Cold, cold Christmas
Living the jetset lifestyle which I do means that I am once again, writing this whilst crammed into a seat designed for an anorexic dwarf and failing to get to sleep. For those of you who hadn’t guessed, I’m on a plane on my way back to California after a great fortnight at home.
Obviously the biggest difference between being at home and being in SD is the weather, about 40 degrees colder! I left LA in a t shirt and returned home to find the roads covered in ice. I have been training but nothing like the hours that I put in whilst in the sunshine, it would be silly to try, I’d only make myself sick. I’m still big on goals and my goal while at home was to ride enough, catch up with buddies, keep my blood glucose under control, eat lots of my mum’s/granny’s delicious cooking and generally spend the festive period appreciating my fantastic family and friends. You need a solid social base to compete in any sport and investing time in your happiness and that of those surrounding you is just as important as developing a smoother pedal stroke or a higher w/kilo at lactate threshold.
My weapon of choice for riding in the winter and the rain is my Ellsworth roots cx bike. The increased clearances, mudguard mounts, little front chainrings higher BB make it great for riding on the roads around my house which might be best described as “sticky” or less euphemistically termed as “shite”. The nice thing about the ‘cross bike is that, on the days when it was icy, and I had a ride planned I could just pop on the knobbly tyred ‘cross wheels and the mtb pedals and go out and hit the trails. Frozen trails are hard, but grippy. Frozen roads are hard, and slippy. I found this out to my cost on the 23rd when I was out balsting around on the trails, I hit a paved section of maybe 20 meters in between 2 trails. It looked like it was clear. Safe to say it wasn’t and I affected some dancing on ice which would probably have seen me voted off the aforementioned reality TV show quicker than you can say “road rash”. After using my skin as a brake once, I decided to stick entirely to the trails until the ice cleared up. It might mean less training, it certainly means less specific training but you have to make the best of what you’ve got. I had a wicked time riding the singletrack which I used to ride when I first started out xc moutainbiking as a kid and the cool thing about the ‘cross bike is that it’s easy to nip out onto the road (if it’s not doing double duty as a skid pan) and move to another set of trails. Also the shorter wheelbase makes jumps slightly easier, but I didn’t tell you that.
I thought I might throw out some other tips on riding in the cold while I’m at it. Every year I see people riding training rides/races which they could have prepared for so much better, most of the time, they just end up packing it in early and drinking hot chocolate in a café instead of sipping champagne on a podium but there is always a chance someone could get sick, or hurt just through lack of knowledge/preparation so, in charachteristically random order here are my cold weather tips.
• Don’t ride your race bike, or wheels, or tyres. You need fat rubber (23mm or 25mm), a decent number of spokes, decent hub seals, 2 bottle cages and a good pump (I like framefit pumps for that old skool cool look)
• Bring spares: I like to cut the top off a bidon and put it in one bottle cage, in it I put a tube, a multi tool, tyre levers (changing a flat with frozen thumbs is bloody terrible) a tyre boot and a puncture repair kit
• Food – bring lots, eat lots you burn a LOT of calories staying warm. Test your stuff out as well, powerbars freeze solid (I have cut my mouth open quite badly in years past). Trek bars stay pretty chewable, so do sandwiches, sweets are good, cocoa orange nakd bars remain, bloody excellent.
• Drink-nobody said you have to put cold water in your bottles, I do green tea and honey. Try wrapping it in a sock and pouring boiling water on said sock before you go out, it stops the water freezing in the bottle, then even if the nozxzle freezes it’ll thaw out when you suck on it.
• Carry extra food and a phone – incase it all goes pete tong
• Clothing: dress like an onion; lots of layers, tough outer layers (hopefully nobody will cr as these layers get peeled off)
o I always start with a good base layer, sockguy makes a nice one with a free Tibet logo, make sure you get something breathable, tight and long sleeved.
o Mid layer – this can be more than one garment; if it’s cold I wear a tight microfleece jersey (like the demarchi contour plus) and a long sleeved thermal jersey (i.e. not a super thin long sleeve) but you can mix this up, some people wear 2 long sleeves, others wear a short sleeved jersey and a micro fleece. Generally if wearing a fleece place it directly on top of the base layer to aid wicking
o Then I go for an outer layer, occasionally this will be a gilet but most of the time I go with a thin jacket (like a rapha softshell) or, if it’s really cold I wear a proper coat, generally I prefer layers to wearing one thick coat and a baser layer though. Nalini makes a nice warm thermal coat for really cold days. Try to keep your outer layer as something with pockets, fumbling about with thick gloves on is a bit pants. You want it to be water resistant at least, even if it doesn’t rain, you get spay from the road.
o Gloves and socks – it’s all about the silk, seriously. Silk undergloves, silk socks, then I wear a pair of old specialized bg pro thermal socks and a good thick pair of neoprene overshoes to keep the spray off. On the hands its silk, then a pair of gloves, or, if it’s really cold my infamous “lobsterman” mitts. Diabetic folks need ot be careful, it’s all too common to have poor circulation when you’re diabetic and believe you me, cold hands with no blood supply can get really nasty really quickly.
Right, that’s far too much information to digest at one time, so stay warm, dry and happy. Have a great new year and make 2010 the year you commit to making a difference. None of this resolution crap mind, just look after yourself and other people.
Ps- im currently flying across America, it seems awfully large, I’m not so sure about this whole RAAM malarkey