Winter is serious business. Fool around and you could easily become a popsicle, frozen to the side of a tree like that guy in "Jeremiah Johnson". And it doesn't have to be up in the mountains either, just get yourself down in a valley so you're out of cell phone range, in a place where people don't get to that regularly. Then break your leg and end up laying on the ground in the snow for a couple of hours. Ta-daa! You're a statistic!
I would like to avoid that. It would be embarrassing to kill yourself having fun. I'd often had that thought while whitewater kayaking. You wouldn't think that it was such an issue when mountain biking, but depending on the circumstances - let's just say it's a good idea to not overlook anything.
So, if you ride alone you have to let somebody know where you're headed, and you have to actually stick to the itinerary - no improvising on the way. In winter I always carry a bit more stuff in my pack, including another layer of riding clothes, plus at least one more layer of emergency clothes - just in case. I also carry a couple garbage bags, to keep you up off of the wet ground, and a lighter and fire starter in my first aid kit. It's not a lot of extra weight but it might save my life sometime.
In my unfortunate past I've had the experience of tearing the cartilage in my knee while riding alone out at Moraine. It left me laying on the wet ground, with rain turning to sleet as evening approached. I was lucky - it was on top of a hill and I was able to eventually coast down the trail and then an abandoned road so that I could get back to the car. Given a very slightly different set of circumstances - say I'd hurt myself another hundred yards down the trail - and I would have likely been forced to stay there until someone found me. Hard to say how long that would have been...
After another fun filled week of working towards a deadline I managed to get out for a ride on Friday. The weather wasn't that great, but it hadn't been cold enough to freeze the ground so singletrack was out of the question. Instead I went out to the rail trail and ground out some miles on the fresh snow. The temperature was 18 degrees, with a wind that brought the wind chill down to zero. I should have brought a bit more head protection, but for the most part I was plenty warm.
Kenny had a birthday this week (eleven years old!) and had a sleepover party Friday night to Saturday morning, so there was no trail work this week. But things worked out so that I was free Sunday morning, so the plan was to get up early and get in a ride while I could. I was a bit disappointed to find the temperatures had really dropped overnight and it was 6 degrees out when I woke up. But I packed up a bunch of extra clothes, a couple of thermos' of hot tea and headed out.
West Branch was totally empty as far as I could see. I parked down at the Antisocial Access Area, geared up in what seemed like a ton of clothes, and headed down the trail. I rode 50 feet and then stopped to check my tread - just in case.
And it was a good thing too, since there was soft unfrozen mud underneath the snow. I was amazed that even with temperatures near zero that the ground still hadn't frozen. But I couldn't knowingly screw up the trail, so I turned around and walked out.
I rode down the abandoned section of Cable Line past the singletrack and further out the gravel roads around the reservoir. It wasn't the ride in the woods that I had hoped for but it's always good to get out on a bike. There was a bit of extra mud and grit on the bike, and with it being so new I certainly wanted to get it clean. So I spent a little while down in the basement, cleaning and oiling. It still looks almost new, except for some scratches on the pedals.
I'm hoping that somehow I'm going to be able to get out and really ride this upcoming week. I've spent some time on the trainer this week and it just is not any fun at all. But I'll keep it up in hopes of actually getting some time on dirt soon.