Madison often boasts that its bike paths are cleaner than the streets after a large snow storm. That’s usually the case when referring to the Southwest Commuter path, Madison’s most used bicycle path that runs through the isthmus (downtown).
We can’t really say that for the Capitol City Trail. For those not familiar with Madison’s route set up, the Capitol City Trail is a route that extends past the major SW Commuter Path and heads out to the South Eastern burbs and then back into Madison near the Alliant Energy Center. (You can then continue back into downtown or ride the lake loop through Monona.)
It’s not maintained as regularly as our beloved SW path, but is still a nice ride. Today I decided to take a journey on it to not only get a lunch ride in, but to also report on the conditions. Starting from the Verona frontage road the trail was hard packed snow and ice. Not terrible, but not amazing either.
Riding downhill was a little sketchy in some spots, but overall it was decent conditions. Hardpack is a lot of fun to cruise on with knobby or studded tires. The overall view was very beautiful. The path is surrounded by trees on either side, so it doesn’t melt as fast as some of the other trails. The trees looked untouched and there is still significant snow on the ground around the trail.
I did happen to come across some ruts, skate ski tracks, loads of animal poo (seems folks think they don’t need to pick it up in the winter?), and even a frozen possum that seemed to have passed somehow on the path. (poor thing)
The new studded tire (I only use one on the front right now) performed amazingly on the hard pack. It cruises a lot faster and smoother than on dry road, that’s for sure! In areas that had deeper snow or a bit of slush, having a loaded back end helped greatly. I have a fairly heavy saddle, a rear rack, and a half loaded pannier when I ride. I treat snow commuting much like snow driving. Keep weight in the rear, take it slow around corners, keep eyes on the trail to pick the best line of riding, and if I start to fish tail or slide…just power through it and DON’T PANIC or hit the brakes!
I rode about a 3 mile stretch of the trail before I had to take to the streets to hit my destination. From the point of where I started to ride the trail, all of the offshoots had been plowed or cleared to some capacity, but for some reason the junction I needed to ride up wasn’t. I had to hop off and do a minor amount of trudging before I could get back on the bike. I’m glad I had my Bogs on! (They make for great winter riding boots btw. Future review?)
A minor annoyance in an overall pleasant ride. It seemed like the maintenance crew just kind of decided to call it good enough.
I’m considering checking out the trail conditions in a few days after the weather warms up. Forecasts are calling for up to 40 degree weather, so there may be some slushy conditions ahead for daily path riders.
On my way back to work I decided to ride on McKee, which was not as pleasant as the ride on the trail. I didn’t have much time to enjoy the scenery, but it’s a straight shot to the work place. There was a huge headwind and my studded tire made the bike ride like a slow moving tank. Cars were also not feeling very generous when I was trying to avoid chunky snow debris in the road.
If you’re looking to hone your winter riding skills with a serene environment, I would highly suggest checking out the Cap City Trail in the next couple of days before the snow starts to turn into muck!
Side note: Today I decided to wear regular poly/cotton socks, Bogs, regular stretchy skinny jeans, a short sleeve Road Holland jersey, the new Surly long sleeved jersey, my Patagonia down jacket, Ibex balaclava, Pearl Izumi long finger gloves, and my helmet. In the morning when it was 19 out, my thighs were the only part of me that was cold.
During lunch and on the ride home I was pretty warm up top so I unzipped the top two layers and wore the balaclava as a neck gator. I probably could have dropped the down jacket, but I wasn’t in the mood to stop and take it off.
I’m happy to report the PDW fenders kick ass and I have no issues with interference like I do with full length fenders. I also removed my usual Crank Brothers Candy pedals and installed the VP Vice flat pedals. They have an awesome, wide platform with tons of grip. There will be full reviews as the season progresses.
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