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  1. #1
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Winter Centuries

    How many of you ride centuries and other long rides during the winter in sub-freezing temps? Do you have any tips for those considering doing one?

    I just rode my January century (I'm attempting a century a month again this year) yesterday and two main tips I could offer are:

    1. Ride manageable loops to and from your home. What's manageable at -30C might be different from what's manageable at 0C, so you'll have to work that out.

    2. Drink lots when you've arrived at your rest stop (home). When that bottle is frozen solid, you're not going to get anything out of it!

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    I don't do a century, but I have a nice 75km or so loop I do on a regular basis. I have a Platypus hydration system (camelbak-esque) which I use - blow the water back into the reservoir after drinking to ensure it doesn't freeze.

    I like to mix up 3 bottles of Gatorade, too, for the salt and sugar. Just before heading out, microwave the bottles (with the tops off!) for 2-3 minutes (depending on your microwave power) till they're nice and warm. This will give you some extra time before they freeze; I can usually make it to the end of the ride without running out. Make up 3 bottles and drink them one at a time - it seems like 3 bottles that are 1/3rd full will freeze faster than 1 bottle that is full (more surface area, presumably).

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    I managed to ride three loopy metric centuries this January. Once properly dressed your body doesn't sweat that much or at least you don't suffer of a discomfort of a wet wear. I did not carry any hydration container with me, but stopped by a local store for a doze of a mineral water a couple of times per ride.

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    Last year I got the chance to ride 380 miles from Bondville, Vermont to Fryeburg, Maine and back during a Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (February 28, 29 and March 1). Carried a sleeping bag, gore-tex tent and sleeping pad in addition to clothing and all the light systems I owned. Stopped about every 2 hours to eat somewhere and use the facilities. Mountain Dew became the beverage of choice while on the bike - it tasted the best, and I constantly munched on a sweetened cereal. First day 138 miles, second day 103 (spent 4 hours at a Bicycle Parts Distributor's open house - the reason for the ride), the third day 139 miles. I pretty much had the roads to myself after 8pm, the first night I road until 10:30 pm, the second til about 9:00 pm and 'cause I didn't get up early didn't get back home til 2 am on March 2. I took way too much layering clothing, wound up riding in just a thin wool long sleeve top and waterproof breathable Sierra Designs jacket with pit zips, and my usual Lake winter boots with wool socks, and Ibex wool shorts, Craft windblock briefs, Pace knee warmers and Pace tights. My hands are protected by CliMitts so some of the ride I used my summer gloves and some colder times I used Cannondale rain gloves. I'm currently looking for a very warm jacket with hood, and side zip pants, so that when I come to a scenic view or something I could more easily stop and not "chill out". I didn't stop much except at restaurants/stores because with my layering system it would take about 10 minutes to cloth up or down. The temps varied between 15F and 40F, mostly being in the 20Fto 35F range. I averaged 12.4 mph, about what I commute at, and my whole body felt fine, I just kept the cranks spinning comfortably and didn't worry about making any destination at a specific time. Slept out the first night and stayed in a motel the second night (shower, oh so sweet!). I used Vredestein smooth 700x32 tires, because it hadn't snowed in several days, but took my Kenda Kross Supremes just in case it snowed or the roads were really bad, the roads were fine. If I get the time this year and the weather cooperates again I may try it on a lighter (faster) bike not that I know I can handle 130 to 140 miles per day in the winter.
    my bike:http://hometown.aol.com/vtwjksr/myhomepage/index.html

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Got my second winter century for 2005 in today! The temps were hovering right around freezing but there was absolutely no wind, so it was quite nice out.

    I could have used studded tires for a couple very small sections of the route, but the rest was bare and dry ... there was, however, still quite a bit of snow in the ditches and the snowmobilers were roaring up and down.

