Kokpelli’s Trail

Sweep, back flush the espresso machine, mop, last dishes, count the drawer. Lock the door to the café by six.

Grocery store with Colleen.

“How much food do you need to take?”

“I think around 4000 calories’ll get me to Moab.”

Reese’s King Size Easter Eggs are two for $3. Can’t beat that- I grab four packets. Ramen Noodles, pepperoni (never go anywhere without Italian meats), and a block of motzerella. I add up the numbers on my phone. That should work.

Leftovers and coffee back at the house, pack up the last of my stuff and get in the car to drive out of the mountains. I hit the Kokopelli Trailhead in Loma at midnight. Trucks roar down I-70, their dim yellow headlights fading into the road.

There aren’t many stars out. I pull on my riding shoes, snap my iPhone onto the stem and turn on the GPS app. Alright, it’s Monday night, I need to be back here by Friday morning to get to work. That should be fine.

I start the first ledgy climb on Mary’s Loop. The loaded bike is a little tough to hop up the rock steps, but overall it’s riding good.

Up top the dirt is smooth, tacky and fast. Big berms are worn into the the old two-track. My dynamo light warms up, the beam brighter with speed. I’m ripping, this is so excellent.

Then the first intersection. Arrows pointing in every direction. Crap. Which one’s the Kokopelli? I ride up one trail, check the GPS. Nope, that’s not it. Back down.

Another intersection. Check again, stand around and try to figure out which way is right. I’m overheating in my puffy jacket, I yank it off and stuff it in my seat bag. Now I’m cold and sweaty, I pull on a wool shirt. I’ve gotta stop screwing around if I want to make any sort of time.

Back on the singletrack, I drop down a rock chute and flow along a fast section of hardpack. I know the Colorado River is over the edge of the trail a few thousand feet below, but I can’t see anything but a black void.

The trail turns sharply, then I’m dropping down, around a switchback, and down. As far back as I can get, ass on the saddle bag.

The trail flattens out at the bottom of a deep canyon. Scrubby little bushes scratch at my face and arms. Back up the other side of the canyon the trail is steep and narrow. I push my bike in front, struggling to lift it over big boulders.

I stop at the top and eat a Reece’s egg. Not much over 15 miles, already a few hours in. Man, I’m never gonna make it down to Moab and back in time.

Back on the bike, off the singletrack and onto a fast dirt road. Sweet, now I’m making some tracks.

A few miles to Rabbit Valley. I stop to look at my map. Should I camp now? It’s 2:00 in the morning. Nah, I’ll keep rolling for a while. Rough Jeep road now, it’s rocky, slower, and weirdly damp. The wet dirt grabs at my tires and makes it tough to keep rolling.

A couple hours later see the first Donnie Darko rabbit. No, that was just some sagebrush.

4:30. Another rabbit. No, sagebrush. I’m pushing up an incredibly steep climb. Getting so tired . One more rabbit, and I’m calling it a night. Rabbit. Sagebrush. I’m out.

I unroll my sleeping bag on a big flat rock.

Two hours later, the sun comes up.

I pack up and push the bike the rest of the way to the top. Man, I was almost there last night. Maybe I shoulda kept going.

On top of the mesa, the sand is damp and deep. Thank the Surly for fat tires, but it’s still slow going. I’m following the tracks of somebody on Nates- I kinda hope I catch up with them, it’d be cool to see somebody else out here. Probably won’t happen though.

A couple more miles on the mesa top, then down onto pavement. Man, that feels nice. I coast and eat pepperoni.

Back onto dirt, cruising across some wide open space. Then not.

Tumble weeds, totally blocking the road, 15 feet deep. I’ve gotta go around them, no way to ride though that spikey mess.

The first few clots are funny. This West, so wild with all its funny little rolly shrubs.

After five or six blockages, not so funny anymore.

Ten miles later, the tumbleweeds have totally lost their novelty. They wrap around my wheels, stick in my brakes, jab my legs and hands. Fuck tumbleweeds. I’ll be happy if I never see another one. Into another pile. Dammit.

