Sunday, 4 November 2012

Winter riding in the Rhein-Sieg-Kreiss

What to wear? What to wear... .

The temperatures around here will hover around the -10 degrees C mark, with the occasional foray towards - 20. It's the extremities that suffer the most... fingers and toes turn to icicles, especially with the wind chill added.

My solution, following a rather Heath Robinson trial-&-error methodology, has resulted in the following protocols for all sub-zero rides...

1. I need to purchase a pair of winter cycling shoes! The cooling vents on the Sidi (road) and Specialized (MTB & 'cross) are not fun in sub-zero climes. Still, i have yet to find a pair of suitable and inexpensive shoes though. Any suggestions?

Socks: the perfect combination, for me, seems to be a combination of Rapha and Sealskinz... One pair of Rapha merino socks under a pair of their superb winter sockets all wrapped, if the rain is falling, in Sealskinz. Wrap a pair of standard Specialized shoes (i find the Sidi's are now far too narrow!) around these and combine with whatever pair of winter shoe covers you have (Aldi for cheap efficiency) and away you go. I tried thermal footbeds but didn't like the feel.

2. Hands: unless it's raining I survive with a pair of merino icebreaker glove liners and a standard pair of winter riding gloves... Yep, Rapha again! I also have a pair from Bike Pure that are pretty good. Wind proof makes a real difference, especially when descending. In the rain, sigh, my method is to suffer in silence! Once wet... Icicle time, as amply demonstrated by he annual New Years Day 80 km ride - rain all the way, 1-2 degrees, sub zero with wind chill. Ice formed on the bike on a couple of descents! Fingers frozen digits of brake fumbling folly within minutes.

3. Head: I tend to stick with the Rapha winter hat under my Giro lid. I have yet to don the bandana like so many around here!

4. Legs: winter tights. If very cold then bib shorts and winter tights.

5. Body: Rapha merino base layers, sleeveless or short sleeved under the long sleeve. Merino wool is unbeatable. Long sleeve winter jersey and wind/rain proof jacket. Any more and I tend to Overheat (slow down if this happens) if I am not warm enough I ride harder until I've returned to the toasty comfort zone. I use a buff for my neck and face (ShuttVR make a great one for winter)

6. If the core freezes... Adjourn to the nearest cafe for cake and a steaming hot mug of coffee. In fact, do this anyway. 20-40 km out, cake & coffee, 20-40 km home.

Final tip... I tend to stick to the roads I am familiar with just in case there are any sneaky stretches of black ice lurking around a new corner.

Tis winter will see the return of the fixed-single (flip-flop) cyclocross bike. The Kona Major One.

Hope this helps the new winter rider... It's info I wish I had access too seven years ago!

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