Commuting Hints and Tips

Update 19 March 2018: The Maumee section is now open but there is a lot of dried mud on the trail. Be careful on the parts of the trail system that are prone to flooding because they will be slick if it rains. Remember to check the Fort Wayne Parks Closures and Detours web page.

Although commuting by bike can seem like a very easy thing to do there can be challenges, both human and natural, and it is best to be prepared.

The human problems for bike commuters are what you would expect anywhere, distracted drivers/walkers/joggers, aggressive drivers, groups of joggers, or dog walkers with long leads. When crossing busy roads such as Jefferson Boulevard be aware of drivers turning right on red, they will probably not be looking in your direction as they pull out.

One of the odd things about the trail network in Fort Wayne is that it seems to actively avoid restaurants, coffee shops, shops, restrooms and other facilities so be prepared to leave the trails in the central Fort Wayne area to find those things. Outside of central Fort Wayne any facilities are almost completely absent. I always carry a flask of coffee with me on my morning commute!

An essential resource throughout the year is the Fort Wayne Parks Department Trail Closures and Detours page. During 2018 there is going to be a lot of construction work going on downtown so visit this page often to keep up to date.

For cycling the time of year matters a lot in our area:

March – May

Icy morning at Eagle Marxh

Icy morning at Eagle Marsh, March 2017

Although the weather is milder by March the main problem can be flooding at this time of year as thunderstorms can occur fairly frequently. The Anthony to Moser Park section of the Rivergreenway is frequently closed completely and there can also be closures at Swinney Park and between the Martin Luther King Jr. bridge and Main St. Once the flooding has eased there is a good chance that mud will be left on the trail, this can be a nuisance for recreational cycling but unless your workplace has showers it is better to avoid these areas completely as it is hard to ride through and covers everything. The parks dept. will clear the mud off the trail but this can take several weeks so plan on road detours. Because the temperature can vary from below freezing to 70F or more clothing has to be determined on a day to day basis. This is also true of the bike to use, for most of the Spring I use my Thorn Sherpa road bike but I also resort to my Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike or even the Specialized Fatboy when the conditions are very wet or frosty. During March and April the morning commute will probably be at least partially in the dark so wear appropriate clothing and make sure you have good bike lights.

June – September

Early morning commute on Main St., Fort Wayne

Early morning commute on Main St., Fort Wayne

There are far fewer potential problems on the trails during the Summer months and riding at this time of year can be a joy! Occasionally there will be flooding but the main problem can be the heat so stay hydrated and dress appropriately. The trails can be very busy and it is best to factor this in to the planned commute time as trips can take longer than you would think. Although less common than in the Spring thunderstorms occur intermittently throughout the Summer so packing a rain jacket is a good idea.

October – February

Winter on the trails near New Haven

Winter on the trails near New Haven

During the Winter months there are very few people on the trails because the weather can be bad. The days are much shorter and the morning commute will be in the dark so wear reflective clothing and use good bike lights as the vast majority of the trail system has no street lighting. Temperatures can drop as low as -15F so it is essential to be dressed properly (good winter boots and gloves are essential in addition to several layers of bike clothing). Snow and ice as well as the ever present threat of flooding are the biggest problems but I have found that with the correct clothing and a fat bike I can ride to work 90% of the time during the Winter. Be aware that 80% of the network is not maintained during the Winter, some parks are occasionally kept clear with a snow plow but no salt is used so this can actually make the situation worse. I find that if I am riding my fat bike it can be better to ride to the side of the trail as this avoids the icier parts that the plow leaves behind, especially if there has been a thaw/freeze cycle.

Towards the end of 2017 I bought Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro tires. These have been a fantastic buy and have allowed me to keep riding on icy days that would have been impossible, or at least dangerous, before. They have been especially helpful on the unplowed trails along the Maumee River and the Towpath Trail.