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-By Guillermo Barron, Red Deer, Canada
I’ve been cycle commuting, winter and summer, for over twenty years in Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton, and Victoria. So I thought I’d post a few thoughts on how to winter cycle. It’s intimidating to many, but easier than it looks.
- Start early. If you continue your cycling from summer into the fall, the transition to winter cycling won’t seem so abrupt.
- You don’t need complicated or expensive clothing. A good rain jacket and rain pants built for cycling will be adequate down to – 15 or so. When you’re cycling, you generate lots of heat, so wind protection is more helpful than bulky insulation. Rain gear will do the job nicely. And a sweater or vest will give you another five degrees when needed. At -25 or so, I switch to a lightly insulated Cloudveil Circuit jacket. Clothing with reflective patches is amazingly visible at night and always a wise choice.
- You can protect the extremities incrementally as it gets colder. Start with bare hands, gloves, gauntlet gloves, mitts, and finally mitts with extra liners. An ear warmer under the helmet gives way to a thin toque and finally a cowl. I’ve experimented with ski goggles and neoprene face masks for full facial protection at -30 or so, but I’ve found that my glasses get fogged, so I’ve given up on them. YMMV. I wear Keen winter boots below zero; any comparable brand will do.
- Make sure your bike is winterized. Sometimes cables freeze or your rear hub will fail to engage, leaving you in permanent “coast” mode. Have a competent bike mechanic overhaul your bike if needed. Sometimes bringing the bike inside during the day or overnight will thaw frozen components.
- You’ll have to pay extra attention to lubrication, especially when warm weather drives sand and slush into your chain. I don’t think anything is harder on a chain than sand. You may have to lubricate weekly or even daily. If you don’t, you’ll find your chain lengthening due to wear. And the lengthened chain will then damage your sprockets, leading to costly replacement. Trust, this procrastinator knows.
- Get good lights. Not all LEDs are created equal. I like the Light and Motion Urban 300. It’s solidly made, waterproof, and very bright at 300 lumens. It quickly mounts on either helmet or handlebars. I tried out the helmet mount and was an instant convert. When you turn your head, the light turns at the same time. No more waiting for the front wheel to catch up. It’s also rechargeable via micro-USB, which means you don’t have to buy replacement batteries and you don’t have to lug around a charger brick. Just make sure you have the appropriate USB cable at your home and office computers. $20 LEDs may look like a bargain, but they may not last and will cost more in the long run when you factor in the cost of batteries. And having a big bright beam really makes night riding enjoyable. I’ve found myself getting up earlier and earlier to beat the sunrise. If you’re serious about night riding, on road or off, a good LED light is an expensive, but worthwhile, investment. The local cycling club has discovered that the new lights have made night mountain biking a real opportunity. And, on road, driver are more likely to see you. But comparison shopping is wise.
- Standard mountain bike tires will be suitable for most riders and you can buy studded mountain bike tires if you need them. I ride a hybrid (skinny tires are faster in the summer) and have been running on studded winter cyclocross tires for the last couple of years. They’re only about 35 mm wide, but surprisingly effective. The studs have worn to the level of the rubber so I don’t know if they really provide much benefit. There’s lots of options out there if you’re shopping for good winter tires. Studded tires are heavy and slow so I am happy to take them off when the last of ice disappears. If you only want to use one studded tire, put it up front. On ice and snow, control is more important than acceleration.
- Ride conservatively. Avoid sudden turns or stops on slippery patches. On road, you’ll often be forced to cycle in car tire ruts and this makes you a target for aggressive drivers. But at least they can see you. If this isn’t working, and the sides of roads are covered with ice or snow, switch to the sidewalk. But in this case, be wary when crossing streets. Car drivers aren’t as attentive to users who aren’t in the middle of the road.
- Watch the weather, and dress appropriately. But don’t believe their “wind chill” reports. The last few days, the wind chill here in Red Deer is said to have hovered around -40 or lower. At these temperatures, exposed flesh is supposed to freeze in five or ten minutes. But I cycle a constant 15 or 20 km/hr (which is, after all, equivalent to riding into a 15 or 20 km/hr wind) for half an hour. And no frozen skin. So don’t be spooked by these overly protective and possibly alarmist warnings. But as a general rule, it’s too cold to cycle when teenagers start wearing toques.
