- Associated Press - Saturday, February 20, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Icy trails, bitter winds and legs pumping up and down are all part of the adventure for members of Bloomington Bicycle Club who brave the elements to ride outside in the wintry months.

“We put together rides every week,” said Warren Smith, vice president of the bicycle club, which has members who prefer to ride outdoors year-round instead of heading inside when the weather turns colder.

Most bicyclists ride either mountain bikes or bikes with fatter tires in the winter. There’s even a bike called a fat bike that has really fat tires so people can better ride in snow. Smith has a fat bike and said the wider tires slow the bike down, thus making it easier to grip the roadway when it’s slick outside. Smith said icy conditions sometimes make adding studs to the bike’s tires essential.

But whatever the conditions, Smith said a group tries to ride two to three times a week. It’s dark outside when the weekday rides begin. On the weekends, the rides happen during daylight hours. When winter conditions are warmer, the bicyclists can’t ride on trails that are too soft and muddy, so they often travel on gravel roads.

“The Hoosier National Forest and Yellowwood State Forest have several trails that go through there. It’s a great time to be out on those roads,” Smith said.

Ice is the limiting factor, Smith said. On a recent trek, there was ice fog that caused slick spots. “We were out on a ride, and it was very treacherous out there. Four of us went down, but we kept going and conditions improved,” he said.

Smith ended up with a broken rib that day. “I’ve been riding for, my goodness, a long, long time, and that’s the first broken bone I’ve had,” he said, adding that he began riding bicycles when he was a kid. Thirty-eight years later, he’s still enjoying it.

“It’s one of the things you look forward to,” Smith said. He knows people in their 70s and 80s who are still bicycling.

Smith is using this winter’s bike rides to prepare for an upcoming bicycle event, known as the Death March Ride. The ride is actually a unique race in which teams of two compete to be the first to reach five different cemeteries in and near the Hoosier National Forest. The ride begins at Midwest Trail Ride Horseman’s Camp and Outpost. Three of the cemeteries are chosen before race day and the last two are chosen minutes before the race begins. Bicyclists have to figure out their route to each cemetery, where they have to take a digital photograph in front of the cemetery’s sign.

Smith’s partner for the Death March is John Bassett, who has been bicycling for the past eight years.

“It’s a very healthy thing to do,” Bassett said about bicycling. He’s dropped about 30 pounds in that time and is keeping it off. The 66-year-old enjoys being outside and says bicycling is less hard on his knees and ankles than other cardio sports and activities.

Bassett enjoys riding in the winter, saying, “It’s kind of unique. In winter, a lot of people quit and ride trainers or go to the Y.” Bassett says riding indoors is just not the same. He believes that as long as people wear layered clothing in the proper ways, cycling outside even in the winter is better.

“We do different rides than what we do in the summer,” Bassett said. “Even the dogs behave differently. They see the lights coming and just sort-of stand there and watch us.”

No matter what the conditions are, Bassett said it’s proper clothing that makes all the difference for wintertime biking. “You don’t want to get wet,” he said, explaining that means not only not getting rain or snow on interior clothes but also not having a buildup of sweat on the interior layer of clothing. Wearing a first layer that wicks moisture out to other layers, adding a layer for warmth and a top layer to keep out rain and snow is necessary for most rides, he said.

Proper shoes or boots for winter biking also help, Bassett said. “I wear winter cycling shoes. Some guys use shoe covers.”

But whatever someone is riding or wearing, Bassett said everyone is welcome to join the rides. “We as a club will take anyone. Anyone is welcome to go with us. We post the actual route ahead of time.”

There will be all sorts of bicyclists at the Death March Ride, according to Bassett. Bikers from all over the state participate. “It kind of attracts the cycle track racers, mountain bikers, road bikers who like to do that riding, too,” Bassett said. His first year for the ride was last year, when there was severe flooding in the area that made it difficult to negotiate some of the roads. “We were riding with water over our front tires,” Bassett said, adding, “That’s the way this race goes.”

For bicyclists of all types who may not want to travel outside of Bloomington, there’s another possibility fast approaching. The Terrible, Horrible Bike Ride will be Feb. 13 with two routes that will take bicyclists around the city, both beginning at City Hall.

This will be the fifth year for the ride, which was begun as a way to support bicycling year-round, according to Jacqui Bauer, sustainability coordinator for Bloomington, who helped form the ride.

“We do kind-of play up the riding in actual bad weather,” Bauer said, adding that for three or four years they have actually had “good weather.”

There was talk of having a makeup day, a “sun date,” similar to a rain date for good weather, but that never went anywhere, Bauer said. “Having periods of good weather in January or February is good, too,” she said.

Last year’s ride was the worst year, weather-wise, Bauer said. “It snowed the night before. It was turning into slush by the time we got out, and it warmed up that day. It was only dicey when I was riding over to get ready for the ride.”

The Terrible, Horrible Bike Ride has a 3-mile route that heads east and then loops through the Indiana University campus. The 7-mile route takes bicyclists to the Indiana 45/46 Bypass, where they use the underpass and then loop back to City Hall.

“We try to make sure people know there’s a safe way to get across the bypass,” Bauer said.

The ride attracts both seasoned bicyclists and inexperienced bikers and families with children, Bauer said. All are welcome to learn more about biking and routes that can be used year-round, she said.

Bauer knows a lot of the routes around Bloomington because she bikes about 11/2 miles to work most days. “I don’t bike in ice or really heavy snow or heavy rain,” she said. “The cold, I’ve got the clothes figured out. I try not to let the weather stop me.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/1QkcA3K

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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