The Hardest Ride of the Year

The Hardest Ride of the Year

With the new year, our cycling season has started again. Training now will get us in shape for the wonderful rides we’ve planned for later this year. During my “winter rest,” I have ridden very little for eight weeks. So these first “long, slow” rides always are hard for me.
It helps to ride with friends. Last weekend, we met at 6 a.m. for our first ride of the season. I enjoyed seeing faces I hadn’t seen in a month or two.
It was a gorgeous morning, and by the time we dove into the Skykomish valley, the sky above the Cascades was turning orange. All of us were looking forward to riding up there, high in the mountains, in a few months’ time.
At least for me, there also was some trepidation. Every little hill on this relatively flat ride felt hard, so it was difficult to imagine climbing mountain passes! But that is how it is every year. My body needs to rest over the winter, so it can regain its former fitness. Trying to maintain the same fitness year-round is counterproductive, and you get slower and slower with every year. My goal each year is to reach peak fitness for a few big rides, and that means that I must be out of shape in January.
We were a bit concerned about ice on this chilly morning, so we selected a route with fewer hills. There is no way to avoid descending into the Skykomish valley, so we went slowly. Fortunately, the road was clear of ice on this twisting descent.
In the valley, we hit fog, and it was cold! Fortunately, we were dressed for the occasion, so it wasn’t a problem. This early on a Sunday morning, traffic was light.
As we rode through Snohomish, I noticed that icicles had formed on Mark’s beard.
Mark laughed and pointed out that the front of my wool jersey (one of four layers I was wearing) was covered with hoar frost. As moisture was transferred to the outside, it froze on the surface of the outermost jersey, only to be pushed further by additional moisture coming from the inside. This created little columns of ice. Inside all those layers, I was perfectly warm, so warm in fact, that I had taken off my shell mittens. We joked that the freezing water released heat that helped keep me warm. (The effect is probably too small to make a difference, considering how much air goes by our bodies as we ride.)
The sun came out, and the scenery was beautiful, but I was having a hard time keeping up. Whether I had been more successful in my quest to get out of shape, or whether I just had a bad day, I lost contact with the rear wheels in front. My friends were kind enough to wait for me time and again.
It may be hard to imagine that a flat ride at 15 mph is harder than the Raid Pyrénéen or the Volcano High Pass Super Randonnée, but it’s true. We rest during the winter and suffer during these early-season rides in part because they make the big rides so wonderful. It’s an amazing feeling when your body is in shape, and you can soar up mountain passes like an eagle playing in the thermal updraft, while the valley recedes in the haze below.
On this ride, the lunch stop was welcomed by all. The stops are longer on these early rides, which partially makes up for the time on the bike being harder. I wasn’t surprised when I discovered that my water bottle was almost frozen solid, despite containing apple juice (1/3 with 2/3 water), which has a lower freezing point than pure water.
It was warmer when we left the café. The fog had dissipated, and the icy conditions of the morning seemed like a distant memory. Some of us started taking off layers. As we left the Skykomish valley, I was focusing on trying to keep up with the others, when I heard Ryan at the front saying “Woah! Ice!” But it was too late for Ryan and me, as we both lost grip and fell. The entire road was covered with slick black ice. We were lucky, and no damage was done. We noticed some car tracks that led off the road, indicating we weren’t the first ones to get in trouble here. We walked up the hill (photo above) until we realized that we could ride on the grassy side, where traction was better.
We returned home well before dinner, having ridden a little over 100 miles. It was a great start to the season, and most of all, I look forward to the fact that from now on, the rides will be getting easier.

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Comments (65)

  • Richard

    What an inspiring post. I’m new to your blog and am finding stimulation and inspiration in every post, in this one especially so.
    As an aside, I would like to add that I enjoy your mastery of written language.
    Here’s to many happy rides!

    January 9, 2014 at 3:17 am
  • xtiannaitx

    I noticed you’re not wearing a shell but rather 4 layers. Does windchill not bother you? I ask because every winter I fuss with this problem–one most cyclists confront, I am sure. No matter what I wear I get overheated: my Goretex shell, my RUSA windvest, etc. all leave me clammy and then cold on descents. I’m always curious what others do. Not the topic of the post to be sure but it caught my interest. On topic: I’ll head out for a long ride this weekend.

