As we drove over the pass at Pack Monadnock, the world became a very white place. No problem, it'll be gone as soon as we drop a thousand feet into Peterborough. Yeah, right. When did southwest New Hampshire get snow? We nearly turned around but decided to at least put eyes to the ground in Keene. There was a little less snow there. It was iffy, but we set out on 'cross bikes anyway. It was a whopping 14F out.
Slipperiness isn't what sucks about an inch of snow. It's not slippery, actually, when it is really cold out. It sucks because it masks ice. Even though 99% of the Ashuelot Rail Trail was hammerable, we never dared quite cut loose. My current batch of bruises and sprains were a constant reminder of what happens.
The rail trail heading out of Keene
As we got further and further out from Keene, foot traffic on the rail trail diminished to nothing. This meant there were no foot prints to expose where ice lurked under the snow. What was worse was frost heaves. Many times the crusty earth gave way and my tires dropped six inches into an icy vice. It was nearly enough to hurl me over the bars. The final assault occurred when frost heaves stopped my bike, forcing a sudden hop off the saddle. On pavement, I barely have any standover clearance on my 'cross bike, which is a size too big. When I dismounted, both feet punched through crystallized earth nearly six inches, leaving me supported only by my crotch on the top tube. I wasn't only ready to give up on the rail trail at that point, but on the whole ride.
Dave and I bailed out to adjacent Rt 10 and schemed on how to salvage the ride. Our average speed to that point was less than 12mph. The planned route was supposed to be 54mi, and Dave needed to be back in less than four hours. I recalled seeing a dirt road that cut through the middle of Pisgah State Park. That would cut significant mileage out of the ride in get Dave back plenty early. Leave it to me to drag others into unscouted routes.
We continued south on busy Rt 10 into Winchester. A sign directed us towards Pisgah. Much of Pisgah sits on pretty high ground. We finally had a paved, clean road that went up, begging for Wattage. At the park entrance, the road turned to gravel, and it had a sufficient dusting of snow to mask the numerous ice flows on north facing downhills. Many ice flows required off-the-bike portages. Ugh.
The gravel road eventually degraded to full-on ATV trail and goes up, of course. This was an exact repeat of our Hillsborough loop where Dave and I both crashed a few weeks ago. We could have mountain biked a hundred different places closer to home with zero snow and minimal ice, but no, we go out of our way to risk life and limb in this shit.
Chesterfield Rd in Pisgah State Park. Studs would have been nice.
Riding the 10 miles or so through Pisgah actually wasn't that bad of an experience. It really was more a matter of unexpected conditions. Imagine that, snow and ice on trails the week before Christmas! The ride took on much more of a mountain biking flavor, except we were on CX bikes with 65psi skinny tires.
Chesterfield Rd eventually pops out on our originally planned route, where we began heading back towards Keene. All the gravel roads were dicy in the area. You just couldn't tell if you'd hit a stretch of ice after letting your speed run out to 40mph. A lot of nervous braking went on.
We finished the last few miles of the ride on the rail trail that comes into Keene from the west. It was well travelled but had more than a few icy sections. Amazingly, neither of us hit the deck on this ride. We finished with 36mi in 3.1hrs riding time. We may have cut a lot of miles out of the planned route, but we kept most of the vertical with 2370ft of climbing, mostly in Pisgah.