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  1. #1
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    Touring in the Winter

    Hey all,


    I live in Boulder, CO and I plan to drive home in a few months, stay in CT all Winter, and then leave my car there and BIKE back to Boulder. I'm so sick of my car and it's just unnecessary, so I'm kicking the habit, and I figure that biking cross-country is a good way to kick off my car-free life. Problem is that I want to leave in late Winter or Early Spring, a time when it's still pretty freekin cold out, at least in CT and CO. I'm thinking that maybe I'll just head south immediately and hug the coast and then head west when I'm south enough for comfortable riding. Id stay at that latitude for the whole trip until I make a northward trek at the end straight up into Boulder. I just wonder how far south I'll need to go. It would suck to have to use fat tires and bring lots of layers to keep warm. I'd rather be light and free, but I don't want to hang out in CT longer than I need to. Any advice?

    Cheers

  2. #2
    Slowpoach
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    Take a train for part of the trip?

  3. #3
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    Train? Nahhhhh no way.

    What I'm basically asking about is how far south I'll need to go in order to get warmer temps. I've never really been through the South so I don't know what it's like in the winter. I think I can avoid the weather heading out of CT if I wait til the 10-day forecast looks warm, then *** it straight south as fast as I can. Then I'll need to hit the cooler again when I head due north from, maybe, Amarillo TX, but that won't take too long and I'm not too worried.

  4. #4
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    Sure, you can do it, but I doubt being "light and free" unless you plan to credit card tour, or have the resources and time to hole up during periods of bad weather. Given that you'll be on the road for several weeks, you'll probably encounter winter weather somewhere along your route. Even if you cross down along the Gulf states and Texas (Southern Tier route?) there's a good chance you'll encounter cold rains and strong winds at some point, the latter particularly as you head farther west. I don't know how you can avoid carrying warm clothing and a tent. Up until late February or so you'll also have short days to contend with, which will limit your daily mileage unless you're equipped to travel after dark. It sounds like you are flexible with the timing of the trip, which helps. Go for it! but go prepared.
    Last edited by rnorris; 08-28-08 at 06:55 PM.

  5. #5
    Dismember Lou627's Avatar
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    youd probably need to get pretty far south to get out of the cold, probably close to florida. Its not much warmer in northern south carolina than ct in the winter. If you went south then north again, youd probably spend just as much time in cold climate as if you would going straight across. Either way, youd need winter camping gear, so why not just go straight for it. Ive never toured in winter proper, but on tour I was heading south to escape approaching winter (late november, early december), and it didnt warm up until i was midway through louisiana. It was below 30 everynight till I got there, and I didnt have cold weather gear and was pretty miserable at times (sleepbag rated 30 my ass). Check out the winter (or cold weather) cycling forum, they have good threads about gear and clothing.
    Last edited by Lou627; 08-28-08 at 06:53 PM.

  6. #6
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    I would be much more concerned about road conditions than temperatures. Camping in temps down to about 20 deg F shouldn't be too daunting. Riding in temps down to 30 or so should be no problem either. But snow, slush, or ice on the road would suck big time. One little patch of ice could ruin your trip. You would have a very good chance of getting nailed by a late winter storm, particularly in TX, OK, NM, CO. Some of the worst storms on the Colorado Front Range occur in March-April. Also, expect wicked winds at that time of year as you move out onto the plains and head up towards Colorado.

    Nevertheless, if you're not too time constrained and can wait out bad weather, and if you're prepared to ride in high winds, then there's no reason not to do it. It is about having an adventure after all.

  7. #7
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    if you are committed to it, you can do it. the short daylight hours cuts your mileage down, and camping -especially day in, day out - in freezing temperatures is not for the timid or inexperienced.

    here's a slideshow of winter bike camping I did...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ORO_nxEba0

    start after spring equinox would be my suggestion, in a nice patch of stable weather.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 08-29-08 at 04:41 PM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  8. #8
    One legged rider
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    While it does stay pretty cold in the south right up until late March, once you get about as far south as Washington DC, snow or freezing rain is pretty rare. Maybe one or two good multi day storms per winter. other than that it gets warm enough during the day that any black ice from the night melts away. Going through the Appalachians and the midwest might be a different story though.

  9. #9
    Senior Member john bono's Avatar
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    Your best bet, for at least the first week, is to hug the coastline as much as you possibly can. South of the Merritt Parkway in CT, the temps are typically 5 degrees warmer than inland. Many times, when it is snowing in Hartford, it's raining in New Haven. If you are leaving from the eastern end of the state, you might want to even take a ferry to Long Island, and ride that way. I believe this also to be true in NJ--temps on the coast are significantly warmer than inland.