The La Sal mountains are closer now. The trail heads up there, but it looks snowy. Might have to bail on that part of the route.

A little more pavement, then back on dirt, up and over a little scrubby mountain thing that’s all tracked out by motos in every direction. It looks like a less-grey slag heap.

Down by the river, I stop for a pepperoni sandwich. I’m running low on water, so I’ve gotta filter.

I sit down on a rock, and the tired hits me. A full day of work, full night of riding, barely an hour and a half of sleep. I’m not gonna make it to Moab. No way. Shit. I’m 70 miles from the car, and 40 from town. Maybe I should just turn around. But I don’t have enough food. I have to keep going.

No, I have to take a nap. I lay down in the dirt.

An hour later, I wake up and rub my eyes. Stand up and stretch. It’s a little past noon now. I feel way better, it’s like a restart on the day. Only 40 miles to Moab, I’ll knock that out before dinner. Easy.

I go down to the river to purify some water with a SteriPen. The Colorado is really silty, so I tie my bandana into a bucket, scoop the water up and let it drip into my bottle to pre-filter the dirt. Then zap it with the UV light, and dump it into the water bladder. Repeat four times, and I’ve got a day of water.

Back on the bike. I feel great now. Push up a steep trail, then a little over ten more miles of great Jeep road. Then onto hi-way 128 at the old Dewey Bridge. I’m not going into the mountains. It’ll be snowy, and where the snow’s melted I’m sure there’s going to be horrible mud.

And I’m not going to mess with those pissed off looking clouds.

30 miles on the hi-way, and I roll into Moab feeling fine. It’s just after five, so I go over to the Denny’s to get a predictably bad hamburger. The waiter towers over me as I sink into the worn out cushion of the huge six person booth.

“Better go to the bathroom before you leave,” he drawls at a couple girls who had a few coffee refills. “It’s snake season.”

“Oh, I always look before I squat,” says one girl. The other looks extremely uncomfortable.

I pay for the food and roll down to the gas station to resupply. Four Reece’s Fast Breaks and a bag of jerky. Back out of town, hopefully I’ll find a spot to camp before the sun sets.

“Wooohooo! You made it! Welcome!” yells a hippy chick on an old cruiser. She throws up her arms.

“Thanks,” I say. Wish I could hang out longer.

The sun sets five miles up the road. I plug in my light, and it slowly spreads white light on the asphalt. After that bad burger and coffee I’m feeling great. I could probably make it 30 more miles back to Dewey Bridge tonight.

I pass two campgrounds. Move over into the ditch by the side of the road when I see cars headlights coming around the canyon walls.

A car passes pretty close. Man, this is a bad idea. I’m not really in a hurry, no reason to risk getting hit. I better turn around and call it a night.

I ride two miles back to the Big Bend Campground and set up my tarp in the wind. Which is a giant pain in the ass. The thing’s flapping all over the place, then when I get it all tensioned out, it’s laying on my sleeping bag and still not keeping out all the wind. Might have to rethink my sleep stuff for Tour Divide. I pass out immediately.

Next morning I sleep a little past sunrise, lay my sleeping bag on a picnic table to dry and munch on some jerky. It’s about 100 miles back to Loma. I’ll split it up over two days, camp in Rabbit Valley tonight. That’ll get me home sometime Thursday afternoon, and I’ll be fresh enough to enjoy all the singletrack at the end.

Pack up, start rolling out of the canyon.

A couple hours of spinning and I’m back to Dewey Bridge. Back onto the trail, and up a ledgey climb. It looks like a herd of cattle was just driven down the road. Everything is chewed up by hoofprints, and the dust is as fine as curry powder.

After navigating a few high-security gate systems, I make it back to the spot by the river where I napped yesterday. I feel so much better this time through. I just needed a little sleep.

Down the other side of the slag heap looking area, and I’m cruising back toward tumbleweed alley.

Maybe 50 miles to Loma, and it’s not even 2:00. Just take your time and enjoy it.

