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Winter Touring

Old 12-05-22, 06:32 PM
  #1  
Frenzen
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Winter Touring

I have not toured during normal temperatures but debating/considering doing a tour in the next few weeks. I am unsure how safe it would be to bike from Montreal to Bangor. I do have a touring bike and studded tires. However, I am unsure if stealth camping is an option with a bivy and quilt which neither do I own at the moment but hotel/motel might be a wiser/cheaper choice. I would be passing through Sherbrooke and Coburn Gore entry point. Any suggestions or recommendations will be taken seriously, my only concern is how remote the areas would be lack of water and the cold will not help.
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Old 12-05-22, 07:09 PM
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Bangor Maine? Why?
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Old 12-05-22, 08:02 PM
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You might not need studded tires, the roads chosen might be plowed on a regular basis. You wont have good shoulders, so taking the lane is a problem. Not a hugley populated region, so maybe not an issue. Fewer people driving, the route is not inundated with tourists in winter, unless you are passing one of the ski areas in Maine.

Theres a fair amount of National Forest land in western Maine you probably could find to boondock camp in, less in other areas, no clue as to Quebec. I do not think the Maine state parks allow usage in winter for stealth camping as most do not have pit toilets. Some are open, check the website. There are not a lot of Maine state parks with campgrounds, is my experience.

Water and supplies are at any general stores, which are plentiful. You will not find water in parks, they shut all that down mid October, same with toilets.

You have much less daylight to travel in, sunset is 4:20 or so, then hanging around camp till you feel like sleeping. Its cold, likely in the 20's or potentially much colder if they get a cold snap, could easily get below zero in the Maine mountains, not so much as you near the coast.

Last edited by Steve B.; 12-05-22 at 09:43 PM.
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Old 12-05-22, 08:38 PM
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Studded tires are very slow, only use them if you have to. Or, if marginal but not terrible conditions, consider studded only on the front.

Water, if there is snow you melt that with your liquid fuel stove. If no snow, you may be out of luck.

Days are very short, riding in the dark would be a hazard.

Batteries for virtually anything run down very fast in cold weather.

Last I heard, you are not supposed to charge Li Ion batteries if below freezing.

The difference between a 3 season tent and a 4 season tent is that a 4 season tent will stay up with several inches of snow falling on it. And a 4 season tent has less ventilation to be a bit warmer.

If you need a friend or family to come rescue you, make sure they would know in advance your route so they can find you and make sure that you will know their phone number when you might need it. And make sure your phone battery is good enough for a call with a very cold battery.

If you accidently allow your water bottle to freeze, it may stay frozen for days.

In my youth I did a lot of winter camping, but I have never considered a bike tour in winter.
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Old 12-05-22, 11:11 PM
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If you have never winter camped before I recommend to try it with a vehicle close by in case it is too much. Once you get a handle on winter camping, then you can attempt it.
Otherwise just credit card it and enjoy a warm bed and shower everyday. And as mentioned, be sure to have a plan with friends and family aware of your plan
Also consider weight when packing for cold weather
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Old 12-05-22, 11:49 PM
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I have never winter camped but I do have experience camping and there is always an option of just tarp camping too. I also do bike 90% of the time in the dark in the city but I know the conditions are not the same. Also the distance to bike from my house is roughly to destination is 450-500km which is 279-300 miles, but biking in the cold is a totally a different game. I have never biked such long distance before but I guess I should just buy and test my gear around and see how I will do and if I can do it. It is possible that the temperatures could vary between 9 and 20 F at night. I will probably need to look into sort of a gps thing or get a few apple airtags.
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Old 12-06-22, 06:12 AM
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You need a real 4 season tent for winter camping. I suggest before you even think about adding a bike into the mix you go for a two night hike and camp. I lived in Quebec for 20 years and you go camping and it can hit -20. You can die. Myself I would do a cross country skiing tour, not a bike tour.
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Old 12-06-22, 07:55 AM
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Not sure if a trip between Montreal and Bangor in early winter is an ideal choice for a first tour. I guess it all depends on your motivation.
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Old 12-06-22, 08:23 AM
  #9  
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This couple has done a lot of bike touring, some of which was in cold weather.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8b...rhv1FL3hdP2VSA

This gal used to do some pretty wild bike tours, this trip log describes one of her colder weather trips. She has done some other cold weather trips too.
https://cyclingdutchgirl.com/2015/04...ster-delights/

But before you look at some of those videos or trip logs, keep in mind that they had quite of bit of touring experience before trying that in cold weather.

When I do a 20 mile (~30 km) bike ride in winter for exercise (usually a couple times a month), I try to only do that when the temperature is above 20 (F) or above minus 7 (C). And then I am no more than an hour from home and I usually bring three pair of gloves so that I can adjust as I get warmed up and start to sweat.

You do not want sweat drenched clothing that can freeze. There have been times when I might have two finger tips that are numb while other parts of the same hand are sweating. But, you live in Quebec, so I am not saying anything that you do not already know, as you probably cross country skied or snow shoed under similar conditions.

