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  1. #1
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    In At The Cold End: What would you do?

    I'm after some tips/advice/suggestions for my next trip... winter biking
    The plan is to fly out to a cold place (temps could get down to -40 I've been told although climate charts give averages of -16C at night to -1C in day) in March and cycle/camp. It'll be the start of a long trip that will go into the summer so will gradually warm up and I'll also want to do some trekking!

    So, if you were flying out into the cold to bike, what clothing would you take to make sure you don't freeze?! Assuming it will be hard to buy extra gear when there so you need to have enough stuff with you. But that when it warms up you will have to ship the cold gear home (as want it for following winter) and will need some lighter stuff instead. I'd rather not spend more than I have to shipping gear home and buying new stuff so if I can use as much as possible throughout the trip then that's better, but I'm not going to compromise on relative comfort/safety in the winter.

    Clothing, body: all about layers I suppose. Thermal, fleece (windproof), waterproof outer, down jacket (for camping) - is that enough or would I need an extra insulating layer too when it's v cold? Similar for bottom half.
    Gloves - liner, gloves, waterproof mitten over the top and also pogies
    Boots - wool socks and any boot rated to -40 (or would these soon get too warm as the spring progresses) - I know Baffin/Sorel/Kamik etc do good winter boots but is there any way I could use a winter type walking boot with extra socks that I could then keep with me for trekking in the summer? Just an idea (I'll have regular flat pedals)
    Head - balaclava and hat and ski goggles.

    Camping: Would one sleeping bag rated to say -32C (-25F) plus a bag rated to 0C (that I have already and could use when it gets warmer) be ok or do I need a colder-temp rated bag that I will have to send home and somewhere buy a replacement later when it's warmer?

    I realise it's a difficult question as everybody copes with the cold differently. Basically, I want to make sure I have enough clothing to not be suffering for most of the time and definitely that my hands and especially feet are warm (it's the one part of me that does suffer in the cold).

    I don't have any experience of real cold/snow conditions to go on, so I'll be in at the deep end with this. (Coldest til now was biking/camping in Utah in November and it got down to -13C (9F) on a couple of nights and was uncomfortable in my 0C rated bag with fleece blanket and down jacket).

    Thanks for any help!! (and sorry for all the qu's in one post)

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Where are you planning to go?


    For now, I'll just comment on the boots. As long as you are walking, you can get away with fairly light boots. I've spent most of my life in a part of the world where it does drop to -40C/F and I've walked through winters with a double layer of socks and $25 short walking boots from Walmart. But the moment you stop walking (i.e. sitting around camp), even the boots rated to -40 will leave your feet cold. I also have Sorel boots rated to -40, and spent a couple winters working outside. As long as I was moving, the boots were fine. But half of my job involved just standing still for 10 minutes or so, then a very short break, then standing still for 10 minutes or so, and repeat for a couple hours ... and by the time I was finished, my feet in the -40 boots, with layers of socks etc., were frozen.

    As for cycling in those temps ... I've cycled a short distance down to -40C/F, and a longer distance with the temps between -20C and -35C, and the -40C boots were warmer than when I was just standing still, but not as warm as when I was walking. I used chemical hand (hand, not foot) warmers inside the boots to help keep my feet warm, and had to replace them every couple hours.

    If it is indeed going to be below about -30C for any length of time (several days/weeks), I'd suggest looking for boots rated well below -40C/F. Look for the ones rated to -70 and in that range.

    Cold feet HURT ... and if my feet get really cold, the rest of me feels very cold and uncomfortable.

  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Here is my article on cold feet ...

    http://www.machka.net/whatworks/coldfeet.htm

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Here is my article on cold feet ...

    http://www.machka.net/whatworks/coldfeet.htm
    Thanks Machka!
    Where? Starting with Lake Baikal, Siberia. I think that temps below -30 won't be prolonged (not over weeks anyway) and it will certainly be a lot warmer by May so probs -40 rated boots would be ok. That said, since the following winter, if all goes to plan, would probably be below -30 for prolonged periods, I could invest in -70 boots that will do for both trips. Any idea up to what temps I could use -70 rated boots without getting too hot/sweaty feet or is this not a problem?!
    I'd be outside for long periods but mostly cycling in the day.
    I know what you mean about cold feet!

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Just thought I'd post this thread as well ....

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-135?highlight=


    The thread is located in the Long Distance forum and provides links to several winter Ultra events. The sites usually include some information about cycling and doing ultra events in winter weather including recommendations for gear and clothing etc. They'd probably be a good read for what you're planning to do.


