Btown Biking Winter Riding & Ice Biking

Biking on Ice and Snow 2009

Wahoo! Another year of ice riding on Lake Monroe (and Griffy), you know, I sometimes worry the ice will not form (like in 2007). But this year the ice has been over 4 inches thick for over three weeks, and had many different faces. And yes, I wear my sandals (and 2-3 pairs of socks) on the ice. I have shoes that I use only when there is deep snow.

Lake Monroe ice
Lake Monroe ice

I took 2 vacation days from work to ride on the lakes, and it could not have gone better. I know most folks find it hard to believe, but these days were really fun. I logged about 75 miles of the flattest riding you can do in southern Indiana, and never once came close to any real danger. During my 20 hours on the ice I saw 5 fisherman, 2 campers, 3 coyotes, 3 hawks, 2 bald eagles, and 1 great blue heron. We had no problem sharing the lake.

Griffy Lake Jan. 17-18
Pine Grove to Elkinsville Jan. 19
Clear Ice and Blue Skies Jan. 24
Dam Ride Jan. 26
Last Frozen Ride Feb 6


Riding north on Lake Monroe
Clear Ice on Lake Monroe
Ice Types on Lake Griffy
Patton’s Cave (along Saddle Creek)

Notes on frozen lake riding:

  • The lake seems much smaller when you can ride rather than rowing, I’ve been end to end on my bike.
  • Snow can be a help in winter riding. Up to 2 inches will help hold the bike upright, although it does slow you down (a better workout?) More than 2 inches is a challenge.
  • Snow can be slippery. The only time I fell was riding on thin snow over rough ice.
  • White ice generally has better traction than clear ice, but is often bumpier.
  • Black (clear, green or blue) ice is ridable, even though it appears smooth, there it plenty of traction (as long as there in not a thin layer of water or snow on top.)
  • Braking is a challenge, it is better to stop pedaling and put your feet down.
  • Make wide turns only, or find yourself on the ice.
  • Use low torque, ie don’t press hard on the pedals, or you may peel out and meet the ice.
  • Cracks that have water one side or the other are scary, even though I know there is ice underneath the water. But who wants wet feet in January? I ride parallel till I find safe place to cross, which may be at the shoreline.
  • There are coyotes, eagles, geese, and great blue herons at the lake in the winter.
  • The Middle and South Forks of Salt Creek are frozen highways to Elkinsville and Maumee
  • A cup of tea is quite refreshing when on the ice.
  • The ice grumbling under your feet and pinging across the lake is a good thing, it is the sound of ice being made.

I mapped out a couple of my Lake Monroe routes after the fact, just to see how far I’ve traveled, and to fix in my mind where my photos were taken. It does help to have a map on the lake, on my first ride to Elkensville, I somehow started up Axom Branch, rather than riding north and then east.

Elkinsville map
Btown Biking

Bear Wallow Climb

If you’ve ridden the Hilly Hundred when it went east, the killer climb comes right after lunch. After riding the gentle valley north out of Nashville, you run smack dab into Bear Wallow Hill. It has has the largest rise of the climbs in our region, starting at 692′ in the valley to 1010′ on the ridgetop, a climb of 318 feet.

It is .75 miles long and using my Mitch’s Hill Toughness Quotient, it is a difficult hill at 424. However, its length and rise are more than any other hill I’ve found, and so this hill is tougher than the quotient would indicate. [318/.75=424].

In comparison, TC Steele has a higher quotient at 474 MHTQ, but it’s a third shorter at .42 miles and rises only 200 feet. Bean Blossom Hill to the ridgetop is a long ride, 1.25 miles, and it rises 293 feet, but the math works out to a measly 227 MHTQ. So I would say Bear Wallow Hill is much tougher than Bean Blossom HIll, and probably harder to climb overall than TC Steele. I’ve climbed them both on my recumbent, so I know they are in the same neighborhood. But no doubt Bear Wallow is more of a killer, especially in warm weather. It just keeps going and going and going. But by pure numbers, Miller and Boltinghouse Roads are still the toughest paved Hoosier Hills, and McGowen is still the toughest by far.

Btown Biking

One heron, three coyotes, and an eagle on frozen Lake Monroe

Frozen Lake MonroeOn the way out of Pine Grove, I watched a great blue heron take off from shore and cross the lake, I am sure he was hungry as all of Lake Monroe was frozen. I heard a few woodpeckers calling as I rode over the ice towards Elkinsville, and I found some tracks in the snow cover.. But it was not till I was returning westward, when I spotted three coyotes running across the ice. They stopped and watched me for a while as I watched them, but when I started moving, they took off, one split off parallel to me along the ice, the other two started running towards the south shore.

