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  1. #1
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    Long rides and cold weather

    I do most of my long rides (4-5 hours) spring through fall, with the longest ones in the summer. When the temperature starts dropping I find myself riding no more than 2 hours at a time.

    For those of you who ride 'long' in the colder months (I'm talking < 0 celcius, sometimes -10 to -20c), what do you bring with you off the bike, if anything extra? And how do you carry the extra gear? Spoiled at the moment as I can ride over five hours within nothing more than a couple of water bottles (that get re-filled) and some food/money in my pockets. I would love to continue these long rides when the temps start dropping.

    When it's < 0 celcius I use very warm gloves, balaclava, chemical toe warmers, and the rest of my body is fine. For rides of 4-5 hours can I simply carry another pack of chemical toe warmers and make sure my route includes some cafes and other places to stop and refuel (this time of year I bring an insulated, leak-proof cup and drink hot beverages). Anything else I need to bring, or think about? I ask because I can't think of anything else...

    note - I realize I could have posted this in the winter forum...but I wanted to ask those distance folks what they do/think.

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    My coldest century story might give you some hints.
    Charlene Barach (Machka) - 2003 Coldest Century - Winnipeg, Manitoba

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    My coldest century story might give you some hints.
    Charlene Barach (Machka) - 2003 Coldest Century - Winnipeg, Manitoba
    Good read - thanks!

    That's probably a ride you will never forget. I'm going to try the hand warmers in place of toe warmers to see if they last longer. Mine have been good for about two hours. I liked the idea of the creme on the face to prevent it freezing. For a long ride I would prefer to not loop back home (though I can see the advantage in doing so), but would ensure there are enough possible stops along the way. I also wouldn't ride that long and without such a lofty goal as yours, I could choose when I do my long ride.

  4. #4
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Fly somewhere warmer and ride that century, . In the winter, I like hiking and snowshoeing.

  5. #5
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Trunk bags or backpacks come in handy. If I'm riding the tandem, the trunk bag has fold-out panniers, and both sides will be full. For reference, that's cold-weather riding in the Dallas area, which usually means around 40 degrees F in the morning.
    One factor is that our winter rides are usually 200k's, so we're starting first thing in the morning, so the coldest time is at the start. IE, we're dealing with what to do with the clothes when we take them off.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    The OP didn't really define 'cold', so it's hard to say. I start to worry if it's going to be much below 20F. I might not ride if it's going to be below 10F. I have shoes that will take those kind of temps now, so that's not really an issue. I have bar mitts for hands, but I haven't really tested those. I used to use neoprene booties with toe warmers, that is a less than satisfactory solution in my experience. I now have a pair of Wulvhammers and a pair of fasterkatts. The fasterkatts got me through last winter without issue. I felt cold occasionally, but no numb toes from cold. That is a vast improvement from previous years of frozen toes for 75 miles out of 200k even with toe warmers.


    I find that I need a little less storage on really cold rides than if it is mid-range. I'll put 40F firmly in the mid-range of temps. In PA, there may well be >20F starts on an October randonnee, and it's very common to see temps like that in November. It's almost as bad as the first really hot ride of the year, except fewer dnf's because people that might dnf just don't roll out of bed when it's cold.
    Randonneuring -- it's touring for people that aren't smart enough to stop for the night.
    It's a wonderful sport when you can make up for a lack of ability with a lack of sleep

  7. #7
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    I can speak to the 0°C centuries, but not much lower. I've ridden down to 0°F, but only for short rides.

    It's really all about your hands and feet. Invest in some good winter shoes. Booties and foot warmers are OK, but not the best. Gloves are key, but everyone is different. My one suggestion is to not limit yourself to cycling-specific gloves. PI AmFib bibs are the best I've tried so far.

    As for carrying stuff, I don't take much extra. I'll take a small cloth backpack in case I want to take my big jacket off, but that's it. Food is the same. It's harder to find water, but I drink less in the cold, so I don't need to carry extra. I'm more likely to ride with lights, but those go on the bike.

    I think the major thing is to have somewhere to put your clothes if you need to peel off some layers. Jersey pockets don't always cut it, especially for a big jacket.
    centuryperweek.blogspot.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
    Fly somewhere warmer and ride that century, . In the winter, I like hiking and snowshoeing.
    I've tried other stuff in the winter but nothing has stuck. I've tried trail running, hiking...haven't tried snowshoeing but may this year. On weekdays, including in the winter - weather permitting, I ride early in the morning when it's dark. I have good bike lights and find that 1.5 hours 3 times a week is great offseason fitness. I would like to try something like snowshoeing if I could do so early in the morning when it's dark...I have trails behind my house and within a 10 minute car ride...but not sure how well this activity works when relying on moonlight or portable lights (thoughts?).

