I made a pact with myself in the summer to acquire the proper winter riding gear and get outside on the weekends as much as I can. Weather depending of course. I DO have a temperature limit to which my body would surely freeze into a solid block of ice. During the week I’m short on time and don’t have the hours required to get outside. I mean, fuck, getting dressed for a winter ride is already a 30 minute ordeal.
So here is my system. My secret methods of things that work for me (or sort of work for me). Keep in mind I am not one for cold weather so if this works for me? It should work for anyone. It's all about the gear. Cost is the unfortunate factor because for high tech quality cycling gear you might want to take out a second mortgage.
We’ll start at the hands. I will say first I have yet to find a glove combo that works. This is a fleece glove under a wind/waterproof lobster shell mitt. My hands were pretty okay this past weekend UNTIL we made a fairly long slow decent back into town. As soon as we stopped working hard enough our fingers froze so bad I wanted to cry icicles. I usually always have problems with cold hands and feets so I’ve never been able to keep my hands warm, just mildly tolerable. Oh and the snot thumb sleeve is 110% an absolute necessary!
Yeah that's tape on the toe. It's covering a hole.
Feets? Totally different world of absolute misery. I don’t understand it but it’s as if my feets don’t produce heat at all. Blocks of concrete. I also have a lot of problems with numbness on any regular (even summer) day because of pedal pressure. As a result of that issue I can’t wear thick socks even in the winter. On top of that is a toe warmer. Then the shoe and a thick winter windproof bootie. This means my feet don’t freeze solid but it certainly doesn’t keep them warm.
Note: toe warmer still stuck to sock
Moving on up. A pair of thick winter cycling tights. They have rad stirrups as well as over the shoulder bib straps. They’re relatively weather proof in that they keep the wind out for the most part. They aren’t overly insulated so I wear knee warmers underneath – a tip lovingly tried and tested by my Ryan. The tights don’t have a chamois so a pair of bibs is necessary unless you’re masochistic.
Up further to the core of the machine. Long sleeve quick dry base layer on top of sports bra and heart rate monitor strap. Then bib shorts, then tight straps. On top of that I have a short sleeved cycling jersey then a thin semi-transparent lightweight rain jacket. I learned this trick from Shelly. It helps to hold some heat in because it’s not overly breathable. Finally on top of that is my team jacket. It’s the warmest jacket I have. It’s fantastically windproof but not so much waterproof.
Lastly I have a thin buff around my neck that I can pull up when I need it. I don’t like having fabric over my mouth and nose, it makes me feel uncomfortable and the eventual condensation from my breath freezes. I also have a rather thick toque under my helmet that covers my ears. Super important.
So yes, getting ready for a ride is a FEAT. No joke, it takes me almost 30 minutes and I’m usually sweating like a whore before I can get out of the door. Whores sweat. Also all of these items are stupid expensive so it took me awhile to collect 'em all.
So far it’s been okay. A couple weeks ago we were riding in wet snowy conditions which coated our brakes and derailleurs in a thick solid ice and rendered them useless. My back brake froze solid and we couldn't shift out of our big ring. We won’t be riding in a lot of snow again. If the temps get much below -10C (not incl. windchill) I think that might be pushing it for me.
The last problem is frozen water bottles. They are good for about a couple hours. Unfortunately the lids freeze and I’m left to dehydrate and die. My other friends have been smart and put a wee bit of liquor to help prevent their bottles from freezing. However, due to my physical inability to process alcohol and the resulting sick-fest if I do, that isn’t an option for me. I thought about minty fresh mouth wash… but that would be gross. I read online about closing the bottle and placing it upside-down in the cage. It freezes slower. I’m going to try that next weekend. Maybe I'll write about it along with the "attempt at managing diabetes" in the cold also.
So it’s kinda sucky. One might simply say, “You’re fucking crazy” and I wouldn’t deny that for one second. I am forever grateful to the company – especially friend and team mate Shelly. It helps to have another crazy person to share the stupidity with. In the end it’s rule#5 that drives us. “HARDEN THE FUCK UP”.