Then as I came around the last point before heading for Pine Grove ramp, I saw a full grown bald eagle take off heading east, he/she had been standing on the shoreline, no doubt wondering when the ice would melt.

Btown Biking Winter Riding & Ice Biking

Riding in January 2009

Frozen Lake Monroe-Jan 2009
Frozen Lake Monroe-Jan 2009

Though not exactly an easy task, it’s not impossible, and can be fun. I ride more slowly in the winter, the wind chill at 15 mph can be brutal when it’s 20 degrees. So I don’t worry about being aerodynamics, I just bundle up in my winter coat and ride at 10 mph. There is great beauty in the bare winter landscapes, and the birds that winter here are easy to see with no leaves on the trees. With a light dusting of snow the hillsides glow in the early sunsets as the geese fly overhead.

The first week of January was quite warm, in the 50’s though cloudy, making for good riding. I’ve been exploring the east side of the county lately, riding a variety of loops on McGowen, Friendship, Duke, Kerr Creek, and Lampkin’s Ridge Roads. In years past, I’ve worked the loops to the south, riding to the lake via Stipp, Moores Creek, Ramp Creek, and Pine Grove Roads, and it is always fun to be by the water. But heading east, the Wildlife Nesting Area and the forests are the draw. Except during the fall hunting season, the Salt Creek valley north of the lake is empty (with the exception of birdwatchers and the occasional DNR employee) of humans.

Frozen Lake Monroe-Jan 2009
Frozen Lake Monroe-Jan 2009
Btown Biking


Bike Commuting in Chicago

Another reason to bike or walk (besides its being fun and healthful!)

Here are some interesting numbers listing the calories burned per mile via various modes of transportation. A bike offers mechanical advantage that is unbeatable, but if one factors in the environmental cost of creating a bike versus a couple pair of shoes, perhaps the two are about even.

Calories burned directly correlates to carbon dioxide release, either from our breath while walking or biking, or from the tailpipe emissions from our vehicles. So it looks like biking or walking are nearly an order of magnitude better riding than oil burning vehicles, especially cars.

Biking 38 cal/mile
Walking 100 cal/mile
Train 880 cal/mile
Bus 900 cal/mile
Car 1860 cal/mile
Btown Biking

Aah, Nerhtz ride

This was to be any easy road trip, about 25 miles, out Kerr Creek to Gettys Creek and Mt. Gilead. We doglegged over to Robinson Rd, and took Nerhtz. We climbed the little hill, and then my chain broke (again). The guys at Bike Garage had fixed the chain and ordered a new one, so I knew I was taking a chance. Jojo was able to grab the back of my seat, and pulled me along the ridgetop.

I coasted downhill, and we turned on Earl Young so we could stop and attempt a fix at Alan’s farm in the valley. It was a cold day and we were hoping to warm up by the wood stove before working with the cold metal chain, but he was not home. We sheltered in the barn, and miracle of miracles, I had my chain tool with me (I had carried it for years with ever using it!)

This was a tough ride, kind of cool, which was fine till my chain broke, and we had to fix it as the snow fell. Jojo was with me and we worked for a half hour to get it “fixed”. Truth is I missed threading the 10 foot chain through the front derailleurs, so I had only my highest gear. Even so, I made it up Firehouse Hill and back to town.

I know that I might break down at any time, that’s part of the adventure. It is good to know I can fix things and get back some of those times. I’ve had to call Eileen for a pickup only 2 or 3 times in the past 5 years, twice at dusk, once because I had no tubes or repair kit.

So now in my pannier I have 2 extra tubes, a small pliers, a tube patch kit, tire tool, a pump, and a set of hex head wrenches. In winter I often carry a thermos of hot tea, food, extra socks, a bird book, and a poncho. So I am usually more than prepared, and even though I carry extra weight, I don’t find it a burden. I may go slower, but I can get farther and be more comfortable during the journey, and this I like!

Btown Biking

Gross Road-Lampkins Ridge Loop

On most weekends I try to ride for four hours or more, anywhere from 30-50 miles is great, but during the week, I sometimes want to ride after work, and so 15-20 miles is just about right.

