winter riding tips
This post will be a short one, it will cover what I like to use on my lower body for cold weather riding and racing. First off lets start with covering the important stuff, Literally. I use smartwool wool boxers that have a windblocker panel sewn across the front. Windproof Boxers like this are an essential item for helping to not freeze your Important parts off (The Ladies could benefit from windblocker wool undies also I’m guessing). While sitting on the bike, this position leaves the area between your legs very vulnerable to the winds cold blast. Next layer added is a thin wool 260 weight Icebreaker or similar wool long john/base layer tights. If the temps are in the extreme low range or my pace is going to be more of a chill cruising I tend to add a thicker wool tight like the 370 weight Ibex energy free winter tights on top of the 260 weight or some combination of those pieces depending on temperature.I cover all my base layers with a soft shell water resistant highly breathable soft shell pant/tight like my favorite pants which is the Ibex Climawool tight.That is all I use on my lower body for layering.I do bring along a pair of Arc’teryx Beta SL Gortex shell pants on longer adventures and races just in case I need a great fitting lower body wind and waterproof shelter.Here’s a picture of my son Ryan at 9 yrs old ripping up some of our local trails.My next post will be on the most talked about, asked about, all important topic of winter footwear!
CORE For all my winter riding I will start with a very thin base layer next to skin like a 250 weight wool tank top. What goes on top of that depends on the temperature. But keep in mind that you may start to overheat very quickly while fat biking, riding in fresh powder breaking trail requires more effort than just going for a hike in the woods, think about how hot and sweaty you get will shoveling heavy snow, chopping firewood or cross-county skiing . Just because it is -10*C or colder doesn’t mean that you won’t sweat. Sweating is VERY bad as you will get cold and possible hypothermia minutes after you stop moving at that high aerobic pace. Eventually you will have to slow down or stop. If you are cold when you leave your warm house or car to head out for a ride then you may be dressed correctly, remember to bring along a warmer layer/s to have readily available for when you stop to take pictures, have a lunch/snack break or any mechanical emergencies that could happen while out on the trail, it can only take seconds to get really cold. OK back to the next layer, on top of that I wear a softshell wool jacket, it sheds water and snow but is highly breathable.(Any similar soft shell jacket such as one made of polartec will work, I just really happen to like wool). Gortex does not work for an upper body layer while doing any highly aerobic activity’s like winter cycling. What happens is the Gortex “pores” can not keep up with the high humidity/moisture produced by your bodies core and it will clog up and then start to get wet and clammy inside the jacket, next the moisture will turn to ice crystals (sounds cold, doesn’t it?) . If the weather is getting in the -20* to -40* range or if I am going for more of a casual pace type ride I wear a long sleeve wool shirt between my tanktop and softshell jacket. While doing longer races I bring along a spare base layer and mid layer to change into if my current one starts to get too sweaty. When I head out for a winter ride I like to bring a very lightweight/small synthetic “puffy” coat in my frame bag. But when heading out on a extended race or trip I pack along my expedition/belay down parka to wear once I stop moving and generating that high level of heat. For really windy cold riding I have been experimenting with a vapour barrier vest, it is great piece for blocking the bitter cold wind from hitting the front of your chest and stomach. That’s about it for upper body, now lets chat about keeping your hands warm. HANDS I am a big fan of pogies, I can race in like -5*C in just a tanktop for my upper body if my hands are tucked in some toasty warm pogies. For riding in 3 or 4*C to about -8* I just wear my summer riding gloves with my regular insulated pogies. For riding in slightly colder temps I switch to a pair of wool liner gloves, that is all I wear on my hands all the way down to the really cold -40*C and below temps, I just add the fleece liner to my expedition pogies at around -15*C and below. On occasion I will bring chemical hand warmers with me, I like to use them by just throwing them loose in the pogies, they are also useful for pre warming your cold pogies so you don’t stick your hands in cold pogies. For longer cold races I pack along a pair of expedition gloves for when I stop and my hands are going to be out of the warm pogies for any length of time. As you can tell I really don’t like big bulky “winter riding” gloves as they just seem to get in the way, make it extremely hard to eat food while riding and don’t give you the cockpit control and feeling that thin gloves do. My next post will be on below the waist layering followed by a separate article on footwear.
Hey folks here is the first installment of info on winter riding gear and riding in extreme cold. People always ask me about what I wear when heading out on one of my winter bike adventures so I am going to pass along the info on things that work for me. Of course everyone is uniquely different when it comes to body temperature. On top of personal body temps there are many things that you can do that will help you head out into the cold weather already warm and things that you can do keep from freezing once you have been out for a few hours. I have spent many winter seasons testing different clothing layers and winter camping gear so hopefully you can use some of my knowledge as a starting point for what to try for yourself. I was that crazy guy that would check the weather forecast looking for those -30 and colder nights and get all my gear ready and lights on and head out for a few hour night ride after the kids headed off to bed.Sometimes riding till 2 or 3 in the morning. I also like to head out in the backyard or local forest when there is a big snow storm or extreme cold to test out a new bivy sack or sleeping system. First off I find that getting your internal body core firing at a hotter temp before heading out is more useful than standing in front of a heater or fireplace, standing around the heat feels nice and all but it only warms your skins surface. I like to do a workout or at the very least some pull ups, burpies, push ups, skip rope or jumping jacks before I head outside. Keeping in mind that you while you are trying to warm up the body you don’t want to head outside all sweaty because you will certainly become extremely cold very quickly. You need to stay dry to be warm. By doing this type of warm up I can head out into -25 temps for hours with only a wool tank top and light jacket on. I also like to drink warm liquids and eat warming foods again this creates a little bundle of warmth right in the core of your body spreading the warming love out to the rest of your body. Having a thermos of warm tea to drink mid ride is also a nice ritual I enjoy. Keeping the blood moving is very important to prevent getting cold and eventually getting frostnip and then frostbite. Sometimes this means getting off your bike and pushing the bike for a bit to get the feet warmed up. When on the bike little tricks I found for keeping the hands and feet warm are constantly wiggling your toes and hyper flexing the foot back and forth. Same thing for the hands the key is to keep the blood flowing. I have found that while on the bike doing arm windmills and doing a pendulum type movement with one leg at a time has helped bring warm blood to my fingers and toes. My body type is an extremely warm core year round(I normally ride in tank tops or no shirt all summer) and I have been called a polar bear on a number of occasions because I love swimming, and will go in really cold lake water and stay in for long periods of time. However my hands and toes get cold very easily which may have been due to getting frostnip too many times before finding out some layering that really works for me. Those extremities are definitely my weakness, but I have figured out some things that work for me to be able to ride comfortably at extremely bitter cold temperatures(-40 and below) for many hours. This Photo is of my layers of clothes that I had set out in my hotel room the night before a race I completed in February 2015. The race was called Actif Epica, which is a 130 km ultra marathon held in Winnipeg on the windy plains of Manitoba, temperatures for racing were -40 and with wind chill it hit close to -50C. I was out racing my fat bike for almost 9 hrs. And my clothing choice was spot on. I just got back from completing another winter Ultra called the Tuscobia 150, this race took me over 20 hrs to complete the 260 km race course. Temperatures on the race day/night in Wisconsin ranged from -12C down to a bitter cold and windy-25C. . Stay tuned for more details about layering for different parts of the body.