Trail Ramblings: Ice, Mud, and Ruts? Oh My!

What a week of contrasts we’ve had. It began with cold temperatures and icy patches but ended with little need for a jacket and some of the mud beginning to dry out. I have a fair amount of experience winter commuting but I still managed to hit a patch of black ice at a corner on the Billy Wolfe where I crash-tested my helmet.

My helmet

I managed to shove my derailleur into my tire in the process too, but pried it away enough to get to work just 5 minutes late. An hour later, the ice was gone. It’s the most important time of the year to wear a helmet in my view, yet I see fewer riders with them on now than in the warmer months. No stocking cap, no matter how thick, would save you from at least a concussion in a slip hard enough to crack a helmet. There are various ways to have a warm head under a helmet. I use a very thin, yet warm micro fleece beanie. I used to use a scarf over the top of my head and crossed around my neck (warm neck advantage).Others have felt liners made for use with their helmets. An average stocking cap, probably without the ball on top, will work if your helmet is adjustable to a larger size, and an all-weather helmet cover blocks the breeze, as does covering the vent holes with tape.

As you may have noticed, the Rock Island trail in front of the zoo is open, and the N St. Bikeway is not. Apparently two more weeks were needed to work the kinks out of the street/bikeway signals. The underpass under 27th and Capital Parkway and the Rock Island under the Penny Bridges should both be opening this month if still on track.

mud John J Meehan
Cyclo-cross mud, John J. Meehan

And finally, even though the calendar says it’s December, there were a number of group cycling events this past weekend. Enough to keep the fat bikers, gravel crushers and cyclo-crossers happy, even without frozen ground. The crushed limestone trails were passable, but the sheltered areas of the MoPac and Murdock were quite sloppy. Gravel is a better option at these times, as it drains more quickly, but stay off of the minimum maintenance unless you want to hike-a-bike. If they re-freeze when they’re rutted with snow, ice, or mud, or trampled with a lot of foot traffic they can be a bit rough and challenging, so think ahead with your route planning.

Global Fat Bike Day, Rob Evans