  6. #6
    Friend of Jimmy K naisme's Avatar
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    Go Machka
    "I will remain the stranger who came from a faraway land." Lance Armstrong

    "The more you drive, the less intelligent you become." Miller "Repo Man"

  7. #7
    Senior Member cdale56's Avatar
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    Jan and Feb should be the worst months, right?

    You are not going to do them all on a MT bike are you?

    BTW: I find that I don't require as much water in the winter. I prehydrate excessively, and I keep little water bottles in my rear pockets to keep them from freezing, Smartwater brand bottled water makes bottles that fit into a bottle cage yet small enough to fit in a jersey pocket.

  8. #8
    Senior Member nick burns's Avatar
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    Good gravy, you guys (and gals) are a tough bunch. I ride in the winter, but find cold riding way too demanding to do a century. Hats off to ya all!

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdale56
    Jan and Feb should be the worst months, right?

    You are not going to do them all on a MT bike are you?

    BTW: I find that I don't require as much water in the winter. I prehydrate excessively, and I keep little water bottles in my rear pockets to keep them from freezing, Smartwater brand bottled water makes bottles that fit into a bottle cage yet small enough to fit in a jersey pocket.

    March, November, and December can be pretty bad too. The second coldest century century I've ever done was in March (2004), and the third coldest was in November (2003). The most snowy century I've ever done was in December (2003) - I had to get off and push through drifts a few times on that one.

    I will start doing my centuries on my road bicycle as soon as I can, but I have done quite a few centuries, and one 200K brevet on that mtn bike.

  10. #10
    Senior Member cdale56's Avatar
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    I don't you envy you folks up there: we had a spell down here where the temp did not get above 32 degress for 14 days. With a snow storm that dumped over a foot and a half of snow in there somewhere

    Fortunately, I have had decent weather and temps for the rides.

    Doubt if I could do 100 if the temp wasn't above 30 a least part of the ride.

  11. #11
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Got my March century in, and fortunately the roads were good enough so I could ride my road bicycle.

    When I started the ride it was -8C ... a little chilly ... my feet were freezing. It warmed up to above 0 by the midde of the ride, so that was good.

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    Dilettante zbicyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Got my March century in, and fortunately the roads were good enough so I could ride my road bicycle. When I started the ride it was -8C.
    I got my March century in today, also, and like you I'm trying to do a century a month this year (as I did in 2003).

    However, if it is below 40F (about 5C) I do a metric century instead. (It's my New Year's resolution, so I can set up whatever rules I want.)

    By the way, since you are doing a century a month, are you part of the UMCA program?
    http://www.ultracycling.com/standings/year-rounder.html

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zbicyclist
    I got my March century in today, also, and like you I'm trying to do a century a month this year (as I did in 2003).

    However, if it is below 40F (about 5C) I do a metric century instead. (It's my New Year's resolution, so I can set up whatever rules I want.)

    By the way, since you are doing a century a month, are you part of the UMCA program?
    http://www.ultracycling.com/standings/year-rounder.html

    No I'm doing the century a month challenge as a part of BigDogs: http://www.big-dogs.org/scripts/bdhome.asp

    If you're out there riding anyway ... why not do a full century in the cooler temps, it's not that bad!! [i](My coldest one was about -25F)

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    Dilettante zbicyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    If you're out there riding anyway ... why not do a full century in the cooler temps, it's not that bad!! [i](My coldest one was about -25F)
    -25F is impressive -- sounds like Alberta temperatures.
    I've done full centuries below freezing, but I'm slower at those temps, tend to take longer rests to warm up, there's more riding in the dark (which tends to slow me further), and I'm more likely to use the wider-tired hybrid or even studded tires if the road conditions are chancey. In winter, 100km/62 miles is fun, but I find 100 miles can be a slog. This is supposed to be fun, right?

    Still, I won't rule it out in some future year. If I do a century a month this year again under these rules, it might be good to try a full century per month at some future time.

