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Biking Katy Trail In February..

Am planning a trip during some off-time I have. Unfortunately, the only off-time available for me will be during February. I consider myself an avid cyclist & definitely won't shy away from riding in the cold down to about ~40F (I'm a Canadian afterall). I have never ridden the trail at all but came across it during a search and it piqued my interest. I wanted to know its condition in winter, which I understand will vary day-to-day and section by section. Does the stone surface become snow covered/icy? Being a crushed stone trail, can I assume mud/muckiness is unlikely? Wind direction also crossed my mind, so during winter months what can one expect re: wind direction/wind speed/wind chills?

Also, is it an easy trail to follow with adequate signage or can a newbie become lost in certain sections where there are junctions/roadcrossings.
posted Dec 6 2009 8:13PM - Chris

Let's see if I can answer this sufficiently:

First off, temperatures in Missouri, where the Katy Trail is, are highly variable. You may end up coming when it's 50F, you may end up getting 10F temperatures, and temperatures have gotten both warmer and colder than that at times during the winter. It just depends on the day, and there's really no way to know.

The same goes for wind speed and direction. Some days you might get none, and some days you might get lots. It depends on the day - and this goes for the whole year, too. As you might imagine, it can make a great impact on wind chill during the winter months.

As for the trail condition, yes it will become snow covered/icy when the temperatures go down. Furthermore, mud/muckiness is a very possible thing, even to stall things when it rains in good weather. In other words (to quote someone else), a wet Katy Trail is a miserable Katy trail.

For my time on the trail, I didn't find it an issue to identify the trail. Of course that was with no snow/ice on the ground, so I don't know how it would be with those things. Most of the intersections with roads have gates and are semi-clearly marked.

Overall, unless I was interested in mud/ice/snow cycling, I wouldn't consider a run on the Katy in February. But that's just my taste.
posted Dec 6 2009 10:36PM - Skyguy9999

As mentioned above there is really no predicting the weather around here that time of the year. Much of the trail is shaded so if there is snow or ice, it will stick around a while. The issue I would raise is the availability of food, drink and lodging that time of the year. It can be lonely on stetches of the trail in the summer, I can only imagine how barren the trail will be that time of the year.
posted Dec 6 2009 11:50PM - Terry, Festus

OK, thank you for all the input provided, anyone else have anything to add. So far, it would seem this is likely gonna be a terrible idea.

To address the potential issues that were brought up, I would be carrying my own food/water for the day, along with tube/tire repair equipment. Room would be booked in advance & hopefully the place won't be deserted if I've prebooked (who knows though). I would be dressed appropriately for the coldest option I can predict & then strip layers off if need be.

Anything else I may need to know so that I am as informed as possible before making a decision??
posted Dec 7 2009 12:21PM - Chris

I don't know that riding in February many more variables than any other time of the year. You can never count on wind direction and/or trail conditions........you just go out and ride. One of the benefits of riding in the winter is that you will have the trail pretty much to youself.
posted Dec 7 2009 12:35PM - Jim, St. Thomas

As mentioned, the trail is highly variable during the winter months..but it is not impossible to do then. I’ve seen cross-country-ski, hiker-boot, and bicycle tracks in the shallow snows there, then. You will need about three days of fairly good non-stormy weather to do it from end to end. The only thing that could make it really difficult to do would be a deep wet snow that clogs up the bike’s gears and brakes, and wears out the riders fairly fast. Also, an unusually long thaw could make the trail soft. But it is usually frozen hard. Outside of those things, the winter trail riders must be self-sufficient to a large degree because the trailhead water fountains and restrooms are turned-off and locked-up from Nov to Apr, not to mention some of the nearby businesses close-up for the season. Yet, the trail is easy to follow with signs and milage posts that coordinate closely with the maps found at the trailheads and this site. Most of the locals are friendly as well.

You can do three things to make this ride successful.
1. Check the trail conditions and weather forecast before coming.
2. Bring your own vehicle support, which gives safety and nighttime freedoms.
3. Ride with a partner.

Additionally, some of the adjacent small towns have year-around gas stations, convenience stores, markets, cafes, motels, and b&b’s where one can stock up on supplies, and lodge at nights unannounced, except possibly for the b&b’s tied in with the Fri-Sat winery visitors from the larger towns, which is NOT all of them. So with planning, prudence, and commonsense care (and with the emergency phone numbers found at this and the park sites carried on your person), the trail can be ridden then, which is/will be an adventure for sure. For one thing, with less foliage, the riders can see things deeper into the woods than during the warmer months. Also, the winter views along the rivers and creeks can be spectacular. Good luck.
posted Dec 7 2009 6:46PM - jd, gkc

Check the weather links on this site for temps, wind directions, and weather forecasts closer to the time you plan to ride for a general idea of the conditions you can expect.

If it looks like the trail will be snow or ice covered, you might want to consider investing in some studded tires.
posted Dec 7 2009 7:35PM - Gary near Tebbetts, Tebbetts, MO

OK, thanks folks.