  9. #9
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
    I've tried other stuff in the winter but nothing has stuck. I've tried trail running, hiking...haven't tried snowshoeing but may this year. On weekdays, including in the winter - weather permitting, I ride early in the morning when it's dark. I have good bike lights and find that 1.5 hours 3 times a week is great offseason fitness. I would like to try something like snowshoeing if I could do so early in the morning when it's dark...I have trails behind my house and within a 10 minute car ride...but not sure how well this activity works when relying on moonlight or portable lights (thoughts?).
    I don't see why not. I do it in the afternoons when there is light as there are some trails near my house that are perfect for snowshoeing. It's a fine cardio workout and it's a heck of a lot easier staying warm snowshoeing than on a bike.

  10. #10
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I like to cycle as often as I can in the winter, but I also like spinning classes. If you get into a good spinning class 1-2 times a week, it's a good workout. Essentially intervals for an hour.

    Plus it is warm and bright ... and you don't have to worry about layering, hand warmers, and lights.

    The best spinning classes I've taken have been at fitness centres, and I've made an evening of it by taking the spinning class and then working out on the weights and/or using the treadmill. Or sometimes swimming.

    And then in addition to that, I ride my trainer, ride outside, go snowshoeing, go cross-country skiing, go for long brisk walks, etc.

  11. #11
    Randomhead
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    I go mountain biking in the winter. Last winter, I bought a fatbike so I could go further into the woods in the mountains around here. I used to go cross country skiing when I lived further north, but that's not possible here in Pennsylvania unless you can handle some pretty extreme terrain -- snow melts where it is flat. I can't force myself to run, and if I did I am not sure how it would work out due to feet issues. So riding in the cold is pretty important to me.
    Randonneuring -- it's touring for people that aren't smart enough to stop for the night.
    It's a wonderful sport when you can make up for a lack of ability with a lack of sleep

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    I go mountain biking in the winter. Last winter, I bought a fatbike so I could go further into the woods in the mountains around here. I used to go cross country skiing when I lived further north, but that's not possible here in Pennsylvania unless you can handle some pretty extreme terrain -- snow melts where it is flat. I can't force myself to run, and if I did I am not sure how it would work out due to feet issues. So riding in the cold is pretty important to me.
    The idea of a fatbike has crossed my mind many times. Given that I have a cross bike with winter tires as my winter bike, and I ride it often in the winter, on roads in all but snowy conditions, I wasn't sure if I would use the fatbike enough. I've read that you need the snow somewhat compressed, and hopefully not laden with foot prints, to use it effectively. If I didn't have a winter bike already I would get a fatbike and ride it like my cross bike, albeit slower, and I would add well conditioned trails to the mix. Thanks for re-invigorating the idea though

  13. #13
    Senior Member LucF's Avatar
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    I ride all year long in the Montreal area, usually not all day, but sometimes. This is on a city/touring bike at speeds usually below 30 km/h but on a setup heavy enough to work out sweats. I'll ride in just about any temperature (goes down to -35°C and we get on average 2 meters of snow), as long as the wind doesn't gust over 50 km/h. I use a merino top base layer and a North Face shell with an inner layer and a tall collar. If it's below -15°C I'll add a Patagonia shell with synchilla in between. I wear a snowboarding helmet and cycling glasses (adding a skull cap or, usually, a balaclava when colder, but not covering the lips), 2-layer waterproof (very important if the snow is wet) loose ski gloves, Sorel boots (don't clip during winter) with merino socks, merino long johns and waterproof cycling pants. I carry an extra SunIce waterproof shell, cross-country pants and an extra balaclava for unpredictable weather, and inner gloves so I can change if the originals get wet. That's about it for clothing.

    Everything has to be waterproof in case of wet snow, which I find the worse to deal with. Wet and cold is not good if you're out there long.

    If there won't be water for a while, I'll put warm water in extra bottles wrapped in newspaper in my panniers.

    If it's snowing I regularly change all gears, front and back, so ice/snow doesn't accumulate on the rings or in the dérailleurs, which impedes shifting.

    As for the bike, it has dynamo lighting, studded tires and fenders, all essential in my opinion.