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zbicyclist
    -25F is impressive -- sounds like Alberta temperatures.
    I've done full centuries below freezing, but I'm slower at those temps, tend to take longer rests to warm up, there's more riding in the dark (which tends to slow me further), and I'm more likely to use the wider-tired hybrid or even studded tires if the road conditions are chancey. In winter, 100km/62 miles is fun, but I find 100 miles can be a slog. This is supposed to be fun, right?

    Still, I won't rule it out in some future year. If I do a century a month this year again under these rules, it might be good to try a full century per month at some future time.

    Manitoba temps actually.

    And yes, that century was VERY slow - it took me 15 hours, including 8 half-hour stops to warm up and change clothes. I rode it on my 40-lb mtn bike with knobbies, and a good portion of it was in the dark. But I wanted to do a century-a-month and that was the last Saturday in February that year, so ....

  16. #16
    Senior Member cdale56's Avatar
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    Got my March century in yesterday, it was too cold; I had to wait until late morning for temps to get into the 20s and don't think it ever got over 32. It was clear and sunny. There was this wind again, nothing dramatic but just enough to chill me and slow down when facing into it.

    I took my road bike this time and stayed on main roads to try to do better speed. In Jan and Feb, to avoid wind, I went on rolling backroads with poor surfaces.

    Struggled a bit after mile 60 as I was exposed to the wind after that and on the last 25 miles was going right into it on the way home. Might have been dehydrated a little as water bottles were icy cold and nutritionally I just ate whatever he convenience stores had. I am new to Gels and the one I had just sat in my stomach.

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    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    How many of you ride centuries and other long rides during the winter in sub-freezing temps? Do you have any tips for those considering doing one?

    I just rode my January century (I'm attempting a century a month again this year) yesterday and two main tips I could offer are:

    1. Ride manageable loops to and from your home. What's manageable at -30C might be different from what's manageable at 0C, so you'll have to work that out.

    2. Drink lots when you've arrived at your rest stop (home). When that bottle is frozen solid, you're not going to get anything out of it!
    When it is below freezing I use stainless vacuum insulated bottles. There are a few different types on the market. I have at least four different kinds. You do loose capacity and they are heavier, but I like the trade off. I can fit them in a standard bottle cage.

    I have also found that a bottle in a pannier surrounded by loose clothing changes temperature very slowly. Works in the heat also. Not as well if the clothing is packed in tight.

  18. #18
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdale56
    Got my March century in yesterday, it was too cold; I had to wait until late morning for temps to get into the 20s and don't think it ever got over 32. It was clear and sunny. There was this wind again, nothing dramatic but just enough to chill me and slow down when facing into it.

    I took my road bike this time and stayed on main roads to try to do better speed. In Jan and Feb, to avoid wind, I went on rolling backroads with poor surfaces.

    Struggled a bit after mile 60 as I was exposed to the wind after that and on the last 25 miles was going right into it on the way home. Might have been dehydrated a little as water bottles were icy cold and nutritionally I just ate whatever he convenience stores had. I am new to Gels and the one I had just sat in my stomach.
    The Target store in Seekonk had some nice stainless vacuum insulated bottles a couple of years ago. I found a few different types on line too. I have one that is made for back packs and will not spill upside down.

    Where did you go?
    Last edited by 2manybikes; 03-11-05 at 08:17 PM. Reason: incomplete

  19. #19
    Senior Member cdale56's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes

    Where did you go?


    I headed north a bit from Ashaway and then back down Rte 2, then a couple of loops on Rte 1 and around coastal Charlestown/SK to avoid the wind, then down Rte 108 to Point Judith, up Rte 1A to Saunderstown and then back home via Wakefield and Shannock.

    Except in the morning, the bottles weren't really frozen enough to prevent drinking, just too cold to drink a lot or without freezing my throat. I stopped a few times at stop and gos for warm Gatorade. On the last miles I got an ice cream headache thing from drinking too cold water.