    January 9, 2014 at 5:29 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I don’t like shells for the reasons you mention: Moisture control is a problem. I find that with enough layers, the wind chill does not penetrate all the way to my skin.
      I do use a shell when 1) I am descending long mountain passes, because wind chill is a factor and 2) when it is pouring very, very hard. During normal riding or light-to-moderate rain, I produce enough body heat that I stay dry and warm on the inside, even if my outer layer is very wet – or even frozen.
      However, much of this depends on how much heat your body radiates. If you radiate less heat, either because you aren’t pedaling as hard or because your body naturally is more efficient, simply layering up with wool may not work as well.

      January 9, 2014 at 5:55 am
    • Harald

      For me, the wool layering approach doesn’t work here in Montreal. I’ve tried it a couple times this winter, but below freezing the wool just doesn’t cut it anymore. I could imagine that a wool outer layer that includes windproof fabric in the front and on the arms would improve things but I haven’t tried.

      January 9, 2014 at 10:49 am
    • Matthew J

      Not cheap if that is an issue, but I’ve found Schoeller fabric jackets a very good solution.
      The material is fairly impervious to wind and rain (A long soaking rain will eventually seep through. I have a compact nylon cape for that.) yet breathes well enough I do not overheat.
      I have a very light Schoeller fabric jacket from Search and State. Mission Workshop makes some as well.

      January 10, 2014 at 5:56 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        The Gore Windstopper jacket I have also is very breathable. However, even with those fabrics, I still get clammy inside unless it’s very, very cold.

        January 10, 2014 at 7:06 am
      • xtiannaitx

        I have wondered about Gore’s Windstopper singlet. I’ve read a bit about it and it sounds promising as the most minimal type of wind protection.
        I last rode on Sunday: like today, it was, and is, about 34 and raining hard. For me, staying even marginally comfortable in those conditions is tough for more than 1.5 hours. Sunny and 34: the Gore singlet with wool layers on top might work well. I’ve been disappointed that the RUSA vest does not breathe for me as well as I would like.

        January 10, 2014 at 8:40 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          One key issue is to reduce the spray from the bike. Fenders are a must, but you really need a front fender that has enough coverage so no spray reaches your feet, and also a fender where water doesn’t drip off the side. I wrote about this in this post.
          The Gore clothing works very well. Most of us here use their jackets. However, you also can use a sheet of newspaper like racers used to do in the old days. The advantage is that once you don’t need it any longer, you can throw it into the garbage.

          January 10, 2014 at 8:48 am
      • xtiannaitx

        Indeed: newspaper works well. In fact, cheap solutions like that keep me from spending $60! 34 and rainy–maybe I’ll just dart out for an hour.

        January 10, 2014 at 9:21 am
      • xtiannaitx

        Many thanks Frank. This is all very helpful. I had been completely unaware of these tops–they might be just what I need.

        January 12, 2014 at 2:49 pm
    • Frank

      I can recommend Brynje mesh baselayers against the clammy feel in winter. It is available in wool as well. IMO far superior to other baselayers in winter, because the sweat never is soaked up by the baselayer, instead it moves to the next layer where it doesn’t touch you anymore, just like the ice on Jan’s jersey.
      Then as next layer I usually have some wool jersey followed by a light Pertex windproof.
      All this creates a nice climate to cycle in. When it’s very cold I add a light Primaloft jacket.

      January 10, 2014 at 8:59 am
      • xtiannaitx

        Many thanks for this suggestion! Any place one can buy this stuff in the US? Do you use the wool/polypro blend or the polypro?

