The Raccoon River Valley trail is one of Iowa’s premier trails. With 89 miles to ride and 15 communities to visit, it provides lots of route options for cyclists in central Iowa. Each trailside community has it’s own trailhead. Most are renovated train stations as this bike trail was once a railway.Trailside towns are less than 10 miles apart and provide good options for where to start/stop a ride or to take a break. The Raccoon River Valley Trail provides a variety of scenery ranging from open farmland to tree-lined tunnels of the wooded areas flanking rivers and creeks.
Blessed with a December day of warm temperatures and light winds I took advantage of having the Raccoon River Valley Trail close to home and headed to Adel with plans of riding to Redfield and back.
To date, winter riding on the bike trails has been minimal. I have taken the majority of my riding inside at my local YMCA. Cycling class is a fun and fantastic workout . The exertion of these rides far exceeds what I typically have used to turn the pedals out on the trail. Unfortunately, taking time off the Iron Giant results in getting used to it's fit and feel once back in the saddle.
Only a few yards from the trailhead I noticed how my favorite "easy" gear was sluggish. It felt like there was WAY more road underneath the tire. A side effect from trading outdoor rides for the comfort of the cycling studio. Fortunately by the time I reached Redfield I was feeling back in the groove.
The warmer weather and high humidity resulted in a hazy day. Luckily for me the sun made appearance halfway through my ride. Despite the fact there wasn’t any snow, trail signposts indicated the trail is open for snowmobiling.
Improvements have been made to several of the bridges leaving them with smooth concrete buffers. No more jarring jolts when crossing the bridges.
Arriving in Redfield I stopped to take a picture of the trail bridge decorated for Christmas. According to the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association Facebook page, the trail was decorated by the Donna Davis. She did a great job spreading Christmas cheer!
The Redfield trailhead was bundled up for winter after a facelift earlier in the season. The old building to the south has been removed and an area for covered awnings added.
Returning to Adel I made a stop downtown for a visit to Al Dente. Their purple and teal storefront is hard to miss. It’s a cozy spot specializing in Italian toffee made from a family recipe passed down for generations. I bought a small bag of the popular Classic Almond along with a latte. Both were delicious. The toffee was soft and not sticky and the coffee was one of the best cups I’ve had in a very long time! To learn more about Al Dente read this great article from Discover Adel.
While enjoying my post-ride treat I thought about it good it felt to get back out on the trail. Nothing compares to pedaling a bike that actually takes you places. Cycling class is a great way to get through the winter months and stay ride-ready. However, with each opportunity I get to return to the trail this winter I will need to be prepared to set aside a few miles for getting reintroduced to the feel and the fit of the Iron Giant.