For many years my favorite short loop rides have been Kerr Creek-Mt Gilead and Stipp-Schwartz Ridge (named for the hills on the route). But since I have learned that my bike can handle gravel roads with no problem, I decided to find a new route, and here it is:

Starting at Lampkins Ridge and 446 (which is about 4.75 miles from Sample Gates), the loop goes down Knights Ridge to Gross Road, which runs along a ridge and into the forest. The last mile is gravel and drops into the Salt Creek valley ending at Friendship Rd. It’s then a short ride north to Lampkins Ridge Road, which climbs about 250 feet over 3.8 miles, but only the beginning is really steep. The loop is 9.4 miles, and with the ride from home and back, it is just under 20 miles.

There are a couple of ways to get to SR 446, I used Covenanter on the way out, and the Polly Grimshaw trail on the way back. They are about the same distance, but the trail feels safer on the way back after dark.

The sun was still up as I rode along Knight’s Ridge Rd, and the sky was blue. But as I turned onto Gross Road, the sun was setting, and the shadows were lenthening. Gross Road is narrow but well paved until it turns to gravel as it enters the uninhabited forest. I stopped in the forest to have a drink and listen to the birds and look for mushrooms.

After about 5 minutes, the only car I had seen so far came to a stop and asked if I was heading into the forest on my bike, I had pulled it about 20 feet off the road. I said no, I was heading down to the valley. He said ok, and left, but I realized he was going to warn me about hunting season, and there are people with deadly intent all over the state forest land. I am not so afraid of the bow hunters, they all seem sober, and have to get pretty close to shoot. But it is now firearms season, and I’ve already run into several drunk guys with guns looking for deer. The firearms season for deer runs November 15-30, although muzzleloaders are allowed through December 21. I plan on staying on the roads till next year, that’s for sure. The bowhunters are there only in October and December, so by January the woods are quiet once again.

Salt Creek runs next to Friendship Road, and as I walked down to the banks, I heard a loud mechanical sound. I supposed that it was the farmer on the other side of the creek running his combine, but as I got closer, I saw that was not so. A large tractor was backed up to the creek, and was running a pump to bring water up over the levee and into the fields. Later in the week I noticed the whole field was flooded, and I realized the DNR had done this to fill one of the lagoons that had dried up in the recent dry spell. I’ve ridden on the dikes farther south during the dry season, but I did not know the ponds were filled this far north.

I started up the Lampkins Ridge hill, and was just near the end of the first steep climb when my chain broke. I didn’t have a link tool with me (I do now!), and it was dark anyhow. I figured I could walk the bike and coast the downhills, and was about a mile into a 8 mile trek when a van stopped to see how I was doing, this was only the second car that had passed me since I turned onto Gross Rd. The driver was Michael Glasgow, who is a mechanic for DeCycles and a rider himself. He put my bike onto his roof rack, then he took me home, what good luck! Thanks to Michael, and to all those who recognize someone in need and are happy to help.

I took the same route late Saturday, and made it the whole way with no problem. When I got to Friendship Road and took a right to the south, it was still light, but within half a mile I found a hunter’s camp along the roadside. The woodsmoke smelled good in the cool evening air, but I decided not to drop in on them, and headed back to Lampkin’s Ridge and home. All in all I like this ride, 5 miles to the woods, then 10 through the back country, and 5 back home, not bad.

Btown Biking

Fifty Mile Forest Ride

Shilo Road
Shilo Road


The Ride

This Sunday the time changed, I got up “late”, but still got an early start. I wanted to see as much forest color as possible, and I headed for Shilo Road, first riding down newly paved Kerr Creek Road. It has smooth blacktop all along its 3 mile length, and I was able to ride down with no brakes. It is not that big a hill, falling about 100 feet on the main hill. (Stipp Road, my favorite downlhill, in contrast drops 180 feet, and I easily hit 40 mph on it.)

I turned left on Gettys Creek Road, and then took Mt. Gilead northwest to SR 46 near Unionville, and rode over to Tunnel Road. Although this route is longer than riding out 10th St. (SR 45), plus a good climb, the valley is really sweet and quiet with colorful ridges on either side. I took Tunnel to Shilo Rd., which to my surprise, is also newly paved! This is a ridge ride of 3.8 miles through the forests that overlook the Bean Blossom valley. Shilo Rd. drops into the valley, crosses the Bean Blossom, and ends on Anderson Road, which I took to Low Gap Road.


Low Gap runs north-south through the Morgan-Monroe Forest, rising out of the Bean Blossom valley and up over the ridge and then back down into the Indian Creek watershed southeast of Martinsville. As I passed the parking lot next to one of the forest trails, I saw a group of hikers, and a fully camouflaged bow hunter. At the top of the ridge, I took Orcutt Road to the west, riding “Safety Zone”, where hunting is disallowed. I love the cool beauty of this ridge, and I sometimes ride several miles east through the woods to Bear Wallow Road. But with bow hunting season in full swing, I decided to play it safe and stay on the paved roads as much as possible.