No, don’t hold back. You feel good, ride it out to the end tonight. Should be able to make it back before midnight. I bash through and around the tumbleweeds again.

A pair of beefs. Perhaps someday they’ll be dried and salted and riding in my frame bag.

Hours later, I’m back on the mesa where I slept the first night. There’s some new tracks next to the fat bike tracks I was following the first day.

I wonder if that big kitty likes to play fetch with zip-ties like my cat at home. Maybe he’d prefer rebar. Or my limbs.

Down the hill where I slept on a rock after the third Donnie Darko rabbit. It’s just as steep as I thought it was that night- I sit on the saddlebag, ride both brakes, try not to crash into the sagebrush.

I make it to Rabbit Valley before dark. Hell yeah, I’m finishing this thing up tonight. Ripping the fast doubletrack (it’s all dried out now), hipping the bike sideways off little kickers, really making good time.

The sun sets with about 15 miles to go.

I plug the dynamo back in, and drop back into the canyon down to Salt Creek.

Hike to the top of the other side. Stop at the top to eat some candy bar and pepperoni. I’m actually looking forward to the singletrack. This is great.

Troy Built, Lion’s Loop, up a steep climb, drop off a rock ledge- the loaded bike thumps heavily into the dirt, the dark void stretches way out below.

Mary’s, the last trail and only a couple miles to go. I hit a rock, something pinches between my shoulder blades. Christ that hurts. My back locks up a little, but that’s fine. Only a little bit to go.

Down the last ledges. Ouch, ouch, ouch. My back stings with each hit. Then I’m on the gravel. And done. 220 miles in under two days.

I think that’s a little like what Tour Divide is gonna feel like. I’m not quite as sacred now.

Thompson Divide

I loaded up my Pigsley with camping stuff (in some really nice Oveja Negra bags that I'm testing for the Dirt Rag) rolled out the door, and headed towards the Thompson Divide.

15 miles of dirt and pavement, then onto the snow.

The last week of warm weather and sun melted and baked the snow into a hard crust. Then it refroze, and a dusting of powder fell and made the traction perfect.

Down into the divide rolling on tracks left by a snowcat-atv hybrid monster thing.

I found a good spot to camp in the pines by Thompson Creek, and setup my luxurious camp.

Someone was nice enough to leave a pallet sitting around for me.

So I lit it on fire and had a beer.

By 7:30 I was almost out of firewood, and it was getting close to ten degrees. So I puffed up both of my sleeping bags and crawled under my tarp to pass out.

I woke up before dawn the next morning. 4:00. Dammit. Back to sleep.

Up again a couple hours later. Close enough to sunrise. Packed up, onto the trail, and back up the hill.

And back to Carbondale, where I had breakfast with my tiny girlfriend then went to work smelling like pallet fire smoke.


Not a crazy ride or impressive ride, but it sure was nice to get out for a night.

Moab: Captain Ahab

I'd heard lots of good things about the new Captain Ahab Trail. Rocks, a little exposure, and flow (like a toilet hooked up to fresh pipes).

I read some stuff about the work that went into building singletrack. It all sounded like it would be awesome.

And it was.

The trail kind of parallels the old Clif Hanger Trail on Amasa Back. The first day we were in town, I rode almost all of the trails on that mesa- Clif Hanger, to Rock Stacker, out to Pothole Arch, then down Ahab.
The last day, I rode up Clif Hanger and rode Ahab a second time.
The trail was built for bikes, and it shows.
The old motorized routes in Moab are sweet, but they aren't the best singletrack rides. They're wide, usually lack fun corners, and when they go up, they go straight up.

Because in a 4×4 you've gotta point it straight on, hit the gas, try to make the top before the tires break traction, and hope your cooler of beers doesn't spill out the back. Yeahaw. Fore whillin.

On a bike, switchbacks are nice. Ahab has a bunch.

The trail starts on top of Amasa Back, next to some big rock that probably has a name. (When we got to Colorado, one of my roommates from Pittsburgh looked out at the mountains and said “So all them mountains got a name? What about that big one? It got a name to?” pointing to Mount Sopirs. “No homeboy, nobody's named that one yet. What should we call it?”)

