Friday, September 14, 2012

Winter is Coming or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fall

I came to a realization this past week.  I dug out my warmers, after months of easy wardrobe decisions, of simply throwing bibs and a jersey.  It wasn’t easy.  As I sat, assembling my ensemble for my morning commute, I had to be honest with myself.  This season is in its last throws.  As Ned Stark aptly warned, brace yourselves. Winter is coming. 

You needn’t worry like our friends of Winterfell though.  Luckily, Philadelphia off seasons are manageable—if you have the right equipment.  Like commuting, cold season riding can be miserable or wonderful depending on your preparation.  This week I’ll give you five oft forgotten things to get you through this transition to cold weather. 

Training tires
If you are anything like me, you take your rubber very seriously.  First impressions are important.  Think of your tires, and how they are inflated as the roads first impression of your bike.  This importance is only amplified, as the weather turns wet and cold.  Having your tires and tire pressure geared up the off-season is a must. 

Buy a set of fat durable tires—if you don’t already have them.  Find the biggest ones you can fit into your bike without causing any rubbing issues.  Fat tires offer so many advantages during the fall and winter.  The higher volume allows you to run lower pressures without worrying about pinch flats when the weather turns wet.  Go for durability as well.  Changing a flat in the cold is literally painful. 

Once you’ve made your rubber selection, it’s time to dial in that air pressure.  Topeak makes a digital pressure gauge that we love in the shop.  It works for both Schrader and Presta valves, and allows you to dial into your exact pressure with a nifty release button and tune feature.  This is an absolute must have for cross and cold weather MTBers, where a pound of pressure can make such a difference.  Don’t forget to dial in your road bike pressure either.  There are some serious comfort and performance advantages hidden in those tires.  

Embrocation is a gem that many people still overlook.  Nothing says cold weather to me more than the smell of embrocation.  I know I’ve said it here before and I will surely say it again, but this stuff can really make or break your comfort on a ride.  It stimulates blood flow in your legs, which will not simply help keep you warm, but offer performance advantages as well.  It does wonders when riding in wet and grimy weather.  Always apply after chamois cream.  Trust me. 

Gloves seem like a go big or go home kind of accessory, but they’re not.  In addition to a deep winter glove, you need something for the intermediate temperatures.   Hot sweaty hands in gloves that are too heavy mars a ride just as much as cold hands. 
There are plenty of manufactures around that offer “tweener” gloves for the fall.  Check out Capo’s thinner neoprene glove for wet conditions or a simple wool liner for brisk fall morning rides. 

Cannondale Scalpel 29'r.  The hottest MTB around.
If you’re still not convinced that riding on the road in cold weather is realistic for you, then don’t.  Ride in the woods!  Climb on a new MTB or cross bike and hit up the Wissahickon.  The woods always feel quite a bit warmer than the road on account of their being no wind.  Throwing a leg over a fat tire bike also does wonders for end of season burnout—if you suffer from that kind of thing.  Aside from all these advantages, it’s just fun as hell. 

Don’t waste another fall and winter inside on a trainer.  Embrace the seasons and get out there.  Because like it or not…


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