        January 10, 2014 at 12:14 pm
      • Frank

        @xtiannaitx: I have two polypro Brynjes (“Super Thermo”, T-shirt and long sleeve) and a merino wool T-shirt in the same mesh size called “Classic Original”. The wool version is more resistant to odour and has better anti-static behaviour, but the polypro version is pretty good as well. The Super Thermo is much cheaper, dries faster and seems more robust, but for long randonneuring rides I would prefer the “Classic Original” in 80 % merino.
        I live in Germany, where the standard Super Thermos are rather easy to find in cycling shops or vendors specialiced in bushcraft/hunting gear. I had to order the the wool Brynje in the UK ( There are some alternatives to Brynje which might be easier to find in America. like Wiggys. I also have a nice mesh thingy by the Italian manufacturer SportfulI, but it has no arms at all, so it’s not suitable for winter. I would recommend to avoid fine mesh base layers as Rapha or Craft or Brynje itself offer. I have one by Craft, which is nice, but doesn’t offer the kind of breathability a real wide fishnet will deliver.
        For your enjoyment, here’s a nice piece of fishnet history, including pictures of Sir Edmund Hillary donning fishnet bayelayers at Mt Everest:

        January 11, 2014 at 7:44 am
  • Paul Ahart

    Nice story and inspirational (and lovely) photos of a winter ride.
    With this low-precipitation winter we’re having in the Northwest this year, I’ve been able to cycle my 10 miles to work nearly every day. One day last week, with temps about +1°C, both my tires did a bit of a “snake dance” on the road surface. Fortunately, no crash.
    Wearing layers, mostly wool, is certainly the way to go, with windproof/waterproof mitten shells over full-finger gloves. An oversized helmet for winter, allowing head and a fleece/wool hat inside is also smart.
    There is something special about braving the cold, the short period of daylight, and riding one’s bike while nearly everyone else is bundled in their car and not even considering riding a bike until mid-summer.
    Thanks for sharing a nice experience.

    January 9, 2014 at 9:26 am
  • Kenetic Sam

    I’ve had the good fortune of being sent to San Diego to work this week! I’ve picked up a rental bike and have been heading out every evening for a 2-3 hour ride in the dark. 60 degrees sure feels nice in January! I won’t start riding regularly until March, so maybe this pre-season boost will give me a head start on the season this year.

    January 9, 2014 at 10:02 am
  • Doug

    This is also the time of year where I have to remind myself that riding a bike isn’t always this hard! The daily commute is especially draggy.
    This winter is particularly tough for me, as I have a new baby at home and I haven’t been able to get out for many rides over twenty miles in a few months.

    January 9, 2014 at 10:56 am
  • Andrea

    Are you posting the ride Also in Strava?
    Bye from Italy

    January 9, 2014 at 11:14 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I have no electronics on my bike… My goal is to challenge myself, enjoy time with friends and admire the scenery.

      January 9, 2014 at 11:29 am
      • Michael

        Not even a cycle computer?
        Keeping track of mileage at all this year?

        January 11, 2014 at 11:00 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I gave up on cycle computers before Paris-Brest-Paris in 2007. I had finished assembling my bike and was about to install my computer. I suddenly realized that I didn’t need it, and that it would be a distraction. I was much better off listening to my body about when to go fast and when to slow down. I left it off, rode my “best” PBP ever, and haven’t used one since.
          I do keep track of mileage, mostly so I know when to change my chain. I have a pretty good feel for how fast we are going (you notice which gears you use), so it’s not that hard to estimate the mileage with reasonable accuracy. On Sunday, Mark had a computer (he mounts his on the fork leg, so he doesn’t stare at it while riding)… at the half-way point, we had gone a little over 50 miles, so I know the entire ride was a little over 100.

          January 12, 2014 at 7:16 am
    • Matthew J

      Never bothered with computers either. Unless I am on tour in an unfamiliar area, I pretty much know how far I am riding.
      If anything, having an exact figure might lead me to ride less if I met some arbitrary goal.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:31 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        I think a computer, like a heart rate monitor, can be a good tool for a while. With experience, you know your body enough that you can tell the numbers without even looking at the readout.

        January 13, 2014 at 7:09 am
  • Bill Gobie

    It is astonishing how hard it is to ride after being off the bike for a while. I ramped down my riding in November and December and then got deathly sick with a cold. At least I lost weight! Yesterday I rode for the first time in almost four weeks. I knew I should take it easy; 20 miles out realized I had no choice. Getting home was quite a slog.
    To follow up on Paul’s comment, I enjoyed the cold dry weather we had this fall. I dug out my Seal Skinz and lo! they actually work in dry weather. Bar Mitts are great, too. I only had to resort to long-fingered gloves twice.

