Friday, January 09, 2015
But not too warm, that is the battle with winter cycling. As easy as it sounds, the truth is that this is one of the biggest challenges that you will face in trying to remain comfortable on the bike, outdoors in the cold. Biking stands somewhat alone in terms of the diversity of energy output. We are often likened to Nordic skiing, which is close but I will argue not quite the same, at least for where we ride. The difference is that Nordic tends to be a more even power output. Also, you are using your arms and legs, which keeps them warm. Like running you can XC ski with very light clothing, even in extremely cool temperatures.
Biking is a little different though. Sure, if you ride at a consistent level of exertion, one that does not generate an over abundance of heat, you will be fine. Take for instance, a nice steady ride on a flat road that has little or no requirement for changes in effort, stops, starts, hills, descents. Things of that nature. Then it is fairly easy to regulate and meter.
What goes up, usually comes down and there within lies the rub. You finish a two mile long ascent dripping with sweat even after stripping down only to then find yourself atop a cold, windy peak. Once the fire goes out you immediately freeze. If that freezing occurs before you get all of those clothes you stripped off, back on, you are in a world of hurt for the descent, which is often as long as the ascent was. Add to that the fact that the warm clothing you stripped off, which was probably at least a little damp, is now cold if not frozen and you can see that things just don't scale well.
So what is the answer? Honestly, I don't know that there is one. This is one of those problems that you need to isolate into many individual challenges and then attack one by one, I think. The core is pretty easy. Doesn't take much to keep that warm as your body works with you on it. Your head as well with the same thought being, critical systems take precedence when it comes to your body keeping them regulated. Keep in mind though that the single best place to regulate and vent excess heat is the head, and stow that away as an ace in the hole.
For the feet I haven't gotten it right yet. My new 45NRTH Wolvhammer SPD boots are the best I've had by far. That said, my feet still sweat, swamp and freeze. I made it three hours yesterday but once the sun was gone and the temperature dropped, I started to lose them. When I took the boots off, my socks were damp with sweat. I need to find a pair of silica gel socks I guess, or something that can deal with the moisture.
As for the head, I use a thermal beanie that also covers my ears. This fits easily inside the helmet and keeps me plenty warm. Again, I sweat a whole lot and having no hair, that lightweight beanie helps vent some of the excess heat and moisture. Often I will use a mesh top beanie to let more heat escape or I will remove it all together. The last piece of crucial clothing is a lightweight buff. I usually start and finish with it but strip it off for the bulk of the ride.When super cold or windy it is great for keeping the face warm.