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Btown Biking Winter Riding & Ice Biking

Ice biking on Griffy Lake, January 2015

This year was the best year in a decade for ice biking (and skating) on Lake Griffy.

The ice was 4 inches thick, and completely clear and slick. There was a deep freeze, and no snow, sleet, or rain had marred the surface, so it was perfectly smooth. So how does a bike work on smooth clear ice? Perfectly well, thank-you! There are several tricks to biking, and staying on your bike, on ice. First, do not push hard on the pedals! That will cause slipping for sure. Start slow, and keep adding just a small amount of power to your spin till you are going at a reasonable speed, which on ice is usually less than 10 mph. Second, don’t turn quickly, your front tire will slip, and down you will go. Third, be very careful when braking, in fact the best policy is to leave them alone; don’t put yourself in a situation where they are needed, and you will be fine.

About tires: Nothing special is needed, though I assume having studs would give you the ability to move faster as you would have better traction. But this is has not been necessary for me. A couple years ago I had slicks on front and back, and they worked great! More contact with the ice gave me better traction. This is not true for snow, where having tread really helps gain traction. Snow riding is a bit harder than ice riding, but just as much fun, there is no doubt.

After a week or so, a light snow covered the surface of the ice. I could not tell if it was more or less slippery than clear ice, I think it was a combination of factors each way so that it was a draw, though it was just a little harder to pedal.

The snow it did not slow down the intrepid skaters Michael and Jenny, who explored the deep end of the lake with me.

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Btown Biking Winter Riding & Ice Biking

Solo Ice Ride

Dec. 2010

This was a long and cold winter, and I got in only a few good rides this year. My biggest was a 6 hour tour of Lake Monroe that included Moore’s Creek Bay, the causeway, Back Creek and Potter’s Cave, and finally to Axom Branch, where the stone cabin ruins are to be found. On the way back, just rounding the corner opposite Rush Ridge, I went through the ice where a spring had thinned the 6 inches of ice.

Fortunately, I was riding my long wheel base recumbent, and only the front wheel went in. I was up to my armpits in the water, but it was easy to roll off onto the ice. I watched a second and realized it was wedged in, but would soon enough sink, so I grabbed the handle bars and pulled back and up but it was stuck.

I realized I should not put extra weight near the hole, but there was little I could do about that. I pushed a little to free it, then pulled back and the bike came out. I stood around for about ten minutes, drying my Iphone and waiting to see if I was going to go into shock or get really cold.

But neither of these things happened. So I got back on the bike, and moved closer to shore where I knew the water was not deep, and made my way back about a mile to Pine Grove. Climbing the hill back to 446 warmed me up, and I only noticed the cold in my feet as I rode the 9 miles back home.

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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.

Pix
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

Videos

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
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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
Categories
Btown Biking Winter Riding & Ice Biking

Snowy Lake Monroe ride

March 3, 2006

Jojo and I decided to ride around the Lake Monroe this Saturday. We rode down 446 and across the causeway, stopping for a few minutes at Cutwright. We headed up th hill and made quick work of the miles to Chapel Hill Road, we headed west into 30 mph wind, buddy it was colder than riding on Lake Monre 2 weeks go. This is when the snow really picked up, we had heavy flurries all the way back. This was actually quite nice, the snow would come and go, but did not stick to the road, it seemed to be blowing sideways, and so stuck to one side of any upright item, fence posts, cows, trees, bikers, etc.

We stopped at the dam and watched the water from the lake become Salt Creek again. We then headed up Strain Ridge, and instead of using our normal route back (Ramp Creek to Handy to Harrell and then Rhorer.) This time we came back up Fairfax Rd, which I normally avoid due to traffic, but there was little traffic. We came up old Walnut, and then home.

Miles: 55
Avg mph: 11.8
Sightings: 1 Hawk, dozens of vultures, domestic fowl, and wild ducks.
Temp: 20 degrees with wind from 10-35 mph blowing from the west. I was the hardest riding the ridges, but the coldest was when we stopped on the dam and the wind whistled across the frigid lake.

We got excited when we saw this frozen leg of the lake, it looked like we might do more ice riding. But when got to the causeway, it was obvious that would not be an option. There was a rolling mass of broken ice pushing up against he causeway, with the high winds and regular waves, it was quite hypnotic.

Distant iceLast of the Ice?Ice Shore

We stopped at Cutright, we wanted to see where we had but in 2 weeks ago. We saw a a large flock of buzzards flying low, and we went over to watch. I couldn’t get close enough for a good shot, but they were on the ground hopping around, spreading their wings and jumping up and down, landing on a nearby sign. We thought it could be a mating dance, or possibly a fight, who knows. We then rode up the ridge and on to Chapel Hill. We stopped to buy some nuts and Krazy Joe’s and took a snack break, and I took a picture of one of my favorite subjects, a water tower. It is because these incredible pieces of technology that we have water, even if the electricity is down (way to go hydrolics!)
BuzzardsKrazy Joe’sLawrence tower

Here are some sights along Chapel Hill Road. The picture of the duck pond should have sound, it was just amazing, especially since there were turkeys and some exotics across the road, it was stereo fowl sounds.

BoatOld Barn on Chapel Hill RoadDuck Farm

I just have to mention the lumbering fools who removed so many trees on the norht side of Chapel Hill, this land has been raped. According to state law, loggers are not allowed to leave the tops and other “scrap” in the valleys, yet the fines are so low, they almost always ignored. What a waste!
Lumbering Fools

We continued along Chapel Hill and took the right on Guthrie Road, which tees at Mission Valley, where we headed north to the alps and the dam. The alps are are good name, three prety steep climbs, only to come plunging down the road at 45 mph past the dramatic stone walls left when they removed the hillside to build the dam and make the spillway. We stopped to watch the water pour out to reform Salt Creek, and took in the ice all along the dam. We stopped for a picture at the Sanders store and gas station, and then headed home.

Mission Valley RoadThe AlpsSalt Creek RebornGulls and waterDam IceSanders Store