King Freeze meet Queen Thaw!!!

I headed out to Banner Pits this morning about 8:30 for some more punishment and to take advantage of the frozen trails. King Freeze hit last night with temperatures dropping into the 20's to freeze the singletrack which makes for conditions worth riding.

Things were frosty when I arrived...

Frosty Morning at Banner

I buzzed along on the JET during lap one feeling pretty good. By the time I reached the newest section called Corner Pocket, certain corners were suddenly feeling the effect of good ole Queen Thaw as she tickled the trail with direct sunlight. That meant it was time to pull the plug on my ride at the end of lap 1. I rolled over to the car and took a picture of how much soft dirt/mud had collected on my tires in the last few minutes of my loop...

Post ride mud at 10:08 am

Still wanting to ride, I hit the paved trail and rode to Carlisle and back before heading home after banking 2 hours of bike time.

CITA and those of us riding Sunday morning were talking about the freeze/thaw and what kind of ruts we are starting to see out on the trail. Here's an example of some footprints where somebody walked in the afternoon, and then it froze overnight. This was right next to where I parked the car...

Big Foot

There are signs at the entrance to Riverside (on both sides) with the rules about using the trail...

Riverside entrance sign

Here's a close up of the sign where you can see Rule #1...

Rule #1 - Stay Off Trail When Wet

1. Stay Off Trail When Wet.
If your feet or tires are leaving a mark, do not use the trail. Using the trails while they are muddy will damage the trail and surrounding environment.

In the spring and summer after big rains, it's really impossible to ride around central Iowa as the clay mud builds up so fast and furious on the side of your tires that the wheels won't even rotate a few feet or yards into the trail system. It's a no brainer to stop and get out in those conditions. However, the confusion for many during this warm December/January time frame has been the kind of mud that you actually can ride through without too much build up on the side of the tires and the frame, yet the tires and feet are leaving big ruts and footprints in the trail. Not every day, but obviously on some days in the past couple of weeks. I know I got caught out on Riverside one day last week where I hit a stretch that was too muddy to ride. So I picked up my bike and walked through the weeds and timber to get out of there. It was simply not a day to ride the trails, and I took to the pavement instead. Regardless of the season or type of mud, Rule #1 still applies. Mud is mud. Wet is wet. I think things will be much better very soon as some deep freezes are due to hit in a couple of days.

I am not too worried that the current damage is going to be permanent (most of it in Riverside). Once things get tacky yet are still rideable, a few passes will smooth things out in the few rough spots that have developed - especially if some of the fat tire boys get out there on their balloons. There are some pretty deep ruts that have been created in the past couple of days in some spots that are now bordering on trail repair being needed to address those few areas.

Matt mentioned that we should put some extra signs about 100 feet of so into each trail entrance that simply has Rule #1 on it or something that states "If it is muddy, turn back and stay off the trail!" I think that would be beneficial and is needed as the signage I showed above for Riverside entrance is a lot to read and most just cruise past the sign going full tilt without reading. But a specific "keep off if muddy" sign that one encounters after being on the trail for a bit might get a better response - or one would hope. It would take time to get a permanent sign, but maybe a paper plate on a wooden stake would suffice for now to stop the bedlam.

King Freeze and Queen Thaw will continue to rule according to the weather forecast for the next 10 days or so - so it is advisable to pay attention to the temps and don't plan on riding if it is above freezing.

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