    January 9, 2014 at 1:21 pm
  • B. Carfree

    Your wonderful post reminded me of my first ride of the new year many decades ago. For some unknown reason, my wife and I didn’t ride throughout January or February. We woke up and realized it was March and our local double century ride was coming up in just over two months. Our county was laid out in a one mile grid and we lived on Road 99. We headed out for what we thought would be a normal ride of 35-50 miles. Instead, we got to Road 95 and turned around for home.
    Ever since then, whenever one of us is having trouble getting into the groove on a ride, the other will say, “Road 95?” The answer dictates the ride length.

    January 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm
  • Gary

    100 miles for the season’s first ride?! More than a couple hours riding in winter temps here in the northeast is completely draining for me. I tend to ignore the mileage and head home at the 3 hour mark to defrost. Great post and very encouraging.

    January 9, 2014 at 6:17 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The course is mostly flat, and with friends, time passes quickly.

      January 9, 2014 at 6:41 pm
    • Bruce Hodson

      I 2nd what Jan says. Having a ride partner facilitates longer rides, at least for me.
      I live in the Great Lakes region. Northeast Ohio specifically. It got too snowy for safe road conditions sometime before Christmas and has only relented this past weekend. Alas I was tasked with getting my son back to school. Riding outside will have to wait until late winter thaw.

      January 13, 2014 at 8:16 am
  • MikeBike

    Being new to training and long distance cycling I was surprised at my fitness – or extreme lack there of- after taking a month of the bike over the holidays. I was glad to hear that I’m not the only one in the situation Jan! Living in SoCal I decided to take some time off the bike for my body even thought the weather here is pretty unremarkable. Just want to say thank you for inspiring me to try longish rides. And although I enjoy the post of your fun riding adventures, I appreciate the post of the struggle along the way.

    January 9, 2014 at 6:40 pm
  • Julie jacobs

    I’m with Gary on this one, 100 miles even on flat is still a long ride for beginning the season. This just tells me that you’re in better shape than you lead us to believe. You’re an inspiration to us all. Good job! And thanks for the post

    January 10, 2014 at 7:06 am
    • marmotte27

      Not the first time.

      January 10, 2014 at 10:43 pm
  • David Wolfe

    Good Morning;
    The question I have is regarding your reference to a slow ride as 15 mph. During the season, or at least once your fitness is back up, what would your average speed be for this ride? I’m usually averaging that on my commute (when I’m in shape), but at the beginning of the year when I’ve had some time off, I’m significantly slower.

    January 10, 2014 at 7:35 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I think part of the issue was that our pace was a bit fast for me, at this time of year. We didn’t average 15 mph all ride, but the first 50 miles were at that pace. In the season, the pace depends very much on the conditions. On a flat 100-mile ride with no wind, I’d hope to average about 30 km/h (18.5 mph). Commuting, your average always is lower, since you have to stop for so many lights, stop signs, etc.

      January 10, 2014 at 7:38 am
  • Duppie

    Great motivational post. When you say you are off the bike for two months, does that include local transportation oriented cycling as well, or do you just lay-off your long-distance riding?

    January 10, 2014 at 7:40 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I always ride my bike to get around, so that doesn’t change. I just don’t go out for long rides, nor do I train (intervals, etc.). I continue to go to the gym to work on muscle imbalances that cycling can cause. So it’s not like I’ve been sitting in a chair for two months. But I haven’t done anything to increase my speed on a bike.

      January 10, 2014 at 8:21 am
      • Michael

        What muscle imbalances does cycling cause?
        What can one do to counter this?
        May be an informative article for us to read.

        January 11, 2014 at 11:06 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Muscle imbalances mostly occur in the thigh area, and they tend to pull your knee cap out of alignment. I struggled with this for many years. Stretching and physical therapy helped temporarily, but every year, as I ramped up the mileage, I was afraid that my knees might flare up again.
          A strength training program in the gym has helped stabilize the knee and strengthen the other muscles, and since I started that, I’ve had very few problems. However, I am no expert on this subject, so I suggest that if you experience problems to seek expert advice.

