Winter kicks - MCN’s guide to sub-zero fun (Part 2)
Stop hibernating on the sofa waiting for the new biking season MCN shows you how to have a kick-ass winter
hristmas is closing in, which means woolly jumpers, comfy sofas and the Coronation Street omnibus with your feet up. Most of us will be tucking our bikes away for hibernation and hanging up the boots, blissfully unaware that we could be having the time of our lives this winter. But that’s not our fault; it’s the sparkly tinsel and baubles infecting our minds. Block it out! Sod the turkey, whip out a thick pair of socks, jump on your bike (or buy a cheapie) and get out there. You could be sliding around knee deep in muck with your mates, trundling up and down green lanes in the snow, learning to pop wheelies on a trials bike or taking up one of our mental winter challenges in no time. We show you how with our kick-ass winter biking guide. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face… or give you hypothermia. Either way, Merry Christmas!
Do something mental:
If you’ve got a screw loose, and really want a winter to remember then you’ll be wanting Slovakia and the High Tatras mountain range. You could always try it in February,
Slovakia’s coldest month of the year, you know, for a laugh.
We had a go back in 2013, and the ride there was exhausting itself. The snow became so heavy we could only manage 15mph on the motorway. Lorries were overtaking at a furious 30, flinging muddy slush onto our visors. It was one-handed riding all the way, one hand to steer, one to wipe the visor clean. For the brief moments we were uninterrupted it looked like we were riding through nuclear fallout, ash raining all around us in deathly silence, except for the whirring sound of our machines, throbbing beneath us.
By the time we reached the foot of the Tatras it was -15°C, our water bottles had frozen, the sky was a white blizzard and the road was hard-packed ice and slushy snow. As the route climbed higher the riding became harder and crashing became the norm. The snow deepened, thick and fluffy on top, hard and rutted underneath. Crash after crash ensued, sometimes flinging us across the entire breadth of road and into barriers. Mustering the energy to continuously lift the bike with luggage strapped to the back was knackering and left us soaking in our thermals. After each crash the visor would come up, and by the time I sat back on the bike, the inside had frozen solid giving a cracked glass view. In the end it had to stay open which felt like riding into a hail of bullets cleverly disguised as fragile snowflakes. We couldn’t tell if the mountains were playing a trick on us, making us eternally ride the same road. The 125-mile crossing took 13 hours at an average of less than 10mph. Yes, it’ll be hard and long, and when we finished our eyelashes were frozen together, we were done in and our faces burned cold, but we didn’t care and neither will you. It’s the ultimate winter kick, have a go, you’ll love it.
Survive the Elephant Rally
The Elephant Rally is ridiculous. It’s a mental event held somewhere in the Bavarian Forest for nutcases who like riding and camping in snow. That being said, it is fun. MCN rode to the Elephant Rally in 2014 and the entire trip still rings in our ears like a mini explosion. “Welcome to the Elefantentreffen!” shouted a bearded warlord as we rode past hundreds of bikes to the entrance. We thought we had just ridden into a medieval army camp brimming with soldiers preparing for war. Gargantuan fires were ablaze everywhere, large men in full length fur coats and matted manes stood drinking barrels of beer, eating meat and singing. WWII sirens whirled and then we came under attack. Hand-held grenades (or fireworks) were thrown down into the depths of the rally and flares exploded on top of crowds. Fire fighters were reeling out hoses from their trucks and putting out skip fires. Police wrestled bruised fighters to the ground and then into their vans while ambulances skidded down hills causing more harm than good. Order had broken down, it was Armageddon. We were denied sleep; their fireworks might as well have been tucked under our pillows. The last one exploded at 4am, and by 6am it was peaceful. The giants slumbered as the liquor took its toll. We tried to make a quiet escape but someone caught sight of us and fired a warning shot. Within minutes all hell had broken loose, a barrage of fireworks went off and a lookout sounded the siren. We escaped in the midst of the chaos. We still don’t know what the Elephant Rally is all about, but there’s no doubt that it’s certainly something to be experienced - if you can bear the cold, noise and sleep deprivation.
Now do the rally
The Elephant Rally takes place on the first weekend of February every year in the Bavarian Forest, Germany. Expect to ride 2000 miles. Head to Passau, right on the Czech and Austrian border and turn off at Hengersberg.
• If you feel the back tyre breaking free in snow, yank the clutch and don’t touch anything. Stopping drive to the rear wheel will straighten the bike up.
• Test your gear thoroughly before you go. Any little gaps where wind finds a way in will be ruthlessly exploited.
• A one-piece rain suit will make all the difference. It acts as the initial wind barrier and will keep your kit dry and you warm.
Words: Andy Davidson