    Have fun!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by LucF View Post
    I ride all year long in the Montreal area, usually not all day, but sometimes. This is on a city/touring bike at speeds usually below 30 km/h but on a setup heavy enough to work out sweats. I'll ride in just about any temperature (goes down to -35°C and we get on average 2 meters of snow), as long as the wind doesn't gust over 50 km/h. I use a merino top base layer and a North Face shell with an inner layer and a tall collar. If it's below -15°C I'll add a Patagonia shell with synchilla in between. I wear a snowboarding helmet and cycling glasses (adding a skull cap or, usually, a balaclava when colder, but not covering the lips), 2-layer waterproof (very important if the snow is wet) loose ski gloves, Sorel boots (don't clip during winter) with merino socks, merino long johns and waterproof cycling pants. I carry an extra SunIce waterproof shell, cross-country pants and an extra balaclava for unpredictable weather, and inner gloves so I can change if the originals get wet. That's about it for clothing.

    Everything has to be waterproof in case of wet snow, which I find the worse to deal with. Wet and cold is not good if you're out there long.

    If there won't be water for a while, I'll put warm water in extra bottles wrapped in newspaper in my panniers.

    If it's snowing I regularly change all gears, front and back, so ice/snow doesn't accumulate on the rings or in the dérailleurs, which impedes shifting.

    As for the bike, it has dynamo lighting, studded tires and fenders, all essential in my opinion.

    Have fun!
    LucF - thanks for the detailed information. I was born in Montreal and travel there often to visit family...you definately have it harder there than here outside of Toronto. Some follow-up questions:

    - what 2-layer ski gloves do you use, and do you find your fingers are still warm when it's -15C or colder? I was going to buy mits for this winter, but I know shifting/dexterity will be challenged
    - I've never worn a ski/snowboard helmet but was planning on getting one (for skiing), do you size up to get one that can accomodate a balaclava underneath (I'll bring one when I try them on)?
    - are you using the studded tires when the roads have little to no snow, or would you change them out for something less aggressive? I don't tend to ride when the roads are snow covered, I just wait until the ploughs/sun have removed most of the snow...but it's a consideration for sure

    Cheers!

  15. #15
    Senior Member LucF's Avatar
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    I use Dakine ski gloves somewhat like these. Wouldn't want mitts for the reason you mention. I buy the gloves a size larger than I need for better insulation, pretty much like you would for ski. Loose is warmer. No, I don't get cold but I'm almost always moving my fingers (isn't that what all cold weather people do without even thinking about it?) and shake hands when I stop if I need to warm them.

    Yes, the helmet is oversized so it's not very tight, even with the balaclava. Be sure the balaclava covers most of your face because that's what takes the most beating when riding.

    I usually change my tires mid-December and take them off end of March (mid-April this year). I use studs because I want to be able to ride in any conditions, but if you can be selective about conditions, avoid them by all means; they are expensive, noisy (on asphalt) and require noticeably more effort to turn. I feel like I'm flying when I go back to my summer tires. I've also used MTB tires for one winter but didn't like having to be careful every time there could be ice in a corner (and that would still be an issue for you). But those are just my opinions. Most winter cyclists in Montreal don't use studded tires. However, except for messengers, I don't see many of them on snowy days either.

    Also, I didn't mention in my previous post that on colder days I wear underwear with chamois to better insulate from the cold saddle. One winter I put a car-washing shag glove on my saddle, which also worked well.

    Try things out; you'll quickly figure out what works for you. I find that riding winters is easier and simpler than I thought. It's also great to improve your manoeuvring skills, and when you fall you don't get road rash.

  16. #16
    rhm
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    As has already been said, it's a matter of keeping your hands and feet (and ears and face, sometimes) warm. My legs don't get cold as long as I keep riding.

    I have not found chemical hand or toe warmers to do any good. They are air activated, and there just isn't enough air in my shoes. On my last really cold ride (New Year's Day this year) I put plastic bags over my mittens to keep the cold air out. That worked pretty well. I am still not happy with my winter footwear.

    A hydration pack is a good idea if it's very cold; water bottles will freeze solid.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm View Post
    I have not found chemical hand or toe warmers to do any good. They are air activated, and there just isn't enough air in my shoes. On my last really cold ride (New Year's Day this year) I put plastic bags over my mittens to keep the cold air out. That worked pretty well. I am still not happy with my winter footwear.

    A hydration pack is a good idea if it's very cold; water bottles will freeze solid.
    Chemical warmers - I leave them out for two minutes before using them...I can tell they've started to warm and then they last me about two hours. All things equal, without them I cannot ride if it's much below -5C...with them, I've ridden down to -25C

    Hydration pack - I've found the tube and spout to freeze very easily...this is despite a neoprene tube cover and other tricks I've read about. Now I use a leakproof insulated mug and carry a herbal tea...it remains unfrozen for 2+ hours

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