          January 12, 2014 at 7:19 am
  • Ben

    “My body needs to rest over the winter, so it can regain its former fitness. Trying to maintain the same fitness year-round is counterproductive, and you get slower and slower with every year.” – Are there any scientific studies that support this assertion? It seems to be the conventional wisdom, but I always felt like it might be more mental than physiological and I’ve never seen any scientific confirmation. It also seems like the trend for competitive racers has been toward shorter winter rests to minimize fitness loss between seasons. Maybe this is one of those beliefs, like narrow tires being faster, that could use some scientific scrutiny?

    January 10, 2014 at 9:04 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I may be psychological. I know that despite the first ride of the year having been hard, I am eager to get back on the bike. That is very important for the enjoyment of cycling.
      Generally speaking, fitness improves through cycles of rest and recovery… Does this mean you need a winter rest? I don’t know, but I have never seen anybody carry excellent form through the year without a time off the bike.

      January 10, 2014 at 11:05 am
      • cyclosomatic

        You put in enough miles for a 4-8 week rest to make sense, Jan. In fact, my coach friend I discussed this with a while ago, prescribed no saddle time. I do about 12,000km per year, which I suspect is significantly less than you, but a lot at race intensities (racing and training). He suggested 4 weeks off would be good for me, to let small issues (I didn’t have any big ones) recover, like, say, micro-tears in muscles, or even persistent issues in the saddle-sore zone. Then there’s the whole chemical adaptation side, where the science folks say you need to take a break from intensity to allow your body to once again become sensitive to chemical adaptations that stem from interval training and the like. I ended up doing what I usually do from Dec 1 to Dec 31, riding a bit for fun off-road, and a fair bit of easy riding inside on the trainer to keep moving, burn off treats, and keep my immune system going.
        Isn’t it great to have friends to go do rides like this with? I sure appreciate it when others share my enthusiasm for doing cold rides! Racing in April is our common motivator, love that. Also great to see so many constructive comments about dealing with the cold. My tip on that front is to use a wind-blocking vest whenever possible, preferably over wool layers. I find this works so well, it amazes me every time. I also use a Brynje fishnet base layer, which works really well indeed for keeping moisture off the skin.
        Happy riding!

        January 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I don’t ride that much. I guess about 12,000 km is about my annual distance, plus or minus a little. The most I ever rode was almost 20,000 km, years ago, when I was working on my Ph.D. and racing. That was rather exceptional.

          January 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm
  • David Pearce

    I guess if there is icing possible, it’s too early in the year for me to ride. But, speaking of falling, as you did, you said “no harm done”. Here’s my quandary: I have a scissor style kickstand currently attached to my just finished bike, and much to my chagrin, the bike has toppled over twice, the latest time when a gust of wind caught it (and its front bag, I guess). So now my vintage Brooks Finesse saddle has rubbed marks on the drive side corner, the drive side Ergopower lever is twisted to the left, and I’m disgusted. When it falls, the bike comes to rest on the front brake and the saddle corner, and the drive side pedal. The rear derailleur and fender do not contact the ground at all.
    I plan to replace the kickstand with one of those simple, aluminum single-leg kickstands that you can buy in any bike store, because the scissor stand is too heavy. But as it stands now, the scissor stand elevates the rear wheel about 4″ on my smallest size VO frame, and the stand does not look easily modifiable to make the center of gravity lower. Do you have any comments about kickstands, about the stability of single leg kickstands, which I guess are more stable on a bicycle, vs. scissor type stands? I like kickstands, and my frame has a kickstand plate, and I like the convenience. Your thoughts?

    January 10, 2014 at 9:38 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      My experience with kickstands is that the bike will fall over. So I prefer to lay it down gently, rather than have it crash to the ground. Or I lean it against a wall. I grew up with kickstands (German bikes all have them), but when the kickstand plate of my Peugeot 10-speed broke off, I never got around to having it welded back on, and after a while, I realized I didn’t miss it.

