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January 28, 2009
While all of us here in Australia are dealing with +40C and doing everything we can to beat the heat, our North American friends are in the thick of winter. We’re talking REAL WINTER – not the little blip of +15C weather you Aussies complain about from June – August. You have no idea how crazy you need to be to ride in the Canadian winters. I know – I used to be one of them. This is why I moved to Australia. Here’s a few TIPS from Jeff Bolstad on how to make riding in the winter a bit more comfortable.
I hate winter. I hate being cold; I hate wearing 10 layers; and I hate finessing around icy corners. I’ve even discovered, in the last few days of trying, that I hate writing about it. Everything comes out as this horrible, hackneyed Canadiana. So what if we go for road rides when it’s -15C outside? One should not make virtue of necessity.
So instead, I’ve decided to write about some things that have helped me hate winter less.
Chemical Toe Warmers
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve come back from a long early season ride thinking everything is fine only to jump in the shower and scream as the hot water hits my long numb and now distressingly purple feet, I’d go buy a couple bottles of water bottle antifreeze. That all changed last winter when I discovered the chemical toe warmers popular with construction workers and skiers. I love these things so much that I no longer bristle at their $1 per ride cost (buy them where construction workers would, not in ski shops where they’ll cost 5 times as much).
With these and neoprene booties, my feet are completely comfortable even way below freezing. It’s important, however, to stick them to the TOP of your socks over your toes. Underneath, they are both far less effective and very uncomfortable.
December in Calgary was cruelly cold and unusually snowy, whereas January has proven uncharacteristically warm. Unfortunately, the sun is still low in the sky, so even if the air is warm, the ground is still frozen. The result has been that what snow has melted has flowed out into the roads and frozen again into sheets of black ice. It pisses me off.
To deal with this, I picked up a set of Schwalbe studded cross tires that have made me a believer. While you still won’t be railing corners and they don’t have much grip on pavement, they do have a fair amount of grip on ice. What this means is that so long as you remember the first rule of winter riding and don’t make any sudden moves (it helps to channel Rodney King), you can do what you need to do.
Water Bottle Antifreeze
Cytomax freezes. Cytomax and vodka…..not so much. Make of this what you will.