Friday, 30 April 2010

Bicycling and dealing with the challenging weather

Potential adverse weather patterns along the trail.

Storms. Most thunderstorms occur in June, followed by July and August. To avoid serious harm during strong winds, hail, or lightning-filled rain storms, trail riders and other users will take cover at the following places along the tail.

inside one of the 26 enclosed trailhead restrooms or under its bench shelters
in the caves or under the ledges in the bluff sections between New Franklin and Treloar
in the corrugated under-the-road road tunnels or under strong wind-proof trees along the entire trail
inside the old train tunnel at Rocheport
inside the local stores, cafes, filling stations, and picnic pavilions of the trail-side communities
on the porch of a farm or private home after knocking and asking for their help first
inside a covered vehicle or truck cab, or under a large one with permission (e.g., dump truck, semi-grain trailer)

A handful of abandoned sheds and old buildings together with field-parked farm equipment also exist near much of the trail, but most of them are on private property where trespassing is not allowed.

Lengthy rains. Most rainfall occurs in May, followed by April, June, and November. These lengthy rains will slowly saturate the hard trail and make it soft to ride on. Riders who do use the trail during these rains will equip their bikes with fenders, mud-flaps, and fairly wide cruising tires to minimize any splattering or sinking into the wet surface while riding it. Yet, although soft at times, the wet limestone trail does not become a muddy mess unless agitated by flowing water or by some other means. It also dries out fairly fast after a rain storm.

It is a good idea not to ride the surface while raining because the splattering from the wet slightly-muddied limestone trail surface sticks to everything it touches, including the bicycle's brakes and gears. This gradual caking buildup could eventually disable them. However, it washes off fairly easily.

Short rains. Light rains having no lightning or wind do not pose major hazards for riders other than general discomfort and getting everything wet or muddy. Most riders will wait out rains under a trailhead bench shelter or in a public building or pavilion. Also, heavy short rains will leave puddles on the trail that result in splash riding.

Flash-floods. These occur only during extremely heavy or torrential rains. Although flash floods seldom happen, they could happen in the low-lying areas along the eastern half of the trail where numerous creeks and drainage ditches flow into the Missouri River and its tributaries, and where non-flash high-water flooding normally occurs during lengthy rains. Gradual high-water flooding can happen between New Franklin and Rocheport where it has happened before, and between McKittrick and Weldon Springs where the elevation is about 500-feet above sea level or less.

Tips for dealing with adverse weather conditions on the trail.

Wear a helmet or suitable protective head covering (protects from crashes, hail, falling branches)
Carry storm protection, e.g., rain gear, folding umbrella, small hammock, tarp, or tent
Carry the website-listed emergency phone numbers both on paper and in a charged cell phone
Keep track of your trail location via the mile markers in case you must call for help
If possible, find cover before an imminently dangerous storm hits, preferable inside somewhere
Ask for help from nearby passing vehicles or private homes if necessary
If possible, avoid using the trail during highly adverse weather conditions

In summary, check the weather forecasts before using the trail. Remember that certain storms will follow large river valleys like the Missouri's, which make the daily weather forecasts rather accurate. Most of all, do not be afraid to ask or call for help if caught in a bad rain or hail storm. Most folks along the trail are friendly and helpful.

To learn more about how to ride this trail and to find its emergency phone numbers, see the following sites.

1. Katy Trail Missouri -

2. Katy Trail State Park -

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