      January 10, 2014 at 11:07 am
  • Garth

    Jan, I like your strategy of only wearing wool. I’ve been working on warmth solutions for below 25 degrees and disappointed in the soft shells. I’d thought a thick, tight-knit wool would be a good outer layer but have not seen anything in a bicycle-suitable cut. So, a larger jersey and even more layers…

    January 10, 2014 at 10:51 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We are lucky that we rarely get below 25° F.

      January 10, 2014 at 11:08 am
      • Garth

        Curses… : )

        January 10, 2014 at 2:37 pm
    • Chris

      Garth, maybe you have experience with vests, maybe not……but that is my answer to winter riding. And our winder riding is often way below 25F. I will often commute in a Cabela’s down vest with a poly base layer and then 1-3 layers of wool depending on the temperature. I like the idea of having my arm pits exposed to the climate. I feel like it gives me good ventilation and body temperature control, while keeping my core warm.

      January 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm
  • Bubba

    What bike did you ride, Jan? Aero levers == not the Rene Herse. Is it your other bike, or another test bike?

    January 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It’s a test bike. I like it a lot, and so I’ve been riding it more than most test bikes. You’ll read about it in the Spring 2014 issue.

      January 10, 2014 at 2:35 pm
  • petergsimmons

    I would love to be as “out of shape” as you and be able to ride 100 miles. That was to be my goal for this year after training for the next 6 months or so!

    January 10, 2014 at 4:02 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      One nice thing about cycling is that your base fitness doesn’t go away. Every year, you get better at it. When I started cycling seriously, even 100 km (62 miles) seemed a huge distance. Now 100 miles isn’t a big deal any longer – albeit I have to admit I was tired the next day. You’ll experience the same as you train and make progress.

      January 10, 2014 at 4:24 pm
      • Zbyszek Kolendo

        ‘One nice thing about cycling is that your base fitness doesn’t go away.’
        It’s so true and so well put!

        January 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm
  • David Pearce

    How on Earth did your water bottle freeze? It didn’t have ice-cubes in it (right?). Did wind chill play a part in the freezing? Does wind chill make the real temperature go down? Your schedule is an interesting one. I think if the weather was able to freeze my water bottle, I would pretty sure not be riding! But thanks for a different point of view.

    January 10, 2014 at 5:55 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The temperature when we left was supposedly 31°, but that was at Boeing Field, where it was foggy. A little further north, where we rode, it was clear and probably a bit colder. After a few hours of being blown by sub-freezing air, even a full water bottle will be mostly frozen.
      I used to wear a Camelbak in cold weather (the liquid stayed warm), but below freezing, the tube froze almost immediately. I tried to keep it open by drinking, but I couldn’t keep up, and after 20 minutes, the tube was frozen. Once could carry a bottle in the jersey pocket, but I just drink during stops instead.

      January 10, 2014 at 6:21 pm
      • Batat

        I have used Camellback even in 14F (cross country skiing). Just fill tube with air, after drinking. An yes, first sips are cold. And yes vacuum bottle is better. 🙂

        January 11, 2014 at 2:43 pm
    • Bill Gobie

      According to the www, apple juice freezes at 29 F. Since Jan dilutes it with two parts of water the freezing point won’t be much different from 32 F.
      Wind chill does not make the real temperature go down. Wind chill attempts to quantify the effect of wind on bare skin. Air adjacent to your skin warms up, creating what is called a thermal boundary layer that insulates you from the cold air. If the wind blows that warmed layer away, the cold air sucks heat from your skin. The wind chill temperature is the temperature that still air would have to be in order to draw heat from your skin at the same rate as cold wind. Put technically, wind thins the thermal boundary layer, increasing the rate of heat transfer. When a water bottle is chilled by cold wind, the bottle won’t cool below the actual air temperature, but it will cool faster due to the wind.
      Ice cubes! I can’t believe how often helpful store clerks ask if I want ice in the winter!

      January 11, 2014 at 2:33 pm
  • Andre Dusablon

    I’m working on both an R-12 and P-12. So far I’ve been out in a couple sub 20 degree days, a couple mid 30 degree days (one of which rained and I had a really hard time with the cold because I didn’t have rain pants) and a blowing rainstorm at the coast yesterday. I’m finding the cold very demoralizing. I feel weak, slow and old. I’m getting closer with the layering but this is turning out to be quite the challenge. It does help to see how the veterans operate. Thanks.

