Yesterday was cold and today looked even colder. The countryside was pale green and faded while the road outside was white with frost. I decided to leave the road bike in the garage and take my crosstrail out for an off road spin around Grafham Water instead. I threw in a couple of bridleway diversions for good measure too.
I had heard a couple of comments and tales from yesterday of bad ice and slides on the roads around Grafham. Today was unlikely to be any better so I headed straight through the village for one of the bridleways to the north. It semed like a good choice – the mud was frozen and the going firm. My tyres crunched over the hard earth and cracked through the icy puddles. With the Cambrigdeshire mud tamed by the cold, I was enjoying the off road riding.
Of course, the good riding didn’t last. The route went through a gap in the hedgerows and I braked hard because the corner of the field it continued through was flooded. Ice covered the water, and there was about seven metres to cross. The hedges grew flush against the water too so there was no way to skirt around. So, like a man on a bear hunt, I couldn’t go over it and I couldn’t go under it, I had no option but to go through it.
I pedalled forward on to the ice and broke it into great ragged plates. A couple of times my front wheel found purchase on the ice and started to pull my bike out of the water only to smash through again. And then my momemtum stalled and my front wheel stopped. To keep balance I put my left foot down, straight into the freezing water. My footwear, I knew, was not especially waterproof; this was what I had been dreading. At least I was able to hop off the bike and land my right foot on dryer mud – I had been that close to getting across.
The rest of the ride was uneventful and enjoyable. I encountered ice, the worst of it being on the Grafham Water cycle track rather than the few bits of back road I did venture on to.
Another day then of winter riding at its best, even if I did only make 23 hard earned kilometres.