The icing on the Moors

After the rain comes the cold, and the wet ground has frozen into broad sheets of ice.  This is not sensible weather to take a road bike with skinny tyres out into the world.  Especially not when you've gone to so much trouble to clean the salt and muck off from the last ride, regreased its mechanicals and got it ready to hibernate.  No, this is the weather to take a robust mountain bike out for a spin.  Although I don't have studded tyres, the wide knobbly tread gives you a little more confidence to head out into the hazards of ice, snow and slush.

I pushed out of my street due to the skating rink nature of the frozen water, and set off from the main road which had at least been gritted.

I was nervous at first, but the further I cycled the greater my confidence grew.  There was s slight drizzle in the air and I was getting damp as I climbed the main route up through the wind farm over Seamer hill.  The flooding outside Seamer had subsided a bit, but the remaining puddles were icy and crunched under my weight.

I was aiming for Great Ayton and planned to grab an early morning cup of coffee from Suggitts.  The ice underneath me was not always easy to see, so I was cautious whenever I needed to brake or change course.  Travelling in a straight line was easy enough, and I made it to Suggitts without mishap.  Over a coffee, ham roll and walnut whip I wondered what to do with the rest of my ride.  The rain had stopped and the sun had come out - I wanted to feel the sun on my face.  I didn't want to go straight home, I was feeling brave and I fancied a bit of climbing; so I decided to head for Kildale to do a "there and back" journey.

Just outside Great Ayton there was a flooded field and the reflection of the moors was something you don't see very often.  The ice was melting in the sunshine and I picked up a bit of speed.  The roads were very damp though and there was still ice underneath the hedgerows to watch out for.

To my right I could see Battersby Bank climbing away to the top of the moors and as I was on a Mountain Bike I decided to go and have a look, to see if it was rideable.

This was a narrow lane which was almost completely covered in crunchy ice and slush, with streams of melt-water running down either side.  Ahead was a jogger in fluorescent yellow pounding his way up the hill.  I set off in pursuit.  He was running at a good pace and I was struggling with traction at the rear wheel, so it took some time to catch him, and when I did I was going to need the same narrow section of "grippy" ice to get past; I pulled sideways around him and lost ground on the very wet ice.  Eventually the steep section evened out and I was able to get past.

The view out over the Tees valley was beautiful in the sunshine, although there was some haze higher up and there was also a large bank of cloud over the Pennines which looked like dropping snow.

There were two cattle grids to cross, with slippery surfaces either side, I managed to keep my balance and roll over them to keep going.  I found the lowest MTB gear I could and sat pedalling very fast to keep moving.  My breath was shallow and I puffed clouds of steamy air out in front of me.

I made it past the second cattle grid and stopped for a look around.  There was snow covered ice either side of the road and in the clear blue skies the view into Warren Moor was worth the climb.

I liked the way the brown heather poked out of the white snow like flames.  It was as though the moor was on fire underneath the snow and managed to burn through in places.

I certainly stood out - no SMIDSY opportunity with me in bright clothing.

The slushy ice was slippery, wet and treacherous.  Thankfully I stayed upright on the descent.

Coming back down towards Kildale and back home I reflected on what an excellent little 50km journey I had enjoyed.  It was raining when I headed out, but I had gone anyway.  The roads were covered in ice, but I went out anyway.  It was probably reckless, but I came away unscathed.  I had the benefit of fresh air, great views, some hard exercise and an exhilarating descent.  I'm pleased I went out today, it might be a while before I get another chance.

Route: Over Seamer Hill, stopped for coffee in Great Ayton, out through Easby towards Kildale and then sharp left on the Cleveland Way to climb Battersby Bank.  Back the same way.

Route Profile.

Some statistics: 50km, 2 hours 33 minutes (plus stops).  Maximum gradient about 20% - icy.

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