The Cold, Hard Cold

As we’d been expecting, the overnight temperatures dropped to about -10F and the winds stayed in the 10-15mph range, putting the wind chills at around -30F.

Cold, but beautiful.
Cold, but beautiful.

When it’s this cold, everything is just a bit harder. Exposed skin is at risk of frost-bite, so it either has to be covered with clothing or slathered in Dermatone. It’s harder to see: glasses get fogged, eyes stream with cold-induced tears, and any moisture freezes to face and glasses. Any physical effort takes more energy.

Clothing choices are crucial. It’s hard to stay warm but not too warm. Wear too little, and you never get warm enough to function with any efficiency–or you get frostbite. Wear too much, the wrong thing, or the wrong combination of things, and you’ll sweat into your insulation, increase evaporative cooling, and sometimes freeze up solid.

Today, I got it about half right. Hands, feet, and head stayed warm and dry. However, both my upper and lower body got too warm (with one notable exception) given the rate of work required for riding 6.5 miles on the fat-bike with lower tire pressures, in the snow, mostly into the wind, at 10-12mph. If I’d been riding further or out longer, I would have been in some discomfort (or I would have had to stop and change my base layer).

That my legs were dead from two rides (here and here) over the weekend didn’t help either.

Sure is pretty though.

4 thoughts on “The Cold, Hard Cold

  1. It absolutely is pretty, and your adaptation skills are fascinating. As someone who has never experienced that kind of cold, frostbite is frightening. I suppose dressing (the planning of it, the implementing of it, and maybe even the comparing of approaches with friends) take a considerable amount of your day.

  2. It’s true that dressing takes longer in the winter than in the summer (some liken it to putting on armor), but I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve got my system pretty well worked out. The reason that I only got things half right this time around is largely due to a perverse fascination with trying to make one particular jacket/winter jersey work when it’s clear that it’s probably better relegated to casual, off-the-bike wear. And because the woolie that I wanted to wear had just been through the laundry and was still damp.

    However, people are generally surprised with just how little I wear for riding in winter — especially in subzero weather — just as I’m surprised when I run into someone riding in seven layers topped with a down coat.

    Perhaps in the coming days I’ll treat you all to a photo series of my winter wear, layer by layer. But don’t say I didn’t warn you…

  3. Not a dumb question, though the answer is unlikely to be very useful. I generally wear some kind of medium weight merino wool socks, either mid-calf height when I’m wearing a full length base layer or knee-high when I’m wearing bib knickers as a base layer. I find that as long as socks are wool, tall enough to cover what needs covering, and don’t fall down, it’s all good.

    And unlike other folks, I rarely wear two layers of socks. For some reason, that always makes my feet feel cramped and colder (even when there’s ample room in the boots).

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