EBC MTB: Winter Season Biking & Hiking Guidelines
by George Pastorino, EBC MTB Coordinator | MTB@ElmhurstBicycling.org | Last updated: 1/01/2020
It's Winter Season.. it's the time of year when we either take care of our trails or wreck them for next year.
We all want to ride but we all have to act like adults and be patient and wait until the conditions are right. Once there is a hard freeze, this happens: As the temperature drops, moisture in the soil freezes and It's like when when you leave a water-bottle in the freezer, the water expands as it freezes and can crack the bottle. During freezing, soil particles are forced apart by expanding ice crystals which essentially de-compacts the trail bed. When these ice crystals melt with warming daytime temps these small spaces fill with water and form a very liquid like mud. Trails in this condition have almost no mechanical strength to support the weight of users. Waterlogged dirt the consistency of pudding or peanut butter is not uncommon.
There is only one rule. If you leave a tire print or hoof print, stay off the single track. There are no exceptions to this rule and no one is so special that they can ride whenever they want, no matter the conditions.
Doing that is just plain selfish. It doesn't matter if it took you an hour to get to the trails. If the trails are wet stay off. Today’s ride is not as important as all the rides next year. Think about it.
If the weather is going be above 25F degrees at the time of your ride, stay home or ride the multi-track.
If the weather is going down to around 20F the night before your ride, get out early. If you get on the trails by 7AM or so, you should be able to get in a good ride before the sun heats things up. Once the sun hits the trails everything will begin to soften up. Always be off the trail by 10AM at the latest.
The best Winter singletrack riding & hiking occur when the high temp is below 25 and it is overcast. Ideally the colder night time temperatures will have frozen the trail solid and the lack of direct sunlight will allow you to ride until 10AM. Of course if it's zero degrees, you can ride later.
Alternative places to ride - Limestone multitrack trails are open year round and for the most part, shed the water better than dirt surface trails. The multi track at Swallow Cliff and Cap Sauer has some good hills that will make things interesting. You can string together a pretty long route with more hill climbing than you find at Palos. Waterfall Glen is another option, though not as fun nor as hilly as Swallow Cliff.