Wednesday, December 15, 2010

cold weather lovely

(As I'm writing this I'm nibbling on almonds and sipping from a 12 ounce can of Dr. Pepper that had been sitting in my car all night, at around 20 degrees. This makes me exceptionally happy.)

I rode this morning for a couple of hours. When I left the house my thermometer read 21 degrees. reported a wind chill of nine degrees. I don't know anything about that, but it was windy. Gusty, really. So if wind chill is a function of wind velocity (it is), then in reality wind chill varied varied considerably during my two hours on the bike, perhaps averaging to around nine degrees.

Anyway, it was cold.

But I wasn't.

Each winter it takes me a few rides to get the particulars ironed out, but when I do, I can be downright comfortable on the bike, even for two hours or longer.

Yesterday I rode and didn't get it right. I came home with cold hands, frozen feet, and my body was wet with sweat. But today my hands stayed toasty, my feet were just beginning to get cool, and my base layer was only a bit damp in the usual sweat-prone areas.

I think I've mentioned all this before, but here's a short list of some of my favorite cold-weather riding gear:

ski goggles -- After riding with them, going out in sub-30 degree weather without seems pure torture. If you haven't tried goggles on the bike, do yourself a favor and give it a shot. You'll be amazed. Completely helmet compatible (helmet on first, strap around the back of your helmet--like you would do if snowmobiling or riding motocross).

the mysterious balaclava -- Amazing the effect a thin, almost inconsequential layer of fabric wrapped around your head has on one's overall riding experience. Especially when coupled with the goggles. If the wind is really intense, pull it up over your nose and under your goggles. Now not a bit of your skin is exposed.

Craft Windstopper base layer -- A couple of years ago I picked up this amazing short-sleeved, mock turtleneck base layer thing that has become an invaluable piece of my winter arsenal. The secret is the panel of Windstopper fabric sewn only on the front of the garment. Perfect.

winter riding shoes -- For me, the Shimano MW80s. When it's as cold as it is today, the shoe alone doesn't do it, but stretch a pair of neoprene booties over the top (in my case, neon green numbers from Performance I bought in 1990) and my feet stay cozy warm.

Another tip:

A perennial problem of cold-weather riding is how to keep your water bottles from freezing. For those that haven't experienced it, let me just tell you they freeze mighty quick on a bike in 20 degree weather. Yesterday, for instance, mine was frozen enough after 50 minutes as to be completely useless.

One option is to exchange bottles for a Camelbak (be sure to run the hose under your armpit rather than over your shoulder or the water will freeze in your tube), but then you have to deal with the consequences of a sweaty Camelbaks are kind of mountain bike ghetto, and who wants that...

And so a better option (and I'm ashamed it took me so long to think of it, when the solution seems painfully simple now) is to simply slip a bottle in the back pocket of your winter riding jacket or jersey. I tried it today and it worked perfectly. Not even a little bit of freezing around the mouthpiece.

So there you have it. Trainer be gone! The only riding worth doing is outside. (Mother Nature is a woman with few suitors...)

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