Monday, January 22, 2007

Gearing up to go the distance

Riding for six or more hours in the winter is very different than riding for six hours in the summer. Increase that time to multiple days and the challenge goes up exponentially. In general, you simply have to carry more stuff in order to remain comfortable and safe in the winter.

Keeping all of my toes is a big priority for me as I delve into snow biking and aspire to race in Alaska or Minnesota next winter. Two weeks ago while alpine skiing I got mild frostbite on my left big toe to the point where it is still dark purple and numb on the tip…yuk! My ski boots were squeezing my toes a bit on back to back cold ski days and I should have known better. The lack of circulation was more of a factor than the temps themselves. My snow bike footwear strategy is based on circulation and insulation and is coming together nicely except that I haven’t tested it on a long outing yet. My concern is perspiration. Sweaty socks = cold feet. This is where Vapor Barrier socks come in. VB sock keep the sweat next to your skin and your insulating layers stay dry so they can do their job. Think about how a wetsuit works.

Integral Designs VB sock has a nice closure at the top to keep the heat in
RBH Designs offers a VB liner sock as well but the seems are not taped. Moisture may seep into your outer sock.
RBH Designs also offers an insulated VB sock that has a soft fleecy lining.
Hydration is another challenge during long winter events that may see temps range from 25F to -40F. A water bottle in a cage freezes really fast at -20F. I am Camelbak fan throughout the year and normally wear one during mountain bike races of any length. I want to figure out a way to wear one in the winter so I am going to experiment a bit. If I wear their insulated bladder inside a pack AND next to my base layer it might work. Keeping the bite valve and hose free of ice is the biggest concern.

Hydration Plan B is to use insulating sleeves for two Nalgene bottles. This means that I have to stop to drink and I am less likely to drink as often. Where do you get water in the middle of a winter snow bike race? You melt snow of course. I am not a backpacker nor do I have extensive backcountry or mountaineering experience. Based on reading about stoves and using stoves the JetBoil looks like a simple and efficient solution that even I could use. The 1L cannister acts as a container for the rest of the parts and packs up to the size of a Nalgene bottle.
I love planning and researching the details involved for a long event!


Doug said...

A few comments. I'm still figuring this stuff out myself, but this is what I've learned. The VP socks work great when combined with oversized footwear. A dry insulating layer outside the VP barrier and some wiggle room with some dead air space keeps the feet warm. I use a camelback above 25 F. Below that I use the OR Parkas and Nalgene bottles. The risk with a bladder and bite valve is once it freezes you are screwed. At least with the Nalgenes you can fire up your stove and thaw out the bottles if they were ever to freeze up. On the stove issue in bitter cold I only use stoves that burn white gas also known as "Coleman fuel". Isobutane and propane doesn't get hot enough to heat water in extreme cold...that is if you can actually get it ignited. You would have to carry the fuel canisters inside your clothing to keep it warm. I have both a MSR Dragonfly and a Whisperlite. I do lots of winter camping in Northern Miinesota and teach winter camping skills. A light weight stove won't keep you alive if you can't get it lighted.

Dave said...

Doug, thanks for the feedback...especially on the stoves.

Chris said...

Jetboil suck in winter. After that I will disagree with Doug and say experiment with a very modern coleman canister stove, the exponent extreme and it's specific cartridges. I'll let you do the research yourself as it's your butt on the line but you can save weight and *time* over whitegas if you don't let conventional winter wisdom scare you.

Doug said...

Well, I am set in my ways a bit. I'll give Chris that much. But I know I can count on my stove. Find what works best for you.