Gravel 180

On Forest Road, I found the Major Taylor team riding training runs along the ridge. I’ve seen other teams up here, as the five miles from Old 37 to Rosenbaum Road is well paved and level, there are few roads in the county that can say that training. I got inspired and rode back and forth once, admiring the yellow light shining through the trees, the incredibly blue sky, and clean cool air.

Bryant’s Creek Lake

Eventually I headed home, though I stopped at Bryant’s Creek Lake to take in the view, then again at Melton’s Orchard, it was quite the scene, their parking lot was full of both cars and bikes stopping by for cider and apples, they have a great selection, I will be back!

Musgrave Orchard

Old 37 is closed just south of Hindustan (where the orchard is), they are repairing a bridge, so while bikes can get through, cars can not, and it was quiet riding most of the way south to Dolan. I rode up Firehouse hill, then cut over on Bethel Lane to Headly Rd and Griffy Lake. Bethel Lane seems very dangerous to me, there are so many blind hills and the cars travel well above the speed limit of 35 mph. But I made it once more, and rolled on down to the lake for a short walk in the woods with Eileen.

I was surprised to learn (by plotting my course on Google Earth) that I had covered at least 50 miles (back and forth on the ridge pushed me past 50), and I felt fine (tired, but fine) as I climbed up Headly Rd. hill and back home. Thanks to good advice from Sue Aquila, I had kept my blood sugar levels fairly steady by eating regularly, and I even had some good salty corn chips at lunch, and I did not bonk even at the end.

Nature Notes: The leaves are fully turned now, and although yellow predominates, the red, orange and brown leaves are now especially visible. On Getty’s Creek I stopped when I saw a really large pileated woodpecker fly in front of me and call. I looked up and found a hornet’s nest in the tree I was under. I pulled out my camera to take a picture, and heard the unmistakable call of a red tailed hawk as it launched itself from nearby tree and flew out over the valley. Very few flowers and bees were evident, even the goldenrod is gone, but I did find some late chicory and a few asters along the roadside.

Btown Biking

Crooked Creek-McGowan Ride

This Sunday I was out for 6 great hours, and covered about 40 miles, at least 10 of them on gravel. I rode straight out 3rd St, and followed SR 46 all the way into Brown County with almost no cars to harass me. On Sunday morning, very few people are traveling away from Bloomington and there is about a foot and a half of asphalt to the right of the painted line, it allows cars to pass with out leaving their lane.

Crooked Creek Road is a fast 14 miles from the Kirkwood gates, via the highway, and a few miles longer and slower when I take the half gravel “lowway”: Lampkins Ridge/Friendship/Kent/. I took Lower Schooner once I made it to TC Steele Road. There is some climbing, but nothing big, and it is just a tenth of a mile longer than the highway, plus few cars and a great view of Salt Creek, just as the road climbs the ridge.

Crooked Creek starts out gravel, but I was able to climb the 265 feet up to the ridge, spitting stones backwards in a couple spots. I rode through the quiet forest ridgetop for a while, then came rumbling down into the valley, and stopped for a break at Crooked Creek Lake. The road is 5.4 miles long, and where it runs through Yellowwood Forest, the road is gravel, but where there are homes along the side of the road, the county does a good job of paving, I’d say less than 2 miles are paved, you leave and enter the forest several times.

When I got to the boat ramp (where Crooked Creek becomes TC Steele Rd.), I found a little road that crossed the creek, and looking down stream I spotted some canoes and a yak. I took a quick picture, and gazing the boats heading downstream, and thought to myself: “How many canoers have straight brown hair all the way down their back?” and answered my own question by hollering “Hey Brian”, and yep it was Brian Richwine.

It was a much shorter ride up TC Steele to Gilmore Ridge, and it was early afternoon, so I decided to take the long way home, via Gilmore Ridge and McGowen Rd. This is the steepest of hill that I’ve found, all gravel, and then it runs through the heart of the forest east of Pine Grove. This video give you an idea of how narrow, steep and rocky they hill is.

The road then runs through the marsh flats along Salt Creek north of the lake. I got to explore this area twice this year (you aren’t allowed in October through May), and it is amazing!