    In answer to your question about boots ... I haven't used the -70 rated boots, but I know I could wear the -40 rated boots up to about -10C and then they started to get a bit much. Except if I were standing still a lot ... then I could wear them in even warmer temps.

  6. #6
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    This site has some good info on winter biking. http://www.icebike.org/

    If you have never been camping in the snow and don't have much experience with moving around in the snow, please check everything out in conditions similar conditions to what you expect but where you can get picked up easily.
    We have met the enemy and they is us.

    Pogo

  7. #7
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    I think you're screwed. The reason I say that bluntly is because anyone that thinks they can gear up for potential -40F temps on the advice of others is, imho, simply wrong and I say that having had a lot of experience cycling to -30F and a bit of experience at -40F. Steve0257 is right on. I promise you that no matter what advice you get and follow you'll find problems you didn't expect like a bike rack bolt that becomes loose in the cold temps and falls off leaving you unable to continue. Simply packing a bike for camping at -20F is a challenge that requires experience, not advice. I do wish you the best of luck but I'm also quite sure you're going to suffer and probably fail (again...hope I'm wrong) if you attempt biking and camping at -40F without some real experience before you go.

  8. #8
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    Jumping straight into a winter tour could be very dangerous. It takes time to acclimate to the cold and figure out what clothing works for you. In the cold it is easy to overdress, over-exert yourself, get drenched in sweat, then have your body temperature crash when you stop. If you manage to get your shelter up, getting your clothes dry won't be easy.

    Your clothing options need to be flexible, because you need less while riding, then add some more while stopped.

    A better option might be a hub and spoke ride from a central base camp (heated motel rather than tenting). That way you can do rides of varying increasing length. Maybe start with 15-30 minutes to tweak clothing choices. Or find a company offering guiding winter tours.

  9. #9
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    What ever your choices, short tests first are recommended so you don't die. No one travels around the world on bike tour without doing some tryout tours first.

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    Can I have your stuff if you die?

  11. #11
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    so much truth here...

    Quote Originally Posted by gecho View Post
    Jumping straight into a winter tour could be very dangerous. It takes time to acclimate to the cold and figure out what clothing works for you. In the cold it is easy to overdress, over-exert yourself, get drenched in sweat, then have your body temperature crash when you stop. If you manage to get your shelter up, getting your clothes dry won't be easy.

    Your clothing options need to be flexible, because you need less while riding, then add some more while stopped.

    A better option might be a hub and spoke ride from a central base camp (heated motel rather than tenting). That way you can do rides of varying increasing length. Maybe start with 15-30 minutes to tweak clothing choices. Or find a company offering guiding winter tours.
    Here's a question....doe the OP even know what clothes to buy? For instance, for Winter camping and travel the very most basic thing he should have learned about 5 years ago (in terms of experience) is that he needs to have zero cotton clothing. No cotton underwear, no cotton pants, no cotton tshirts...There is so much to camping in cold temps that really do make it nearly impossible to do safely without some prior experience. I do hope he gets that prior experience and has a blast!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Bat56's Avatar
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    Have you ever changed a tire in the cold? 10F is bad. -10F will hurt. -40F and your tools might break, not to mention your pump or CO2 cartridge is going to freeze. Plus you drop parts in the snow... it's a major pain.

  13. #13
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    I don't even bother taking CO2 at temps like -20FIt's been a long time but I've done flats at -20F and maybe colder. It's why I always ride with panniers and enough additional layers to allow me to stop in the middle of a strong ride, all sweaty, and be able to dress for sitting around for 30 min. Everything takes longer at -20F or -30F and the colder it takes the longer it takes. First you have to get dressed. If you have been working hard you may want to wait before adding layers....let yourself cool down...loose some steam (literally) and then begin to dress as you cool off a bit. Other times you'll need to start dressing as soon as you stop. Real care must be taken that you don't lose things like caps, patches, nuts and bolts. You can loosen bolts at -40F without too much concern. It not till 60 or 70 below that you really have to start to worry about bolts snapping off with some ease. Winter repairs are, to me, mostly about not loosing stuff and being able to remain warm without sweating ... good heat regulation. And at some point patching becomes an issue so unlike summer flats where I nearly always patch on the spot, I rarely patch in winter. I use a my cap or some cloth to run inside the tire if I want to look for something sharp and I am more apt to use levers to get my tire mounted so as to save wear and tear on gloves and/or exposure to my dainty digits. My Lezyne pump has never failed me but I think today's pumps and the light lubricants used seem to work reasonably well even in cold temps. Old leather sealed pumps would fail....that's a good subject for discussion...best pumps in cold weather. It's not something I've researched. I've not had a problem with that and frankly, Winter punctures are reasonably rare since we roll (I roll...) on a bed of either snow or ice. There is very little dry road left, locally, through Winter. Some folks may deal with cold weather and dry roads with just as many nasties sticking up during Winter as Summer. Just not me. Cold weather repairs are, btw, a good rational for carrying dry chem heat packs.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Bat56's Avatar
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    ^That is all really good stuff. I relied on a bead jack to mount my tires and that bead jack cracked the first and only time I used it in the negative cold. I agree that flats are rare - the only flat I have gotten which required roadside repair was caused by a microscopic wire that came from nowhere.