    If possible, don't try to cross the Appalachians until you are south of DC. After that, I'd stay south of the Ohio River, and better yet, try to ride through TN instead of KY. By that point, you'll probably be past the official start of spring, and snow shouldn't be a major concern.
    Ride a bike. It makes your legs stringy, and less tasty to our Kanamit friends.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  10. #10
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by john bono View Post
    Your best bet, for at least the first week, is to hug the coastline as much as you possibly can. South of the Merritt Parkway in CT, the temps are typically 5 degrees warmer than inland. Many times, when it is snowing in Hartford, it's raining in New Haven. If you are leaving from the eastern end of the state, you might want to even take a ferry to Long Island, and ride that way. I believe this also to be true in NJ--temps on the coast are significantly warmer than inland.

    If possible, don't try to cross the Appalachians until you are south of DC. After that, I'd stay south of the Ohio River, and better yet, try to ride through TN instead of KY. By that point, you'll probably be past the official start of spring, and snow shouldn't be a major concern.
    +1, but getting south of DC isn't always any where near enough. Winter can produce extended periods with single digit temperatures, ice, wind, and snow that can extend pretty far south in the Appalachians at the higher elevations. I would advise a good bit of caution anywhere that you cross the Appalachians. Keep checking the forecast and cross only when there is a favorable forecast; don't head west until Florida if necessary.

  11. #11
    Look ma...no brakes! Accident's Avatar
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    Even north Florida gets cold, 17-22deg.F as lows for a few days; just make sure to time your crossing. I'm excited to know how this goes. I personally fear the idea of extended touring in the bitter cold, probably because my gear isn't designed for it. Best of luck!

  12. #12
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Accident View Post
    I personally fear the idea of extended touring in the bitter cold, probably because my gear isn't designed for it. Best of luck!


    This should freak you out then.....
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  13. #13
    weirdo
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    Is that you? ¡Que huevón!

  14. #14
    Senior Member Rex G's Avatar
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    Along the Gulf Coast, and southern and central Texas, winter can be the best time to ride, overall, but a cold front, or norther, can bring harsh conditions well into March. Harsh = freezing conditions and howling northwest winds for a few days; the precipitation will occur in advance of the front. Precip can stick around for a while if the front stalls, which is not uncommon along the coast. If you have a mobile device that receives weather information, these cold fronts can be tracked, so as not to surprise.

    I have not toured this route by bicycle, but have ridden all year in the upper Texas coastal area. Winter is a good time here for outdoor activities, if you are willing to tolerate, or wait out, periods of adverse NW winds. Do bring some really good winter gloves for the ride. Keep us posted.

    Edited to add: I have seen snow along the roads in mid-April in the upper elevations in the Appalachians, when on a road trip to pick up a new canoe in Massachusetts.
    Have Colt, will travel...

  15. #15
    cyclist
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    I can only speak from my personal experience in Illinois and NC. For the Mississippi valey... Central Illinois gets cold, when it snows it stays for a few weeks. Southern Illinois the snow will melt the next day. I'd go for that lattitude (Ohio river as suggested earlier). NC... lowlands NC was OK to ride year round. Western NC (which is the highest point in the entire Apps so it could be better in Virginia?) got cold but the snow rarely stayed very long on lower elevations. Higher elevations would be quite dangerous with ice but thats one or two mt passes.
    Your nuts, but I wish I had that much time off to do such a thing.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    I live in Tennessee and my favorite time to bike is the winter! (Mainly because summer is so insanely hot here) It's not uncommon to see 65 degree days in January and February, although you're more likely to be riding in 30-40 degree weather then. We usually get plenty of cold weather in March, and often times if it's going to snow here it will happen in March. Rarely more than an inch or two, but the problem is no one here knows how to handle snow. They may or may not have put salt on the streets, and of course no one can handle a car in snow/ice.

    By late March, we usually start getting warmer weather. There will usually be a few chilly mornings here and there in April, but snow/ice/sleet is very unlikely by then. In May it actually starts to get hot, and after that I'd just try to be somewhere else if I were you, unless you enjoy a constant coating of sweat and insects.

  17. #17
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    I also say you've got to get pretty darn south to be sure you miss winter weather! We spent a good portion of the winter months down in Mexico to escape the cold, but it was still cold at times. Certainly the farther south you are, the less cold it will be - but still be prepared for cold!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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