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February 15, 2023 Comments Off on OPINION | PUTTHOFF: Too cold to bike? Try a hike Cycling, Hiking, Latest

OPINION | PUTTHOFF: Too cold to bike? Try a hike

Flip Putthoff
NWA Democrat-Gazette

Cold is in the fingers of the handlebars holder when it comes to winter biking.

One thing our little Tour de Madison County biking group has learned is that our internal thermostats aren’t the same now as when we started getting together 22 years ago for our weekly road ride.

Back then our motto was a fearless “30 degrees and dry, away we’ll ride.” Then a mere five or six years ago it became “40 or below, we don’t go.” Nowadays it’s more like “45 degrees? Maybe.” That is, as long as it’s sunny and not real windy.

A couple of steps have helped keep us on our bikes all through the winter enjoying vehicle-free riding along the Razorback Greenway. One of our group found that wearing latex gloves underneath her insulated gloves helps keep her hands warm. Not only that, she stuffs one of those little disposable Hot Hands heat packs in each glove, the kind hunters and anglers use.

She wears a lightweight rain jacket over her winter coat as a wind breaker. Of course, we all dress in layers with warm stocking hats under our helmets. If the weather is borderline and the question becomes, “To ride or not to ride,” we might do only half of our usual route.

Hot coffee helps, too. Long before the Razorback Greenway was built, we’d ride a scenic loop along lightly traveled highways through a wooded slice of east Benton County and the wilds of Madison County. A country store with steaming hot coffee, 25 cents a cup with free refills, was a regular stop at the half-way point of our ride.

Maybe that little store closed because its coffee was too cheap. Whatever, our beloved coffee stop was gone. That’s when we switched to the greenway, mainly in search of caffeine. We fell in love with the joyful biking the greenway offers and also discovered another swell half-way coffee stop.

Some days, it’s just too cold or slick to ride. Then we leave the bikes at home for our weekly get-togethers and hike instead. That gives us our healthy dose of exercise and keeps cabin fever away.

We enjoy these hikes as much as our bike rides. Deciding where to hike is the hardest part. There are so many trails to travel. Most cold days we pick a natural-surface dirt trail for these little jaunts. Another thing we’ve noticed is, back in the day, six or seven miles was a good hike. Now four miles is a satisfying workout.

Dirt paths aren’t our only destinations. Sometimes we’ll walk on hard-surface trails similar to the Razorback Greenway. Occasionally we’ll walk around Lake Atalanta in Rogers or the paved trail that circles Lake Fayetteville. Osage Park in Bentonville is another favorite with its boardwalks and wetland environment, including a beaver lodge. It’s fun to go inside Thaden Fieldhouse next door and see what kinds of airplanes are on display.

More often than not, our winter hikes are at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area east of Rogers. Fifty-four miles of trails meander through the park’s vast 12,000 acres. Hobbs is Arkansas’ largest state park.

Our most recent hike there was along the Dutton Hollow loop. It’s four or so miles are part of the park’s Hidden Diversity multiuse trail for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

We’ll take you on a guided hike there next Tuesday here in NWA Outdoors.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at