    January 10, 2014 at 6:01 pm
  • charles telfot

    I concur with the positive comments on this post. I have enjoyed and benefitted from your writing and presentations for years, JH. However, your nonchalance over the crappy riding conditions is alarming. Low speed falls can end as tragically as high speed yard sales. Safety involves many factors, and you guys ignored an important one.

    January 11, 2014 at 1:02 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It wasn’t nonchalance. We carefully thought about our course, considering that it might be icy. We stayed off hills and most of our riding was on a trail, away from car traffic. We still were caught out unexpectedly, going at low speed up a hill. However, the danger in that situation was about the same as it was when I fell ice-skating a few months ago. (I hurt myself more ice-skating than during this fall on my bike, the first in a very long time.) I edited the post to reflect this.

      January 11, 2014 at 1:40 pm
  • marmotte27

    I would like to read a longer article in BQ on the functioning of wool clothing, where you have a long experience, what to chose, how to layer for the different riding conditions through the year. If I understand rightly, you don’t’ have the feeling of wet clothing on your skin? How come? I sometimes wear a might merino-wool under-vest when I go ski-touring, and at the summit the under-vest is completely soaked with sweat, so I have to change it. It would be the same on the bike in winter.

    January 12, 2014 at 12:58 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It would be interesting to study how wool works. Yes, my innermost layers are dry even when it’s raining out. I hang up my outer jersey to dry when I get home (I rarely wear a shell), but the inner layers are mostly dry. Obviously, there must a be a moisture transfer outward, since I do sweat.

      January 12, 2014 at 4:44 pm
      • Bill Gobie

        If I recall correctly, Jan, you wear multiple Woolistic jerseys rather than a dedicated base layer garment. Maybe this makes the difference for you. My merino base layers always get sweaty. Woolistic’s fabric has a coarser weave than fine merino garments, so perhaps the coarser fabric functions a little bit like fishnet underwear.
        Fishnet base layers sound very interesting. I’ve ordered a top from Wiggy’s. Brynje unfortunately charges 50 euros shipping to the US.

        January 12, 2014 at 5:17 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I tend to wear jerseys as underlayers if the day is going to be warm enough that I will take off the outer layers. In the winter, I often wear dedicated baselayers, like the Rapha one we tested in the Winter issue of Bicycle Quarterly, and I still don’t get sweaty. I wonder what could be different compared to others’ experiences…

          January 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm
    • Alex

      As Jan suggests above, I think the ‘wetness’ of the base layer one wears has more to do with the last, outer layer one wears than the material of the base layer(s) (I’ll assume nobody here is wearing cotton).
      5 hour dry MTB ride in -7 C weather w/ 150g wool baselayer ls, a 240g wool 2nd layer ls, and Rapha’s city rain jacket (doesn’t breathe: don’t try this at home): two wool layers absolutely drenched/heavy with sweat at the middle of the ride (i sweat a lot), only the inner one dried on the radiator during a break. But I was never cold and didn’t feel the wetness while riding.
      6 hour dry cross ride in +7 C weather with 150g wool base ss and 150 wool 2nd layer ls, and Gore’s latest Active Shell GoreTex jacket: still wet inside, but considerably less, and also no discomfort. It’s clear that membrane garments have trouble getting moisture out in cold weather at least.
      As both days were dry, I think that replacing my outer layer with a truly breathable garment would help considerably. I also find that if you wear a moisture blocking outer layer such as I described, you should stay away from thick wool. If nothing’s stopping the moisture from getting out, you can dress as Jan does with thicker layers.

      January 15, 2014 at 4:01 pm
  • Michael

    Looks like some light salt residue on the roads?
    Do you do any bike cleaning after the rides when it is just light like this or not?

    January 13, 2014 at 1:01 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I try not to ride in slush, but overall, good fenders and a front mudflap keep the bike clean of salt dust that remains on the roads.

      January 13, 2014 at 7:08 am

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