Change of pace. It occurred to me it might be a good idea to get some “off road” time in the saddle given that June’s Tour Divide is about 80% double track fire roads.. And it would’ve been a great idea except I overlooked one thing: snow.
The closest rail trail of any distance in our little corner of southern NH, is the Rockingham trail that runs from Newfields to Manchester NH. This was the old Portsmouth branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad system . So I pitched my bike in the car and drove up to the eastern end of the trail. I immediately discovered that March hasn’t done much to melt this winter’s snowpack, especially on a shaded path regularly ridden by snowmobilers. Glancing down the path leading away from the Newfields train depot, I decided to test whether my cross bike and I were equal to the challenge.
Six miles and three hilarious spills later I determined that this might not be the smartest move and exited to a nearby crossing road. The sun was wreaking havoc with different stretches of the trail. Long shaded sections were firm and fast lending a false sense of confidence. You had to fight to hold a line but it was fun spinning along a snow covered pathway. But stretches of glare ice appeared out of nowhere, (always when I had a good head of steam) and I found myself gripping the handlebars for dear life. There were also exposed sunbeaten stretches that had turned into heavier corn snow, bringing any momentum to skidding halt. It may have been a relatively short six mile stretch until I came upon a cross road, but this was work. And I could already feel the bruises welling up from a few spectacular headers!
After wrestling along this ribbon of snow, ice and slush, jumping back to the road surface felt like butter. I pedaled a 20 mile country road loop and then returned to my car via the Rockingham rail trail. On the way back I crossed paths with a couple of ‘fat’ bike riders. I hadn’t even seen a ‘fat’ bike until earlier this fall. These are really cool looking, super snow, off road riding rigs. These two were spinning along without any of the misfortune I was experiencing; just a walk in the park for a fat bike. While I was hanging on for dear life, they seemed to be rolling along effortlessly.
I greeted them jealously without peeling a single finger from either bar. I’d already been prone enough times for one day. I’m guessing they had a good chuckle at my expense. Hey even I was laughing at myself by this point. But I may have to consider a fat bike next winter to experience that calm riding demeanor myself! If you haven’t seen a fat bike, here’s what they look like. Snow and sand are no problem for these machines and they’re gaining popularity. They’re becoming popular with bike packing adventurers looking to blaze their way on and off trail in the backcountry.
But until spring finally shows up and sends winter packing, I’ll just have to stick to the roads. And it seemed like such a great idea……