This is a throw-back article from the Fall, but it definitely applies to our "Spring" as well. As I said for the sake of this article, I break cold weather rides down into one of three categories:
1. You are fully prepared for the weather. Toasty. Hot, even! This ride is completely enjoyable. There you are, laughing at all the cars as they roll by. "Ha-ha-ha. I'm having the time of my toasty life!"
2. You are not quite prepared for a weather change. You experience a little bit of pain, but you're still amused. You feel quite proud of yourself for escaping an even worser fate, but happy that you dared riding outside at ALL!! This category poses little chance of death.
3. You are FULLY unprepared. Almost ridiculously so. Whether it's a rapid dip in the temperature or an onslaught of moisture, it doesn't really matter. At this point your limbs are stiff, you are on the verge of falling asleep on your bike and falling into a snow bank. This ride is quite reckless. Harrowing with a high death-factor. You definitely have frost bite. And you will show your friends and family members your fingers and toes later asking, "That's frost bite, right? RIGHT?!"
After getting sunburned at Sunday's downright balmy Zombie Cross, I was almost pleased to wake up to Halloween-like weather on Monday. I couldn't WAIT, in fact, to get out for a ride. I was envisioning crossing the train tracks in Golden next to Coors like Ichabod Crane crossing the bridge in Sleepy Hollow. Little did I know that I was in for a Category 2 ride.
Here's how my afternoon went down:
- 1 p.m. I heckle a friend over facebook that said "it was too cold to ride." "That's stupid. it's not even cold. And even if it was, I love riding in the cold."
- 1:45 p.m. I start out on a ride. Whistling. Happy as a clam.
- 1:50 p.m. It begins to rain.
- 2:00 p.m. I start whimpering.
- 2:05 p.m. I bunch my hands up into fists inside my gloves like little penguin flippers. I ride resting my flippers on top of my bars. This of course meant that I couldn't shift, but no matter.
- 2:10-3:10 I had a wet, soggy, cold category 2 ride. Not quite prepared, but at least Death was not sucking my wheel.
Luckily I had several key items:
- Booties. I never underestimate how cold my feet can get.
- A fleecy-lined skinsuit (I fancy the ones from Castelli. I'm not joking. It's way better than seventeen layers if I'm doing a short cold ride. That plus my...
- Cold weather jacket (also Castelli). High neck, long arms. Toasty.
- A hat. A good hat over my ears, and fuzzy on my head (Castelli wins again). I got it at a Pete Webber/Tim Johnson Cx camp last summer. Evvvvvvveryone else was choosing free socks. Suckers. I knew what was coming. Thank you, Pete.
- A neck gator. My favorite is my blue and white snowflake patterned Pandana from Paceline Products. It's stretchy. I can pull it up and down. I can breathe through it. It doesn't strangle me if the weather does happen to get a bit warmer.
- Mad Alchemy embrocation, Uber-secret coffee blend. I put this on my knees and toes and I should have put it on my fingers.
That last part. My fingers. My cold, dead fingers. Years of poor glove choices have caused my fingers to cry out in pain at any temps below 55 degrees. They even got cold and went a creepy-white at Water World this summer, causing my kids and husband to shriek back in horror while waiting in line.
I've yet to find the perfect set of gloves, mittens, bar muffler, etc. I'm on the verge though, with a double-up system. Castelli Donna Windstopper gloves under some Mountain Hardwear ski mittens. This seems to do the trick, but ONLY if I have them with me. On this particular stage 3 category ride I did not.
Now, I'd love a quick and dirty version of your category 3 ride. Totally unprepared. Near death. What did you do? How did you survive? What one piece of gear do you swear by so you will never repeat a category 3 ride ever again? And now if you'll excuse me, I must go wrap my tree branch fingers around a hot cup of coffee. I should also probably take off that Pandana.