I bought a sleeping bag several decades ago that was rated at minus 40 degrees, and I can say from experience that it was only good for about minus 10 (F) or about minus 23 (C). You really do not want to find out the hard way that your gear was not up to the task if you are far from help.

Good luck with your decision.
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Old 12-06-22, 09:12 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by Frenzen View Post
It is possible that the temperatures could vary between 9 and 20 F at night.
Weatherspark suggests colder temperatures along your route:

Sherbrooke has an average low temperature of 10F at end of the year - https://weatherspark.com/m/26459/12/...rbrooke-Canada. 50% of the time it is between -7F and +16F. The rest of the time it is either colder or warmer.

Kingfield has an average low temperature of 8F. 50% of the time is it between -1F and +16F. https://weatherspark.com/m/26994/12/...-United-States The 110 miles between Sherbrooke and Kingfield has higher elevations than either and some hilly terrain on the Maine side of the border.

If you plan for 90th percentile I would be ready for -15F temperatures overnight. I would not do that with only a bivy, quilt and a tarp. I would also plan that there is a likelihood that daytime temperatures do not go above freezing.
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Old 12-06-22, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Frenzen View Post
there is always an option of just tarp camping too. I.
Tarp camping in winter sucks. You are exposed to the wind and get no benefit of heat trapped inside an enclosed tent. That's an experience thing about winter camping that maybe is best discovered when you are not 80 miles from home and the temp went much lower than the weather report called for.
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Old 12-06-22, 10:10 AM
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Don't experiment in Winter.
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Old 12-06-22, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Frenzen View Post
I have not toured during normal temperatures but debating/considering doing a tour in the next few weeks. I am unsure how safe it would be to bike from Montreal to Bangor. I do have a touring bike and studded tires. However, I am unsure if stealth camping is an option with a bivy and quilt which neither do I own at the moment but hotel/motel might be a wiser/cheaper choice. I would be passing through Sherbrooke and Coburn Gore entry point. Any suggestions or recommendations will be taken seriously, my only concern is how remote the areas would be lack of water and the cold will not help.
We do NOT want to hear that Frenzen got frozen.

Youd have to experiment at home in your yard under worst case conditions just to see what gear youd need. And no cheating by heading inside to warm up. If youve never winter camped, its colder that youd think.

I assume you already know youre comfortable just with the riding. If not you need to experiment with poor conditions rides from home too.
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Old 12-06-22, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by dgodave View Post
...
I assume you already know youre comfortable just with the riding. If not you need to experiment with poor conditions rides from home too.
Really good point. Even shallow fresh snow can really slow you down a lot. The snow in the photo is not deep at all but it probably cut my speed by 30 percent or more. (I do not tour in winter, the pannier was my gym bag.)



I assume you already know that studded tires are great on bare ice, but if you have more than about a half inch of snow the studs might not actually contact the snow, instead the studs sit on top of packed snow where they are useless. So, they are not the perfect winter solution.




One more thing, if it is colder than about 25 (F) or about minus 5 (C), I use hiking boots or insulated boots instead of bike shoes. And if you have to step in some freezing cold water at some point, you might be happy that you were wearing water proof socks. If you are winter camping and your only footwear is freezing cold, you better bug out before your toes freeze.

Some bike helmets do not work that well with ski goggles, you would find that ski goggles are the preferred eyewear option in winter. Even when it is as warm as 40 or 50 (F) or 5 to 10 (C), I wear a rain cover on my helmet to cover the vents. Make sure that your stocking cap is thin enough that your helmet still fits on your head with the stocking cap.
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Old 12-06-22, 01:43 PM
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You won't have any lack of water because you can melt snow for water at any time using your stove.

There is nothing particularly difficult about winter camping, but this may not be the best occasion for you to be learning. A quilt is not going to cut it. You need a real sleeping bag. I would suggest you use a real tent instead of a bivy if this is your first time winter camping. I also suggest you avoid a 4 season tent. For such a long trip the condensation in a 4 season tent will seriously wreck you.

As for the cycling part: if the roads are plowed, any studded tires will do. If the roads are not plowed, you'll need some extra fat studded tires which may be challenging to fit depending on what bike you have. You will be very slow. Expect to take ten days. I really do not enjoy snow cycling.

Winter touring is much more enjoyable in a dry climate. About -10C here:



Last edited by Yan; 12-06-22 at 01:58 PM.
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Old 12-06-22, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Frenzen View Post
[...] hotel/motel might be a wiser/cheaper choice [than camping]
I would not camp along the way. Probably no campground with services anyway, and few places where to stealth camp. Plan for short days (7h30-3h30) and zero days in the event of significant snowfall.

Originally Posted by Frenzen View Post
[...] my only concern is how remote the areas would be lack of water and the cold will not help.
I've done Qc > Portland a couple of years ago, early summer. I do not recall long stretches w/o basic services. You can probably streetview the entire route with Google Maps. Useful to plan for accommodation / restaurants / groceries and such.