    The other thing that has not been mentioned is breathing. I have no problem with breathing in the bitter cold but only if I ride all year. It has been a while since I did not ride into the winter but I recall pretty much choking at 10F.

  15. #15
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    I can get exercise induced asthma almost any time but in the winter I have to use an inhaler. I also use contact lenses in the winter because there is hardly any possible way to keep glasses from fogging when you stop after riding hard. I try to remove my glasses immediately when I stop if I am wearing them. I breathe fine even at -30F but never work so hard as to get anearobic breathing real hard...I don't ride at -40F and colder but when you're outside doing anything in those temps you do have to be a bit careful...and at -60 to 70 you really need a parka hood so the air in front of your face is warmed up just a little bit. Maybe sometime I'll go out on the bike at -70F just do roll a bit down the street. Doesn't seem to get that chilly anymore though. God bless gobal warming. Keep it up!

  16. #16
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    Thanks for all the advice so far. There's a lot to think about.
    Having done some more research, it seems that there will be more opportunities to stay indoors than I originally realised and this trip is very flexible so I will start off close to base and see how it goes. I have no issue with turning around if it is too much and making another plan. I never thought it would be easy.
    I'm also making time before I go to for a short cold trip closer to home to test out gear and see how I get on before I go.

    Keep the comments coming, because I am taking it all on board I promise!

    I'm interested to hear more about what people do with difficulty breathing in cold temps...

  17. #17
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    So cold temp breathing. I use a serfias neoprene mask. Lots of small holes over breathing area, some warming occurs but has moisture buildup as well.

  18. #18
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    In case anyone is interested, I had to change my plans for Lake Baikal this March so will be heading off to Siberia next winter instead.

    In the meantime I've been for a 3 week/800km ride and camp up in northern Scandinavia. Not as cold at Siberia will be but a taster with temps down to -30C nonetheless. Didn't die and loved it. Still have all my fingers and toes too.
    In many ways this winter bike touring trip was easier and more enjoyable than dealing with the heat, dust, flies, mosquitoes and lack of water in the desert and too much rain, humidity, spiders and snakes in the equatorial forests! So cold, clean and pristine.
    Admittedly the weather was kind, but it's got me all excited to go again.

    A few pics from the trip: Arctic Landscapes and Winter Biking and Camping

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    Awesome pictures! Looks like a great trip, and a good test of the cold weather.

    I just have one recommendation for gear... hut booties!. These things are amazing for winter camping. Like little sleeping bags on your feet. A nice change from the same boots you've been wearing all day too.

  20. #20
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Wow. Way to go adventuring! Caution, though. Things can go from really fun to really bad in a very short time. Good to have some way of getting assistance if it comes to that. Probably won't, but still . . .

  21. #21
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Nice- i see you've gotten some cold weather riding in, most excellent.

    Quote Originally Posted by takeonafrica
    In many ways this winter bike touring trip was easier and more enjoyable than dealing with the heat, dust, flies, mosquitoes and lack of water in the desert and too much rain, humidity, spiders and snakes in the equatorial forests! So cold, clean and pristine.
    you hit on some of the joys of winter camping - no bugs, no worries finding good water, pristine. Plus, long nights means a lot of down time and just laying about in the tent. (not sure I'd tour above the arctic near winter solstice, but that's just me)

    Some buzzwords to help you fine tune your kit ( you probably used some of these), and for others to get steered in the right direction:

    Mukkluks for riding
    camp booties with tall overboot
    stove board
    two sleeping mats
    candle lantern
    emergency winter shelter for unplanned stops and lunches
    overbag
    puffy suit
    bailing wire


    for those wondering, a winter emergency shelter is common place winter equipment for alpine environments and scandanavia, where guides and skiers alike bring them to set up and sit in or behind during lunch breaks. They can protect a group when you need to hunker down in bad weather, deal with a medical, etc.