Nature Journal: The trees are still mostly green, a lot of yellow, but very little red or brown yet. I saw hawk (buteo) in the salt creek valley, and a really big pileated woodpecker on Crooked Creek, I recognized the call, and so stopped and scanned the trees till he/she flew to another tree, showing its characteristic black wings with a white underneath and red plumed head. This one was bigger than most crows, quite the specimen.

Btown Biking

Hilly Hundred 08

The Hilly Hundred comes but once a year, and we decided to ride part of the route as we did last year. This year we lasted longer on the route, riding about 20 miles with the pack.

Jojo and I headed north through Cascades Park, then up Hillview to Old 37 and down Firehouse Hill. We saw a few riders heading back our way, but they did not have numbers, and were not in the tour. When we got to Sample Road, we were warmed up, and stopped to take off layers while watching hundreds of riders going by as they turned on to Old 37.

We joined the group, and it seemed there were a lot of fast moving riders, constantly shouting out “On your left!” Sometimes they would shout it just as they were passing, sort of like those car drivers who wait till they are alongside you, then honk to scare you. I think these riders are either scared I will swerve (even though I ride straight, even uphill), or they just want acknowledgement for their superior riding skills, or perhaps they just like to shout. All three played together, but I think the last was when riders less than 6 feet apart would yell “Car Up”, one after the other, I guess it is just part of the pack culture, and is actually quite useful when not overdone.

We turned on Andersen Road, and hammered on till Bean Blossom Rd, which is about a mile and quarter miles long, rising steeply at first, leveling out and climbing again, with 275 feet of rise in elevation. At the bottom, some people started walking right away, others sprinted up the steepest grade. I just chugged along as usual, saving my energy, and to my surprise, I had enough juice left to “sprint” at the end, actually passing another biker as others had passed me.

We parked at the top, and hung with the happy crowd, then I went to the top of the hill and took this video of other folks cresting the ridge.

I got tired of being around so many people, so we rode north on Forest Road for a while and found a picnic table, and ate some lunch. I had a route lined out through the woods to Low Gap Rd and then on Bear Creek Road, but we had already seen some of the hunters our this season, and decided maybe we could wait till hunting season is over, I’d love to try it after a good snow.

We headed back towards the crowd, but as we came to the intersection, just about everyone was gone. The Forest Road is one of those special place, it takes some real work to get here from town, 15 miles plus a couple of tough climbs, but well worth it. To the north is the White River Valley, and to the south the ridges drain either to the Bean Blossom, or Bryant’s Creek. The air here always feels clean, with the smell of fresh pine, and at 850 to 900 feet, the breezes blow strong.

The Main Forest Road ends on the west at Old 37, which runs the ridge for another mile or two, then heads down to the valley. As we just got going downhill, Sue Aquila came riding up, slowed down a bit to say hi, then took off like a shot, her training and equipment puts her at least 10 mph ahead of our normal pace, even down hill. I assume she enjoyed moving fast through the route without having to contend with the thousands people ahead, though my guess is she caught up. We stopped to listen to the bluegrass band at the lunch stop, but soon headed out to the second half of the day as we had already had lunch.

We crossed 4 lane 37 with the help of the state police, this was something quite unexpected. We had to climb up Turkey Trot hill, then took Paragon Road, which runs along the floodplain at the foot of the Hoosier Hills. We turned south and headed up Salem Road, taking it up to Burma Road. We rode a short distance more with the crowd, but then took Dittamore south to Bottom Road, which is always comfortable to ride, and we cruised through the valley. We stopped at turn in the road, and laid down in the warm sun, we were both pretty tired, our rides have been a bit shorter most days, and often broken with a hike or swim. On this ride, we were definitely influenced by all the folks trying to go fast, and so we hammered more often than usual. We were there about 5 minute when Sue came by, amazingly she had ridden out to Ellettsville, then the 50 miles of the Hilly, then back to Bottom Road to ride another 30 miles to make 100 for the day!

We hung out a bit more, then heard a combine off in the corner of the field harvesting soybeans, and headed our way, so we headed up the hill after checking out the Bean Blossom Creek, which is really down, maybe 2 feet deep at the most.

We climbed our last hill to Kinser Pike, came back through Cascades, and even with a little nap we were tired by the time we peaked the hill on College. We headed home, and I had enough left to do some chores, but we ate early, and I hit the sheets by 10 pm.

Nature Journal: Not much to report, there are few wildflowers left, and the leaves are just starting to turn, the yellows are coming on strong, but still the forest is mostly shades of green. We heard a bunch of woodpeckers, and we saw a hawk fly down the road in front of us.