Please update. Interesting project
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Old 12-06-22, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Frenzen View Post
I have not toured during normal temperatures but debating/considering doing a tour in the next few weeks. I am unsure how safe it would be to bike from Montreal to Bangor. I do have a touring bike and studded tires. However, I am unsure if stealth camping is an option with a bivy and quilt which neither do I own at the moment but hotel/motel might be a wiser/cheaper choice. I would be passing through Sherbrooke and Coburn Gore entry point. Any suggestions or recommendations will be taken seriously, my only concern is how remote the areas would be lack of water and the cold will not help.
With your lack of experience touring even in normal temperatures, and your proposed choice of gear, the tour you're considering would not be safe at all.

Even a light snowfall and a light wind can cause impassable snow drifts for a bicycle. It doesn't take a lot of snow to make bicycling VERY HARD.

As another poster mentioned, you do NOT want to sweat on a tour in winter. SWEAT KILLS! You need to dress in layers so that you can quickly vent excess heat and just as quickly close up again to preserve the remaining heat. Frostbite of the toes and/or fingers can happen very quickly if you do not have the proper footwear and hand covers. Sweating of the feet or hands can surprisingly quickly saturate the interior of boots, glove, or mittens. You ant quality socks on your feet and perhaps more than one extra pair. Things can take a long time to dry in winter.

Please do a tour near home before attempting such a long first tour in winter.

Cheers
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Old 12-06-22, 03:12 PM
  #18  
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if You can afford a motel for every night of your ride then that would be reasonable to try. Motel to maintain your wet clothes and to rewarm your body. I would skip the camping for this time. It will lighten your load tremendously and that will avail extra space in your bags for warm clothes, for heavier insulated bottles with hot drinks. Since it gets dark around 4PM you should plan your miles accordingly to that time to be checking in and drying your clothes to be ready for the next day.

headmask, pogies/bar mitts, gloves, wool layers with goretext pants and jacket on top. Studded tires may save your ass when going up and down the hill in Coburn Gore and Grafton Notch region in the morning when there is a slick frozen film on the road surface.
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Old 12-06-22, 03:28 PM
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Perhaps to reassure those fearing a catastrophic scenario: the OP plans to ride Montreal > Sherbrooke at first. There are plenty of small towns/services
. Certainly enough to (in)validate his plan. The OP should just keep in mind that Northern Maine does NOT have as many opportunities to get a coffee or spend the night. Perhaps plan a bailout (bus Sherbrooke - Montreal). Limocar takes bikes, so all is well
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Old 12-06-22, 03:51 PM
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Old 12-06-22, 04:17 PM
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Great idea, if you wait till Spring. 😉 I'm with the guys who say try some Winter camping closer to home first. That should tell you if it's something you want to pursue further or not, with better gear or not.

I had a scary experience in New Mexico before, that taught me to think things through better. I got rained on good, then it snowed, around 6-8" worth. 😲 In the morning, I was alive, but colder than I'd ever been before. With frozen water bottles and food bags. 😵

I probably should have died, but somehow made myself get moving, pushing my bike. I got really lucky, and a young guy in a pickup gave me a ride. 😎

The point is, once you die, you don't get to try it again differently, the game is OVER. Don't cheat yourself out of the rest of your life.
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Old 12-07-22, 05:32 AM
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I know this donít help but I miss Stan.

So here I lay in my 23rd year
How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now
It's been 6 years since we sailed away
And I just made Halifax yesterday
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Old 12-07-22, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Chuck Naill View Post
Don't experiment in Winter.
I would say the exact opposite, for the same reason. Experiment a lot, with a safety net! until you know you are competent to pull it off. The short days, slower travel, heavier load, and more involved camp set up may necessitate drastically revised route planning. A lot of (all?) camp grounds will be closed, as well as a lot of motels. Given that temperature goes down as altitude goes up, I might plan a ride in river valleys to stay lower, and flatter. In your situation, I would start slowly and with a lot of provision for bailing out. Perhaps car camping in a Provincial park and day trips on the bike from the campsite just as a sort of proof of concept.
All that being said, it sounds like it could be a neat adventure.
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Old 12-07-22, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Prowler View Post
I know this donít help but I miss Stan.

So here I lay in my 23rd year
How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now
It's been 6 years since we sailed away
And I just made Halifax yesterday
I as well. Great song
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Old 12-07-22, 06:39 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Pratt View Post
might plan a ride in river valleys to stay lower, and flatter. In your situation, I would start slowly and with a lot of provision for bailing out. .
Give a look at Google maps. There's really only 2 roads east of the Sherbrooke area towards the center of Maine and the Rt 2 corridor, routes 26 & 27. Both are pretty remote. Its easily a 30-40 mile stretch between any towns in Canada and those in Maine with hotels. The only town in the region with hotels I can recall would be Rangeley, which is kind of out of the way. Not even sure any hotels are open in winter, maybe for the snowmobile crowd. Possibly lodging by the Sugarloaf ski center.
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