Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Bicyclists - An Almost Perfect Warm-Weather Rail-to-Trail Bike

Bicyclists - An Almost Perfect Warm-Weather Rail-to-Trail Bike

Most of the Midwestern limestone-gravel rail-to-trails are fairly flat. Just about any bike will work on them satisfactorily with minor adjustments for long or short rides, depending on the season or weather they are carried out in. Still, the frequent or long-distance trail rider needs a bike that is equipped both for the expected and unexpected situations.

The "steamrolled" rail-to-trail surface stays fairly hard, even during light rains. However, this hard-gravel surface gets soft during heavy rains or extended wet weather. Also, because these trails follow the old undisturbed railroad corridors, many kinds of trees, shrubs, plants, and thorny bushes grow next to them. The larger trees often form canopies over these trails. Thus, the seasonal or windy conditions yield plant debris that litters these trails sporadically. The debris, which includes, nuts, fruit, fallen broken branches, and small sharp twigs, can cause flat tires. To start with then, a trail rider must be able to fix flat tires although not often, and sometimes, never.

The following information and items make the rail-to-trail bicycle dependable and useful.

Bike type. The hybrid or mountain types equipped with touring tires are the most popular for these trails. Yet, the narrow-tire road bike, which can ride smoother, faster, and more comfortably for some riders, works well on them during dry weather. But, to keep this bike from sinking into the softened trail during wet weather, wider tires (25-to-32-mm wide) having thorn liners can be installed ahead of time. These tires will not wear a rider down as fast as the narrow ones during wet conditions.

Rack, bag, and trunk. Long-trail riders must also carry moderate amounts of extra equipment, food, and water. A hanging frame bag works well for carrying spare tire tubes and boots, tire levers, a hand air-pump, and the minimum tools needed for tightening anything on the bike that can loosen. A rear rack with a small trunk works well for carrying anything else, e.g., cleaning gear, lubrication, rain and sun gear, blanket, small tarp, energy food and juice, extra water, and personal items.

Fenders and mud-flaps. Hard-surface gravel trails are dusty during hot or dry weather. The dust raised by the front bike tire can clog the bike's chain and gears. Also, during wet weather, both of the bike's tires will spray limestone mud all over the bike, rider, and any attached equipment. This kind of mud builds up thick and heavy, and gets into everything, including the bicycle gears. Quick-connect fenders plus home-made mud flaps reduce these adverse effects considerably. The mud flaps can be cut from stiff rubber strips or from large plastic bottles.

Other accessories. Small items that improve the usefulness of a trail bike are:

compass for knowing the directions if a detour in required
bicycle computer for knowing distances and mileage
headlight and rear-light for early morning or late evening riding
side reflectors or reflecting tape for crossing roadways and driveways
handlebar-attached rear-view mirror for all-around visibility
extra handlebar grips for changing hand positions (prevents carpel tunnel syndrome)
horn or beeper for passing other riders, hikers, walkers, dog walkers etc
attached easy-to-grab dry food for loose dogs or other stray animals
attached easy-to-grab protective device (e.g., small pepper-spray canister) for just-in-case.

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