Ahab starts with some twisty single track, mixed with fast sections of dirt. The blue paint on the route is all fresh and easy to follow.

Down the first big sandstone roller, picking up speed, around a rock corner covered in little marbly dirt balls. My low-knob tires drift on both wheels, they really are terrible at hooking up on dusty crust.

Twist up and up a bunch of switchbacks, square the bike at the top of a steep chute, let go of the brakes. G-out at the bottom, pop over some slickrock kickers. These lines really are dead on, and they fixed the spots where the natural terrain wouldn't work- down another roller where a huge slab has been leveraged into place.

And into a steeper chute, drag the back tire on the kitty litter covered rock to slow into the next corner, past a sign that marks the start of the descent to the river.

Wide open dirt, then the singletrack heads out to the rim. A few feet of trail to ride, a few hundred straight to the bottom of the canyon. Just stay on the line.

“Caution! Walk your bike!” yells a sign. I slow way down and carefully roll the rock steps. Ride toward the edge and look over- about a 600 foot drop with no stops. A loose piece of gnarled wood acts like a guardrail, and is about as safe as a helmet made out of ballon animals.

Along the canyon rim, down more rollers, and back onto Cliff Hanger.
If I were more outgoing, or a rowdy rowdy rowdy rowdy (is anybody else sick of seeing that stupid goddamned word? I feel like I'm getting smacked with a flat-brimmed cap every time I read it) bro-brah, I would yell something excited. So excellent. That trail is everything a trail should be- it works with the natural terrain as much as possible, and fills in a few spots to keep everything together. Really great.

Moab: Poison Spider

“Well, nobody else in this shop would really recommend that ride. But it's kind of a classic. You'll get sand in your shoes,” said the older guy in the shop.

“That's fine, I don't mind pushing my bike a little,” I said

“Go do it then, it's a great ride, you'll have it all to yourself today,” he said, and got excited. “These younger guys here, they're all Mountain Dew and bubblegum riders. They want to ride a chairlift, and think it isn't mountain biking if you get some sand in your socks.”

He paused. “Look at me, being Mr. Political. Sorry, I have strong feelings about this.”

For some reason, out here people seem a little hesitant to recommend rides that aren't flowy, manicured, resort style trails.

I've noticed it in Carbondale too- “That Basalt Mountain is a good ride,” then a sigh, “but it just beats you up, so many rocks, sometimes it's hard to find the trail.”

Flowy stuff is fun, but after a couple hours, it all feels the same. A flow trail in Colorado rides the same as a flow trail Indiana, which rides the same as a flow trail in Pisgah, which rides the same as a flow trail in Central Pennsylvania.

Rocky trails are all unique- they're a product of an area's geology, past glacier grinding, and climate. Slimy limestone rides completely different than dry sandstone. That variation at every trail system is what I really dig about mountain biking.

If you run a skid steer down a mountain to build a pump track, all that goes away. If I wanted to exclusively ride smooth trails, I'd hang out at a BMX track (which I'd actually really like to do some more of- I totally missed out on picking up all those rad handling skills as a kid)

Smashing through rocks all day at four miles an hour makes me happy.

Anyway, I'll get off my box of hippy Castile soap.

There's some rock in the desert. I like it.

