Yes, we have now officially entered Winter Riding Weather. If you have been out riding the last few days you know what I am talking about. You probably have routes that you prefer to take when conditions are icy, and routes that you avoid in these circumstances. Friday saw some very icy side streets made worse once they got some traffic on them. I saw a garbage truck fishtailing and that was all I needed to know. I have been very tempted but have somehow avoided getting studded tires so far. I ride an old mountain bike at low inflation when the road surface is sketchy, and can usually manage it alright, using caution. What I did have a problem with was my shift cables getting moisture in them and freezing, leaving me shiftless.
The freezing rain had left a pebbly surface and that was not much of a problem where it had not been driven on much. I allowed more time for turning and stopping and rode more slowly. Limestone and gravel are much nicer at times like these if you have that option, as long as the surface is frozen or not muddy. Once the limestone trails get soft, have a lot of traffic then re-freeze conditions will not be so good. The same can be said for the single track trails in Wilderness Park. Right now they are too wet to be ridden unless frozen. I know there are those who like these conditions, but it damages the trails, so please don’t.
One good thing that stands out to me however, is the difference in sound quality. I don’t know if it is the colder temperatures, lack of leaves, or other factors, but sounds seem louder and clearer. Also, some wildlife and other surprises are easier to see now that leaf cover is gone. For example, the once thick plum thickets on the John Dietrich Connector now reveal the presence of a homeless person’s tent and campsite I’d passed by dozens of times over the summer, never knowing it was only a few feet away.
In this season of bare branches and subtle colors, familiar trails can be almost new again.