To help clarify an omission on my part, I will not be doing an end-to-end ride of the trail (that seems plain nuts to me). Likely will concentrate on one section of the trail & set goals that will be achievable given the less favourable winter weather. Not gonna set myself up for any 50 mile days, that's for sure! More likely, my aim will be a more modest ~25 miles & if conditions permit, I can then opt to extend my ride. Don't wanna be pushing too hard given the potential for poor trail conditions. My pace will be more that of a marathon than a sprint race.
posted Dec 7 2009 10:37PM - Chris

Hmm. Interesting. Sounds sensible.

Maybe a wintertime KT ride is worth considering by a proven fair-weather person, and not on a snowmobile like can be done further north. The winter KT users here (some are walkers or hikers) like to be near the Mighty MO to see the seasonal vistas and bald eagles. Also, most of the bar-grills and café-bars that users depend on for sustenance and friendly faces will be open on or near the weekends although their hours vary with the weather. :) Many are closed early in the week. Hmm. Such a ride could really be possible.
posted Dec 9 2009 10:57AM - jd, gkc

I think a winter KATY crossing sounds likes a great adventure. Type of
bike and tire width would be primary considerations in my mind. I would
also be looking pretty closely at where I could reply food and water
supplies. I have also had a little bit of trouble finding housing/bed
and breakfast options that were open in the "off season."

All that said - I still think it is neat idea and a worthy adventure.
Good luck. Keep us posted.
posted Dec 9 2009 10:02PM - Anonymous

The best way to prepare for winter biking: bike in the winter. I don’t think the biking will be the issue, assuming you have appropriate gear and ride at least 100 miles a month. In the winter, it’s more of a psychological issue. If you are riding down the trail and it’s cold and windy and gray, it is much more pleasant if you know that you have a warm place to stop and you know exactly where it is. I bike year around (mostly connuting to work), and when it's below 30, I don't like to stop for more than a minute. If you dress warmly enough to stand around for a train or something, then you are dressed too warmly for cycling 15 MPH.
posted Dec 11 2009 11:43AM - ChrisJ, Centralia, IL

I agree with many previous comments. With the right equipment this is quite possible (though maybe not entirely pleasant.) Even an end-to-end ride is certainly not impossible. For reference/perspective - google "Arrowhead 135". Whatever you decide - enjoy!
posted Dec 12 2009 8:37AM - El Toro

Yes, I do ride through the winter currently, so I have a decent idea of what layers of clothing to have on to be sufficiently warm. It's key to stay warm for sure, but not so much so that you begin perspiring while exerting, as any wind against moist skin is a recipe for an uncomfortable day. If on a particular day I see the forecast is for milder weather, I will dress in fewer layers & of course do the reverse for colder forecasts.

My brother also has a exercise bike at his place & I imagine I will be using it for preparation. As far as pace I will be taking it fairly leisurely due to the cold, the trail conditions & carrying a large backpack. I'd say an average of ~10mph is a conservative enough goal.

I've done a fair bit of solo touring, so the distances I'm planning are gonna be within easy reach, barring huge weather abnormalities such as a snowstorm or temps that fall far below what I've been preparing for.
posted Dec 15 2009 10:21PM - Chris

That winter ride sounds like a good adventure. You have another vote for doing it. I would make plenty of phone calls however to the businesses and not rely totally on what the posted hours are on this site.
posted Dec 16 2009 11:17AM - Randy, Edwardsville

"I would make plenty of phone calls however to the businesses and not rely totally on what the posted hours are on this site."

This "motion" definately has been seconded!!
posted Dec 16 2009 11:13PM - El Toro

I commute on the Columbia MKT trail year round, so I can speak to this a bit. Besides the cold, which can be dealt with by good gear, and it sounds like you know that, the biggest risk is trail conditions. One bad trail situation is when the surface has been frozen and then starts to thaw, and you have 1/2 inch or so of wet stuff on top of ice. It's very tough going, and messy. If there has been significant snow, what happens on the heavily used Columbia trail is that you get hard frozen ruts, especially on the bridges, which can be pretty tough. That being said, I love riding on the trail when it is frozen hard, especially with a light snow which really highlights the textures of the bluffs and the shapes of the trees. Your views of the river will be excellent--essentially unobscured by trees. You definitely have a good chance of seeing eagles along the river.

The other challenge is staying warm when you stop for snacks, etc. You may need to carry a warmer coat to put on when you stop, and/or carry a thermos of hot beverages.

If you are confident that you know places to stop and get refueled and warmed up, I think you could have a really terrific time! Make sure someone knows where you are, though. The crowds may be pretty thin on the trail!
posted Dec 21 2009 5:07PM - EHT, Columbia, MO

although i cannot speak for all the trail conditions spoken of here, i rode the trail one nice july day, a day after a monster of a toad strangler rain storm, and had absolutely no problems at all. i rode the MKT fitness trail to the katy and all the way to rocheport and back. hope this helps and good luck on the KATY.
posted Dec 22 2009 5:42PM - festus

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