    I neglected to use my new system, which is to use smaller bottles (smart water makes nice bottles that are small enough but fit in cages) stuff them into my jersey pockets and keep them warm that way.

    It is snowing again, did you see the Projo article about RI yearly snowfall, this is the 5th highest snowfall since record keeping began in 1905?

    I have often craved warm tea or hot chocolate on rides and have thought of a thermos, perhaps velrco'd on to my rear rack?

  20. #20
    . . . rosebud . . . Diggy18's Avatar
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    All you guys who do centuries in the winter rock. One big reason I'm looking forward to spring is that I'll be able to go for more than a three hour ride, which is the longest I've had in the last few months.

    Below freezing I'm limited to about 2 hours.
    "There'll be time for complacency when I'm six feet under. "

  21. #21
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdale56
    I headed north a bit from Ashaway and then back down Rte 2, then a couple of loops on Rte 1 and around coastal Charlestown/SK to avoid the wind, then down Rte 108 to Point Judith, up Rte 1A to Saunderstown and then back home via Wakefield and Shannock.

    Except in the morning, the bottles weren't really frozen enough to prevent drinking, just too cold to drink a lot or without freezing my throat. I stopped a few times at stop and gos for warm Gatorade. On the last miles I got an ice cream headache thing from drinking too cold water.

    I neglected to use my new system, which is to use smaller bottles (smart water makes nice bottles that are small enough but fit in cages) stuff them into my jersey pockets and keep them warm that way.

    It is snowing again, did you see the Projo article about RI yearly snowfall, this is the 5th highest snowfall since record keeping began in 1905?

    I have often craved warm tea or hot chocolate on rides and have thought of a thermos, perhaps velrco'd on to my rear rack?
    What a nice ride!

    I heard about the snow thing, but now (Sunday), it has even snowed more! Maybe were up to 4th.

    A hot drink on a long cold ride is very luxurious! It's a real treat. If you ever decide to get a Thermos that fits in a standard bottle cage or a small one for the rack, I have researched this more than anyone ever should. I have many different types. If you are going a long way and want to keep the weight down, bring the thermos empty and fill it with a hot drink from a store part way into your ride. This will give you hot drinks at any number of hours away from the start.

  22. #22
    Senior Member cdale56's Avatar
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    42 today, a heat wave, I actually felt warm today and even took off the gloves at a rest stop.

    Was looking at a thermos thing at dunkin doughnuts, $$$, but would fit nicely on rear rack.

    But pretty soon, I'll be attaching a frozen solid ice water bottle on that rack and complaining about the hot and humid conditions?

  23. #23
    Dilettante zbicyclist's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=2manybikes]When it is below freezing I use stainless vacuum insulated bottles. QUOTE]

    The Polar insulated water bottles are mainly designed to keep liquids cool in the summer, but will work in the winter, also. If filled with hot tap water, you can get about 5 hours at 15-20 F before full freezing.

    http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename=

  24. #24
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=zbicyclist]
    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes
    When it is below freezing I use stainless vacuum insulated bottles. QUOTE]

    The Polar insulated water bottles are mainly designed to keep liquids cool in the summer, but will work in the winter, also. If filled with hot tap water, you can get about 5 hours at 15-20 F before full freezing.

    http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename=
    Yes that's true, but the vacuum insulated ones work so much better, I don't bother with any air insulated bottles any more when it's below freezing and I am going to be out all day. Also occasionally, a polar bottle will get liquid in between the two layers and get moldy too. The price is not much different either, maybe 6 or 8 bucks more for the stainless.
    The stainless bottles will still be all liquid after five hours. And you don't need to start with hot water.

  25. #25
    Dilettante zbicyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes
    If you ever decide to get a Thermos that fits in a standard bottle cage or a small one for the rack, I have researched this more than anyone ever should.
    OK, you convinced me you know more than I do about this topic (see exchange about Polar insulated bottle).

    How about a couple of hot recommendations for a standard bottle cage?

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