Friday, September 13, 2013

Riding Year Round, in the Cold

So... my last post was wishful thinking.  It is time to embrace the coming seasons.  It really is beautiful even though in my weaker moments I long to be back in California.  Riding up here goes from winding roads weaving between lakes to falling red, orange, and brown leaves to peaceful muffled snow lined roads.  The roads are perfect for a road bike.  The cold is coming no matter what I do.

Yesterday's ride to and from work was the first time I could sense fall in the air.  The chilly temps and the constant wind gave me a taste of the things to come.  Blustery fall and winter rides are more about getting out and turning the pedals over than improving speed and distance.  These rides are a grind.  While it can be challenging, it is important to get out and push.  This is where the base fitness and mental strength begins for the next summer.  My goal is to ride year round no matter what.  I can have some great rides on my rollers but the basement can get rather boring.  On my rollers I watch Breaking Away, American Flyers, or some archived race footage and  I need to get outside.
The key to success in the cooler climates is the proper clothing.  This can be a challenge as there is no one size fits all solution.  Every cyclist has a different heat production/loss.  We all need to find what works through trial and error.  I thought I would share what I have found and I have been on some pretty cold bike rides.

I realized pretty quickly that my feet and hands are my weak points, as long as they have enough coverage I will be okay.  To accomplish this for my hands, I began using lobster mitts.  My hands nearly sweat at five degrees.  I don't have to worry about cold hands anymore.  The split mitt takes a ride or two to get comfortable with but once that is done they are easy to ride with.  Now, protecting my feet are my Garneau shoe covers.  These are great, they are lightweight, keep the wind off and are mostly water resistant.  All good except that they need to go on before my shoes.  This is a huge pain if you want to take them off  in the middle of a ride.  My next pair of shoe covers will be ones that close in the back.

My head and face just need to be protected from the wind and do not need a whole lot of insulation.  Enter my Gore Bike Wear hat and mask.  The hat is more than enough to keep my head toasty down to the coldest rides I have done.  The mask took a little bit of adjustment.  I had to figure out what temp it worked best.  The best feature is that it can be quickly removed and replace while on the bike.  The only downside is it has a tendency to slip down a bit.  I will experiment with a Buff gaiter this fall and get back to you.

As for tights, there are so many options out there.  It is impossible to determine which ones work by looking at a picture online,(that is all I have in the woods) you really need to try them out.  Last winter my wife got me some Pearl Izumi AmFIB Bib-Tights  and they were key to getting out in all temperatures and conditions.  The ones with no chamois allow me to ride in the bibs I am already comfortable in.  If I needed a bit extra warmth for my joints, I could layer them with my knee warmers.  The AmFib tights have a softshell front to protect from the wind and water and fleece lined lycra on the back to keep warmth in while maintaining mobility.  The AmFIB paired with the Pearl Izumi Pro Softshell and five degrees is no problem to ride in.

Now the downside of winter riding is getting all of these layers on.  Generally, if it takes more than five minutes to get ready for a ride you are doing it wrong.  In the winter replace five with fifteen and you are about right.  It is definitely much easier to ride in the basement in cycling shorts but there is nothing that beats being out on the road.  It would be easy to ride in sunny moderate climate all year but when the weather is rough it shows a deeper beauty that you will never find in the perfect weather.  So lets put on some Justin Timberlake and get suited up.

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