Screw Hibernation! Getting Ready for Winter Riding

I have one big goal this winter – to ride outside at least once a week no matter what Mother Nature throws my way.  3 inches of snow… 6 degrees Fahrenheit… I want to be ready!  I’m sure that I’ll still spend too much time on my spin bike in the basement, but I think the outside rides will be good for me.  They’ll toughen me up and make me appreciate the warmer weather next spring.

Here are a few of the things that I’ve changed lately.  Some of them have to with preparing for the cold weather, while others have to do with off-season training or upgrades to my bike.  What are you doing to get ready for winter?  Do you plan to ride inside or outside?  What gear are you most excited about?  Let me know in the comment section or the Quickdirt Facebook page.

Bar Mitts

Bar Mitts on mountain bike

My first ride with Bar Mitts on my bike.

I bought these last spring at Breakaway Cycling in Delaware, Ohio and I’ve been waiting patiently to use them.  Like many riders, I have a hard time keeping my hands from going numb.  I’ve tried thick gloves and hand warmers and I’ve still struggled.  A lot of my friends have used Bar Mitts and said good things about them, so I felt I had nothing to lose – except for the money spent on them of course. 🙂

Last weekend, the temperature was 23 degrees Fahrenheit when I started riding.  My hands were a little cold for a few minutes, but warmed up much quicker and eventually got warm and snuggly.  I was so happy with the performance of the Bar Mitts that I plan to recommend them to all my riding buddies.  The neoprene shield not only blocks wind, but is water proof too, so that should help on cold, rainy days on the road too.

New Gloves

Bontrager RXL Waterproof Softshell Gloves

Bontrager RXL Waterproof Softshell Gloves

When I bought the Bar Mitts, I also picked up some warm gloves.  This winter I’ll be sporting the Bontrager RXL Waterproof Softshell Glove.  Between the Bar Mitts and these, I am hoping I can ride comfortably in single-digit temperatures.  I’m curious though, do you have a special pair of gloves that you prefer?  Has anyone tried the Old Man Winter gloves from Bontrager?  I was drooling over them in a catalogue last night.

Old Man Winter (OMW) Shoes

Old Man Winter (OMW) boots from Bontrager

Old Man Winter (OMW) boots from Bontrager

I have not had a chance to use these yet, but I am really excited to try them.  I just need to get some extra cleats for my pedals.  My friends Dan Fausey and Joe Worboy both used Old Man Winter (OMW) boots last year for fat bike racing in the very cold state of Michigan and were very happy with their performance.  It was their recommendations that caused me to pull the trigger on these bad boys.  If I can keep my feet warm on January rides it will be a miracle.  Can’t wait to find out!

They have a durable waterproof outer shell and a warm insulated liner that comes out of the boot.

Click here to learn more about them on Breakaway’s website.

Lauf Trail Racer 29 Fork

Lauf Trail Racer 29 fork on Trek Superfly SS

The new Lauf Trail Racer 29 suspension fork has been a lot of fun to test out.

After riding a whole season with zero suspension, it’s been fun testing this Lauf Fork Trail Racer 29.  Overall, I’ve been really enjoying it.  It takes the edge off of the ride compared to my rigid fork and I think that my traction in gnarly rooted or rocky sections is better.  They also sell the fact that the fork is supposed to be maintenance free, which is a big selling point to me since I don’t like to spend a lot of time working on my bike.  Compared to a more traditional suspension fork, you aren’t going to get quite as plush a feel, but this Lauf fork is so light that I feel like it’s worth the compromise.

One interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that there is a little bit of left to right movement in the wheel.  I haven’t noticed that this is  a problem necessarily, but it is something I hadn’t expected.  It makes sense though since the suspension on the left and right side of the wheel are working independently of each other.

I am going to push this fork to its limits this winter, so I’m sure you will hear more from me on this significant change to my ride.

Click hear to read more reviews, see some specs and browse prices for the Lauf Trail Racer 29 suspension fork.

Garmin Edge Explore 820

Garmin Edge Explore 820

Picking up my Garmin Edge Explore 820 from Breakaway Cycling

Long story short, a faulty outlet in my home fried my Garmin Edge 800 – literally.  The wire and USB jack were actually melted.  I’m lucky it didn’t start a house fire.  But, the good news is that it gave me an excuse to upgrade.  Yeah!

I’ve been curious about trying the 820 out.  It seemed like it had a lot of cool upgrades over the 800.  I’ve only used it twice so I can’t fully give my opinion yet.  My initial thought is that it’s going to take a bit to get used to it.  The menu system is very different.  I like the quality of the image on the screen.  It’s very easy to read.  Being able to upload my rides through Bluetooth has been an amazing new feature.

One downside…  the touchscreen doesn’t work with my winter gloves.  I could work the 800 with any pair of thick winter gloves.  So, since I’m a data junkie who likes to flip screens on my ride, that is a little annoying.  I need to dig a little deeper and see if there is a work around for this.

Overall though, it will be fun to play with this new toy over the winter and I can’t wait to test some of the navigational features.

Click here to learn more about the Garmin Edge Explore 820.

32:16 Gear Ratio

32:16 gear ratio on my singlespeed this winter.

32:16 gear ratio on my singlespeed this winter.

This isn’t an upgrade, just a tweak.  I’m planning on running a “harder” 2:1 gear ratio at least until the first of the year.  As a matter of experimentation, I want to see if it makes me feel any stronger after I train with it.  I know it will help me be faster on the flats, but will it burn me out on the harder climbs?  Will it hurt my acceleration out of turns and over the crests of hills?  Can I still keep up with the riders on my team group rides?  These are all questions I hope to answer over the next couple of months before the 2017 race season starts.

I will probably switch it back to 32:18 for the Winter Fat Bike Series (skinny tire division) at Chestnut Ridge.  Last winter, in this same series, bike control and acceleration were bigger issues than climbing speed or power.  I felt like I had more control of my bike in smaller gears – this is when I still had gears on my bike!  I can’t wait to see how the singlespeed handles in the snow and mud that make this race series so challenging for skinny-tired riders.

Ready to Go!

James Knott mountain bikes in November

I’m really looking forward to training this winter. This might be the most prepared that I’ve been at this point in the year.

After the final race of the year on October 8th, I was not in a good spot mentally.  I was burnt out.  I had originally planned on racing cyclocross this fall, I even bought the license, but after a few post-race rides I decided I couldn’t do it.  I had been racing pretty consistently since January and it was starting to wear me down despite the year end success that I finished the season with.  I needed some time off the race course to regain my positive attitude.

I took most of October and the beginning of November very easy and I can now say that I feel like I’m getting my mojo back. In fact, I’m going to race cyclocross at Infirmary Mound, which is sponsored by the Breakaway Quickdirt Trek race team, and I’m genuinely pumped for it!  (Click here to learn more about the race and to register.  Hope to see you there!)

Now, armed with some new gear, I am truly excited about riding this winter and getting in shape for 2017.  I have ratcheted down the intensity and I’m focused on some longer rides that maintain my endurance training.  Let the fun begin!

Joe Worboy and Mike Whaley at Alum Creek State Park

Are we having fun yet?