The jeep routes on Poision Spider Mesa aren't the best riding from a singletrack-centric perspective. But they were totally worth it for the views- endless slickrock, fields of rock phalluses, and the snowy La Sals to the north.
There was lots of sand, but on the Krampus with big 3.0 tires I was able to ride most of it.
At some point my iPhone, which I was using as a camera and GPS, suddenly went from 50 percent battery to nine. Then I took a picture, and it turned off. Which made me get lost for a couple minutes. I was way out on the Golden Spike Jeep route, which is apparently less traveled, because it doesn't have any black tire marks across the slickrock like Poison Spider.
The route is only marked by faint dabs of white paint, which are hard to follow when the rock is dotted with little piles of white snow.
Losing the GPS wasn't a huge deal, because I did eventually find my way back to the route. But it does annoy me that the iPhone failed so easily. It's such a great and capable device, but in temperatures under 40 degrees, it's close to useless unless I keep it in a pocket and only expose it to the air outside for a minute at a time. Under 20 degrees, and it shuts off even in my pocket.
After a couple miles came across some Knard tracks.
“Oh weird- there's another guy on a Krampus out here,” I thought.
Then I recognized a rock ledge. Somehow I'd managed to double back on myself.
A kaakaaw echoed through the canyon. I looked up at two hawks fighting. The air was so quiet and still that I could hear their wings beating, then gliding, talons clicking, even from a few hundred feet below. I really did have the place to myself.

After I rode back through the alternating sections of sand and slickrock, Colleen and I headed back to camp, and grilled some chicken sausages.
And poptarts for desert dessert.
The next day, I headed up Amasa Back and rode the new Captain Ahab Trail. It was extremely excelent- more on that later in the week.

SP Dynamo and Exposure Revo

Last week I did some wheel building.

(Don't mind the toilet paper, we were out of napkins)
Through the valve stem.
And on the bike.
A few of my friends in Pittsburgh have set up dynamos on thier touring bikes. And after hearing how well they worked, I figured that they made a lot of sense for bikepacking too. Now I'll always have light, and I'll be able to power my iPhone.
That constant supply of power will make it possible to run the Gaia GPS app constantly on Tour Divide (in tracking mode, the GPS normally drains a battery in about three hours). I also use my phone as my only camera.
Since I almost always have the iPhone anyway, might as well use it to it's full potiential. Especially since the dynamo wheel ended up being cheaper than buying a new camera and GPS.
The dynamo is a Shutter Precision PD8, which was $130 on ebay, with free shipping from the ROC. Those guys make hubs for Supernova (one of the only options in QBP), and for Exposure, so their designs are solid.
It's also the lightest dynamo out there, and it looks nice. And at half the price of a Schmidt, it was a no brainer for me. I'll be interested to see how it holds up long-term, but I'm betting it'll be fine.
I would like to figure out if there's a way to easily sevice the bearings, but that probably won't be an issue for a while in this dry climate.

This Exposure Revo came from a guy on the Bikepacking forums, and it looks like it didn't get used too much. Supposedly it puts out 800 lumens on full power.
The power increases as I ride faster, so I'm not sure what speed I need to be rolling to see full power, but it doesn't really matter. The light puts out enough light to ride comfortably at almost any speed.
The Revo has a power output port on the back, and the guy I bought the light from included a USB boost cable. Unfortunately, it won't charge an iPhone. Not at all.
Apparently it will charge an external battety pack, which can be used to charge the phone, but I don't think I want to go that route.
Using the output port on the light means that the light has to be on- so most of the power from the hub is going to the LEDs, instead of charging the battery.
I'm probably going to end up ordering a Sinewave USB charger, and wire it alongside the light. If anybody has experience with this stuff, I'd be glad to hear it.

The beam at about 12mph:
Riding fire roads and pavement is great. At a little below 10mph all four LEDs kick on, and put out more than enough light.
Buff singletrack would be fine too. But technical singletrack, where my speed stays below 4mph is a little tricky. That's only fast enough to power two of the LEDs, so it feels a little like riding with a AA powered commuter light.
With a USB rechargable helmet light (which could be recharged durring the day with the hub), I'd have plenty of light for trail riding. The helmet light would pick up the dynamo's slack at low speed, then at high speed, the Revo would outshine the headlight.

I'm really picky about how my bike rides, and can tell if my tires are off by 1psi when I'm on singletrack.
The SP hub feels notchy out of the box because the magnets are so strong. On the bike, I was really trying to notice the drag.
But it just isn't there. Even under load (light on), it rolls just like a wheel. It feels absolutely the same as a normal hub. No shuttering or roughness. I'm pretty stoked about that.


