Monday, December 19, 2011

Cold Day Off ...

Both Joanna and I were off today so I didn't want to spend all day on the trail, but I did want to get in a ride. So I got up at 7:30 and headed down to Wissahickon for an early morning loop. That way, I'd be home early enough if we wanted to do something in the afternoon. It was pretty cold when I woke up this morning, so it would also be an opportunity to try out my new gloves ...

These Gore Windstopper gloves have separate index and middle fingers, which I personally think is much better than the standard lobster claws for braking control since I only use one finger to feather the brake on descents.
Now that winter weather seems to have finally arrived, I needed to gear up for winter rides, and yesterday I was in Collegeville at EMS and found these GORE gloves and liked them right away. And on the trail, they didn't disappoint. They're warm as hell without feeling like you have fins instead of hands. They're expensive (about $60) but worth it for sub-freezing temps. I wore a really thin liner with them just to keep the sweat off the glove itself, but I didn't need the liner for warmth -- the glove itself is enough for that.

By contrast to the high-tech material and cold-prevention science of the gloves, I went decidedly low-tech for the second ride in a row to keep my feet warm:

About a week or so ago, I found an article on dressing up for cold weather and they discussed differently philosophies -- basically, the "wicking moisture" school of thought and the "wet on the inside but dry on the outside" point of view. I've always utilized the former, probably because my evolution as a rider has coincided with the evolution of technical gear. I've always had this odd issue where I start a ride fine and about 20 minutes in, I need to stop and get my hands and feet warm. That's not odd by itself -- what's odd is that I always experience that excruciating pressure pain in both fingers and toes, but once it subsides, I could probably ride without gloves and be fine the rest of the day because I don't get cold again. I think this is probably because I have a painful combination of small blood vessels and healthy blood pressure -- once my hands heat up, but constricted blood vessels get a rush of blood before they can expand reasonably, and that's where the pain comes in. But once they open up, I'm good the rest of the day. Anyway, I always thought the solution to this was high tech, thus the wicking layers, etc. But this year, an accident forced me to go low-tech instead - my Gore Tex Northwave winter shoes broke (the cleat threads stripped on one of them), so I'm reluctant to use them now for fear that I may not be able to unclip in a crash. After reading the article, I decided to try the low-tech plastic bag approach. So I wear a thin sock and cover that with a large plastic sandwich bag, and then wear a thicker wool sock over the top of that. Then I wear my regular summer shoes. And ... so far, so good. Today, my feet sweat like crazy into the plastic, but the air didn't penetrate them, so the sweat didn't cool and my feet stayed warm.

What do I take from this? I guess I'd say that there isn't necessarily just one way to stay warm. That's great, because winter shoes cost a fortune, and I'm tired of spending money this year! If this works all winter, I'll be very happy.

I rode for a couple of hours, and while it did warm up a bit by the time I was done, it was still only around the freezing point in the park ...

Early on, the trail was the only thing not frosted over

Even with the sun up, the park looked and felt cold all morning.

Just a cool pic of some frost on natural pachysandra ...

COming through the tunnel on the Spaghetti Bowl side of Lincoln Drive

Even the tires frosted over

Ice was all over the north-facing rocks

I actually enjoyed the cold, although utlimately, I think I over-dressed in my core. My Pearl Izumi jacket and thermal windstopper tights are really deep-freeze gear, and I was very hot by the time I finished. That;s okay -- ideally, I'd have gone with a lighter jacket and tights, but it's better to be too hot when I finish than too cold all day!

Riding toward the sun ...

The view of Lincoln Drive from the Spaghetti Bowl underpass

This rusty old iron fence sits on one side of the trail for about a half mile. It marks the property line between the park and a big old stone home. I liked this pic because that fence is probably a hundred years older than I am and that just seems pretty cool.
Finally, toward the end of the ride, things started to feel a bit warmer, but I still feel like today was my first true wintery ride this year. Not too shabby that it didn't happen until Dec 19th!

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