- Some people think that all it takes to get into cycling is the cost of the bike. But you may also have to invest in a pack or courier bag (way more practical in my opinion), a good U-lock, extra clothing, lights, a helmet, and regular maintenance. This may seem like a tidy investment, but the costs of commuting by car are far higher. Car commuting may seem “faster”, but if you consider the hundreds of dollars per month you’ll likely save (car payments, depreciation, gas, parking, insurance, registration, maintenance, etc.) and the number of hours you’d have to work to pay the differential in cost, you may end up losing time instead. I consider my bike expenses trivial compared to the cost of a second car. And remember the very real benefits to the environment and your mental and physical health. Every minute you spend cycling, you’re getting stronger; every minute you spend driving (or blogging!) you’re getting weaker.
This quirky film educates young drivers to try to share the road with bicyclists. We follow the growth of Lisa from a pig-tailed bicyclist to a teen driver who now must tolerate unpredictable bike-riders. GM likes bikes too!
It’s narrated by Jim Stringer – who did much of the music for Centron Films in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Cool article posted over at Decline Magazine online about how your muscles are being used during each pedal revolution.
One of the most persistent objections I hear from riders who have never tried flats is that without being attached to the pedals you can not use your hamstrings properly which forces you to rely too much on the quads the power the pedal stroke. By not being able to curl the knee joint during the upstroke of the pedal stroke you create muscular imbalances and tire out the quads faster, or at least that is what these riders say. However, this understanding of which muscles are used and how they are used during a pedal stroke is completely wrong and potentially dangerous over the long run.
When I ask why someone thinks that the muscles are used this way during the pedal stroke I am invariably led to some variation of this picture/ chart:
According to this theoretical model of muscles used during the pedal stroke the hamstrings are used maximally from 8 o’clock to 10 o’clock position while the glutes and quads are responsible for the downstroke part of the pedal stroke. This paints a completely false picture of the situation and leads a lot riders to assume that the hamstrings are only there to flex the knee joint on the upstroke, which would be impossible to do if you weren’t attached to the pedals. This, of course, would mean that it would be impossible to optimally pedal without clipless pedals, which is where the faulty logic stems from.
While injured last year filming a video, you can get a glimpse of the limits he is pushing with a video demonstrating that he is back and at it.
12 Hrs at Night Prescott – has been dubbed the Mudfest for 2012 – with a Facebook post a day prior to the event foreshadowing what was to come, “One day to go, and we have been blasted by monsoons. The course barely resembles the course that was here 3 days ago…..
Well, if nothing else, we promise you an adventure!” The monsoons ensued through the duration of the event, leaving the course to be ridden by a hardCORE selection of 21 team – all of which are still trying to clean up their bikes. Sharon Marzonie posted a comment on their facebook page, “The promise of an adventure came true!! The 1st lap tripped me out. Still have my bike covered in 2 in. of mud. Only the handle bars are still clean.” Congrats to the promoters for still making the event work and everybody that stuck it out!!!
Also this week in Colorado was the fabulous 10th annual Moonlight Classic where over 4,000 riders swarmed the streets of Denver for a moonlight ride across the city. Liz Sugar Boese was on hand with Light & Motion bike lights to support riders. There was a pajama party, costume contests, games, DJ & dancing, etc. An activity to promote urban cycling and community – that was fun for the whole family. It’s not every day you get to hop on your bike for a midnight ride with 4,000+ other riders in your community.
On other news, the Tour de France is winding down with Britain’s Bradley Wiggins retaining the Jersey on the 17th stage this Thursday – while Spain’s Alejandro Valverde won the 17th stage of the Tour. After the last hard ascent, Wiggins maintained his overall lead and said he sensed “that it was pretty much over” with just three racing days left. He’s trying to become the first Briton to win cycling’s biggest race. Wiggins faces one last test — the individual time trial, his specialty — on Saturday.
And then for some BAD NEWS, gut gets his Salsa Fargo stolen while on tour in Canada, having pedaled over 5,000 kilometers. Really?? Who does that?? Security cameras caught the wretched human in the act and police are looking for him so the guy can continue his bike tour.
On a more positive note, the Wydaho Rendezvous is coming up and Tori will be there with the Demo Van with a full assortment of our lights to demo and we are sponsoring the poker ride. Check out their Facebook page for updates and more information.