The Fat Cycle Challenge

Sunday funday front page news- weirdly juxtaposed with not so fun news.

I take off my jacket- it’s sunny, I’ll lose the pullover too. I ride over to the edge of the trees, jump off the groomed path and into some waist deep snow to do my second pre-race bladder evacuation.

Almost race time, I roll back over to the start and squeeze to the front.

“Ok guys! Welcome to the first Fat Cycle Challenge! Thank you sooo much for coming! Hooray! And yay!” says the very blonde lady in a thigh-length puffy jacket from the Aspen Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ll give you guys five seconds! Fun! Three, two, one,” I click my right foot in and stand on the pedals, “Go!”

I stand up and sprint, which on a fat bike isn’t nearly as fast as it sounds. I try to shift my Alfine into a high gear. Click, click, nothing. Back off the power, let the gears move around in there. I lay off, it clunks into gear. Damn internal townie hub.

Stand up and try to sprint again. I get the hole shot going into the first turn. Then one of the guys from Borealis gets on it and sprays snow at me. Gone. Damn he’s moving fast.

A second Borealis guy passes me. I try to hold his wheel. We’re moving fast now- the snow is groomed and pancake flat, I’m in eighth gear and spun out. My jaw tightens up from breathing the cold air.

We turn up the only rise on the course- a quick 50 feet up, 50 feet down on snowshoe packed singletrack, then a few more feet on some sugary un-packed powder. I make up a little time on the climb and descent, run the powder section, then hop back on the back on the bike at the groomed track.

The Borealis guys pull away from me immediately. After the hike, we have to accelerate from a dead stop. On their 22ish pound carbon bikes, they’re up to speed almost immediately.

Getting my 40ish pound internally-geared Pugsley to move is as frustrating as drag racing a dump truck. 2nd gear, spin, stop pedaling, shift, 3rd, stop, shift, 4th, stop.

And so on. I’m half way around the four-minute loop before I’m back in my top gear, one more turn, up the climb, down, hike, and start the process all over again.

There’s a third Borealis guy right behind me, I gap him a little on the single track, but once we’re back on the groomed trail he rolls right back up to me. Every lap. Damn. I’m going so hard I feel like I’m going to puke. But at least I can move my jaw a little now.

I run through the powder at 45 minutes. That third guy is right behind me. Remount, try to sprint. 2nd, stop, clunk, 3rd, stop, clunk. Man, I so hope this is it. I’m losing it. Across the line.

“Last lap!”

Fuck balls. Another one.

5th, stop, clunk.

“Hey man, coming on your left,” I weeze to a lapped rider. I look back, I’ve got a little gap on the Borealis guy going into the climb. Up, down, run. Remount, sprint. Across the line. Didn’t get caught. Thank god. Dammit that was hard.

After the race, I headed into Aspen with the Aloha guys that I’m going to be working with this summer. There was a fat bike demo in Wagner Park in the center of town. We set up a tent, along with the Borealis guys, and two other shops from this end of the valley- the Gear Ex and MG. Weirdly, there was only one shop from Aspen that participated.

Lots of people were stoked to pedal fat bikes around the snowy field.

Including a British guy that looked like Sting, and his very frail son.

“Well son, what do you think? Is it good fun?”

“Oh phew, my, it’s very much work.”

“Yeah, yeah, it can be haahd riding those. Heavy bikes you know. Real haahd.” shouted the Scatman from Boston as he grabbed the bike back from the skinny English kid. Cultural differences.

After the demo, there was a town ride on Aspen’s groomed bike paths- they don’t shovel or salt the bike paths, they actually run a groomer on them.

Then there was a pretty low key after-party in the Limelight Hotel with tiny pizzas and Aspen Brewing Blonde Ales (Aspen is a very blonde place).

Colleen came up for a while, then we went and ate some decent tulip-fed-imported-from-Denmark barbecued pig meat. It wasn’t quite as good as the stuff you get from a guy with a pull-behind pit by the side of the highway back east.

