, a spreadsheet and some measuring callipers, and you’ve got a party! Yes, this is fun – even when you’re doing it while it is bucketing down with rain, and there are more puddles on the trail than there is actual solid ground. But then again, if I don’t get out on the bike and ride today, the weather could be worse tomorrow right?
If the weather has taken a turn for the worse wherever you are in the world, then we’ve got a little video to cheer you up on this supposedly ‘Blue Monday’. It involves Chipps wearing a Weatherneck that looks like he’s about to hold up a stage coach, and me trying to register a psi rating on the SKS Digital Pressure Gauge by blowing on it with my mouth before passing out.
Happy Monday all, and make sure you get out there and get at it!