Promises of a mud free, sunny ride had enticed three keen SOC riders out of hibernation; as Liz, Mike and Karen joined me in a sparklingly frosty Hamsterley forest. Early signs were looking good, and under a rapidly expanding blue sky we got the blood pumping by heading up the climb from the visitor centre and with big grins, enjoyed the swoopy fun of Pikes Teeth. Next up was a slippery crossing of the roots of Route 66 and once Liz had finished her conversation with a dry stone wall, we set off down the new trail Odd Socks... There had been some debate at the top on whether to opt for the blue or red options at the trail split.
I opted for the third option, as a hidden patch of ice sent me and the steed hurtling into the central trail dividing rock. After my Christmas over indulgences, I was fine as I bounced harmlessly down the trail but one look at the yellow paint steaks on the pesky trail rock suggested the bike had not been so lucky. A scuffed, dented down tube and flaking layers of carbon from my 'kind of new' bike almost led to a wobbly lip moment... Reassuringly, the rest of the group suggested I continue to lead the way down the trail so that I could find any other ice patches! We pressed on to the Grove, then ventured out towards the frozen depths of the forest in search of the coldest possible place to have lunch. Finding ourselves frozen onto the picnic bench confirmed that we'd succeeded.
Next up was the delights of Monsters Inc! Much fun was had on it's testing twists and turns, and yes we did see that unusually dressed dog walker again. The forest wasn't finished with us yet though and as we approached the top of Transmission, Liz's bike ground to a sudden halt. Impressively, her rear mech had transformed itself into some kind of twisted form of metallic sculpture. Had her bike taken our joking remarks seriously; that we should end the ride as soon as the GPS told us we'd got to double figures in mileage? Weirdly the GPS read 9.75 miles... One thing was for sure, there would be no more peddling for Liz today. Luckily Mike Towage services were available to whisk Liz and bike back down the road to the VC. Karen and I took the Grove link instead and managed the find the only mud in the forest. Close to being a mud free ride, but not quite... So, with 2 broken bikes and forty frozen toes we eagerly got stuck into hot drinks and cake in the cafe. Memorable!