Fun day though. The entry fee was reasonable at $30, the payout was good- $300 for first. I wish more races in Colorado were that affordable.

The course was pretty fun for a snow crit type race. A longer and more technical loop would have been sweet, but that’s mostly because I’m not very good at pedaling my bike fast on flat ground.

It’s super cool that the event was organized by the Chamber. Any place that puts on an official bike event is a ok place in my book.

Riding Bikes in the Cold

It’s cold up in these mountains- not as freezing as someplace like Minnesota or Alaska, but still pretty chilly. Half of my commute is either at night or before sunrise, so I’m riding in temperatures right around or below zero (in American temperatures) everyday.

I’m not sure what the wind chill factor is blasting down a ski slope at midnight on a fat bike, but it’s probably something substantial.

Since the rest of the country is in the midst of the polar vortex/ icy spiral of doom (ironically it’s sunny and 30 here today), I thought I’d write up the layering system I’ve figured out to make winter bike riding comfortable. In journalism class, they always told me timeliness was important.

First- forget wearing any spandex. Winter cycling clothes are a joke. To keep you warm, a layer has to have loft, and be able to trap warm air from your body.

Tights can’t do that. They’re also bad at resisting water, slush and all that crap.

Here’s what I ride in everyday. The brand of this stuff doesn’t really matter as long as it’s something decent and well designed, it should work fine. This is enough to keep me comfortable all day in the single digits:

  • Cotton t-shirt, wool base layer if it’s staying below 10 degrees, or I’m out a long time.
  • Fleece pull-over
  • Bubblegoose (for my duece duece and my tre duece)
  • Puffy vest, usually stays in my bag. For really cold wind or descents.
  • Wool hat
  • Gas station sunglasses
  • Ski gloves
  • Wool tights
  • Shell pants
  • Heavy wool socks
  • Lake boots, two sizes bigger than I normally wear.

I know that common outdoor wisdom says that “cotton kills,” but I like cotton shirts, and I’m not dead yet.

For most rides, a soft t-shirt makes a fine baselayer. It’s not itchy, it doesn’t stink like synthetic, and I don’t have to change it when I get to work.

For longer rides, wool is my favorite baselayer. It’s naturally anti-microbial, so I can go a while (I won’t say how long) without washing the tights or socks. Your mileage may vary, I’ve been accused of being one of them goddamned dirty hippies more than once.

The shell pants I wear are super simple (better), one pocket, drawstring waist, baggy, and mostly waterproof. Since they’re not totally sealed up, they breathe pretty well. I don’t feel the need to wear anything more waterproof- I’m bike riding, not crab fishing.

I bought the jacket from a consignment store when we moved here. It’s puffy, bright (until it’s covered in dirt the day after I wash it), and has a hood. I never used to be a fan of hoods while riding since they restrict your vision, but I guess Pittsburgh was never this cold.

Throwing the hood up when the wind starts to blow makes a huge difference.

Hand warmth seems to be pretty personal. I’m fine without gloves down to 25, so ski gloves are plenty for winter riding in Colorado. Below freezing, Colleen seems to get numb hands no matter what she does. She has some poggies on the way. Hopefully those will fix her problem, because she’s out there commuting two hours almost everyday as well.

The Lake MZX303 boots have been awesome. Before I got them, I was riding in some Specialized winter shoes that were half a size too small, and getting numb feet constantly.

Winter boots definitely should be sized big- for around here, two sizes up is plenty. I can fit a thick sock, maybe two if I need to and the boot isn’t tight. The only thing that keeps a foot warm is circulation. Cut off the blood flow with a tight shoe, get numb feet.

I passed the Specialized boots onto Colleen which worked out perfectly, because they’re way to big for her.

Other stuff- unzip, or take off a layer before you start to sweat. As soon as I warm up, I start opening up vents. Sweating is bad.

When sweat evaporates, it goes into your insulation, where it builds up. Then the insulation can’t loft anymore, can’t trap any heat from your body, and turns into an ice coat. Which isn’t nice.

If you care, here’s some more good reading on winter clothing systems.