Sunday, 1 March 2009

Ashton Court: warm, dry and unnaturally pleasant

For anyone planning on taking advantage of the warm weather and heading out the woods near the city, we have an emergency warning that mud conditions are bad. No snow, no mud, no water. We have some photos here of how much better it was last month, so people can reminisce about how good it's been this winter, except for those people still living in denial.

The strangest thing about this Sunday morning's ride is how busy it was. People going round 50 acre wood, the trail by the wall, the trails by the quarry -the latter being fixed up by the Bristol Trails Group as we speak -more help there is always welcomed, Mar 21 being the next work day.

Today, this same path as above is now a pale dusty brown, with lots of people riding round the recommended direction, and a fair few going the other way, though as spring sets in, those people need to recognise that contraflowing is something you can't do a midday on a weekend any more -too dangerous at busy times. Certainly lots of people had to keep diving out the way when we contraflowed it at race speed.

The biggest problem with warm dry weather is that it is so unlike normal Bristol MTB conditions that people aren't going to be geared up for it -even the technique is different, as cornering and route planning changes, and we locals don't know what to do when there aren't knee-deep swamps of mud to land in when things go wrong. You need to take off all the warm clothes, the thick gloves and drop down to T-shirts; you may even need to think about tyre changes, but that's possibly a bit premature.

The last three years, March-May have been warm and dry, but a monsoon kicked in at the end of May, just before half-term, with fresh rain and mud that lasted until September. Presumably those conditions will recur this year, so rather then switch to general purpose tyres for S/W England and Welsh conditions we should accept that this aberration of warm and dry won't last. Just put the mountain bike away for a few weeks, do some road work, hang round the gyms that are now empty again as new year's resolutions have waned, and generally avoid the dry stuff.

What it is good for, incidentally, is evening work. The gate is open until 19:15 even though it's still dark from 18:00, and with almost no mud to wash off, night rides are easier.


InsanityIdeas said...

Problem I have with contraflowing is I am not quite sure what the correct way round is for the bit around the quarry, the signage is unclear and I have not been round there often enough to encounter other people... maybe that means I am going the correct way. I know the trails group have a map with arrows on, but its hard to tell which trail you are on at times. (or am I just crap with this map stuff).

SteveL said...

There's a bit on the quarry route which is two way