    They are essentially huge silnylon sacks with vents and tieouts you string up or simply pull over a huddle of people. A one pound emergency shelter can help shield up to a half dozen people during inclement weather. Also usable as a tarp or windbreak in addition to a cubby shelter. They are fantastic to string up as a windbreak for lunches.

    My emergency cubby (old 'Svarsky' design from Integral Designs in Canada) is big enough i simply stake out a narrow end to windward, and can pull the entire thing over me and my bike.

    Bailing wire (for arctic, braided may work better, perhaps copper? need to check it out) is invaluable for rack and load bearing repairs in case of equipment failure. Using an awl (if needed) and a piece of bailing wire, a person can attach bags and bits to the bike, make load loops, wire panniers to racks in event of hook failure, substitute for bolts and hold together a broken rack.


    and a tip -

    frozen pump? Stuff it inside your pants leg while you set up your emergency shelter to get ready to change that tire.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 03-03-13 at 05:23 AM.
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  22. #22
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    I like the look of those hut booties... i had a pair of down slippers, but those boots would be perfect!

    Just written up the first part of the trip if you're interested: Into the Cold (there's a short video at the end too)

    And here's all about the gear / clothing i used and what did/didn't work... Clothing and Equipment

    Out of interest - what outer trousers do you find work well? My Paramo Aspira (waterproof/ski type trousers) trousers almost wore through in the bum in just 3 weeks. I'll need something harder wearing for next winter's 3 month trip...

  23. #23
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by takeonafrica View Post
    I like the look of those hut booties... i had a pair of down slippers, but those boots would be perfect!

    Just written up the first part of the trip if you're interested: Into the Cold (there's a short video at the end too)

    And here's all about the gear / clothing i used and what did/didn't work... Clothing and Equipment

    Out of interest - what outer trousers do you find work well? My Paramo Aspira (waterproof/ski type trousers) trousers almost wore through in the bum in just 3 weeks. I'll need something harder wearing for next winter's 3 month trip...
    Great report and etc.


    I've not undertaken a cold ride to this level, so don't have first hand experience at keeping pants from shredding out on a tour of Siberia. If i were going to Baikal, it would be in late summer with a sea kayak.

    however, for riding pants in seriously cold weather, I've found that below freezing there is less of a need for waterproof/breatheable. Softshell pants, or when conditions go full gale a thin layer of nylon wind pants over a few insulating layers usually suffice for riding. (I do bring insulated "puffy" pants for in camp). you need to breathe out the perspiration while riding, and W/B do a poor job of that.

    try a softshell pant over some insulating layers, not waterproof breatheable.

    I would without delay find yourself some thin, bicomponent knit, non-laminate softshell pants as an overknicker of sorts, or simply as your riding pants. Softshell pants work far and away better for active winter activities like winter mountaineering on Mount Rainier (my gear testing grounds for much of the last 15 years) and winter cycling. Layer a large softshell pant over a base layer and a polartec stretch midlayer, and your legs will feel more like you're riding in tights, less like riding in a snowboarding outfit. And quite abrasion resistant.

    Big step up in riding comfort.

    then, add a windshell pant (excellent version from arcteryx LEAF) for when it gets really foul. The ideal outer layer would be a nylon windpant with full, separating side zippers (great for venting), but these are for some reason very difficult to find on the commercial US market right now.


    As to wearing out pants, perhaps the wool seat cover contributed to the W&T. Some nylons are more resistant to wear than others. Softshell face fabrics pretty good. Cordura is more abrasion resistant than taslan. If you're quite concerned, a cordura reinforcing patch sewn on your pants before your next arctic trip would probably work well.

    And the shoes, really suggest looking into mukkluks for next trips north. sorels rubber heft makes them pigs in the cold.

    Far better some Steger mukkluks -from Will Steger, THE modern age arctic explorer Will Steger, steger arctic mukkluks , or equivalent footwear.

    ================

    I know you had some concerns about convertability of gear from winter to summer - I would strongly suggest just dumping the gear you don't need, giving it away or selling for pennies at the bazaar. Find a mail drop for the gear switchover (say a hostel, church, hotel, or tourist agency) and at that point dispose of the unneeded gear at tea with some locals. Fostering goodwill, and a traditional way to get rid of expedition gear.

    Don't worry about it, stuff is preeminently disposable on expeditions.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 03-23-13 at 04:45 AM.
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