This past weekend we headed to the Hammerstein 24 hour mountain bike race held near the Laguna Seca Motorway in Monterey. Racing the trails around Fort Ord is a treat and all those who compete at Sea Otter Classics have experienced the fun these trails offer. What awaited us was a fast 10.5 mile course with 1,500 feet of climbing per lap. Ryan and Jen VanGorder along with Mike Kohn entered the 3 person category while I raced solo.
No matter how in shape you are for a 24 hour, you’re always going to suffer at one point or another. These races are simply too long and will beat you up. The Hammerstein 24 was no exception.
We all had to race hard to the bitter end but our effort paid off as I won the solo category and the team won the 3 person category. A lot of energy was expanded and sore muscles abound but it was well worth it.
The victory did not come easily though. After more than 4 hours of racing a mere 5 minutes separated the top 3 solo racers. I only took over the lead on lap 5 with the others close behind. Taking this lead at this point meant that the top guys were well matched but, for me, it was a good sign since I hadn’t pushed the pace too much. Like most of the others, I was trying to pace myself for the long race. There is no point in leading early on if you’re too tired to hold it to the end. I was there to race for 24 hours and needed to pace myself accordingly.
That said, I knew that waiting until the night to make a stronger move was risky as you never know how well you’ll feel after the sun sets so I opted to push the pace a little once I took the lead to see if the others would follow. If they followed, it either meant that they were as strong or that they were pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone and wouldn’t last. Of course, the risk for me was just that, that I would push myself too much too soon. Luckily, the increase in pace started to payoff as no one followed and I gradually increased my lead every lap as the daylight hours passed. By the time the night arrived, I had opened a half hour lead on 2nd place and friend Kyle Peter of team Tecnu Extreme.
Despite my lead, I knew that Kyle knew had to suffer through the night with the best in the world. As an elite adventure racer, he’s been there before and a single night without sleep was nothing for him. As it turned out, he didn’t disappoint as he mounted a strong comeback through the night and ate into my lead for 5 consecutive laps. When the light of day spread over the race course, a mere 13 minutes separated us. During the night, I tried to pace myself and held a relative steady pace but not particularly fast so Kyle was able to capitalize with an impressive show of force. However, I knew that when the sun came up, I would have some more faster laps in me. To cut into my lead, he’d have to ride even faster. As I had hoped, I was able to pick up the pace and, for 3 laps, I cut my lap times by 4-6 minutes compared to night time.
My faster laps worked and I started to increase my lead again. On lap 20, I came upon Kyle who looked quite worked. He told me he had had a bad case of diarrhea and was absolutely worked. I felt for him as I’ve been there before. But in usual adventure racing style, he soldier on and finished not only lap 20 but also 21 to consolidate his 2nd place. Steve Gallo finished 3rd, congrats.
After passing Kyle, my motivation instantly disappeared and I started riding really slowly and all sorts of pains flared up. The pains I was pushing away mentally were now flooding my brain pain center. That’s when I realized that the course had really worked me with all these short power climbs and bumpy descends. Even the fun downhills sent painful vibrations throughout my sore body. Let’s be clear, this was not a technical course and it was super fun to race but after more than 20 hours, the subtle challenges of the course amplify and the course slowly becomes more difficult as laps go by. It’s the nature of 24 hour racing. So, I spent the last 2 laps (21 and 22) whinning to myself but when I crossed the start/finish line for the last time, I was all smiles and felt immense satisfaction. It’s an incredible rush to push yourself for so long.
Shortly after crossing the finishline, I found out that the others had also won the 3 person category. We couldn’t ask for a better weekend of racing!
At the Hammerstein 24, I had the biggest crew ever and they were absolutely superb in helping me throughout the night. Jackie Petro was my crew captain and she ran the show and took care of all my nutrition needs. Max Flaxman was my mechanic and kept my bike humming all race long (not an easy feet in a 24 hour race) among all the other things he did. And my dedicated friends who raced the 8 hour race but still spent the entire night helping , Paul Chung and Jack Baginski (8hr team), and Jay Harbison and Ben Morris (8 hr solo). Thank you so much gang. Without you, I won’t have pulled this off. You’re an integral part of my success. Merci!