Frosty Rides

This morning, and last Thursday morning, I’ve taken advantage of hard overnight freezes to get some morning mountain biking in. We have had significant rainfall the past two Sundays in a row, and that, combined with the freeze/thaw cycle, has made the trails too muddy to ride any time later than about mid-morning. The general rule is that if you’re leaving tire tracks, you shouldn’t be on the trails. That rules out commuting in the afternoon, but if it stays below freezing for several hours overnight, there’s usually a window between sunrise and 9 or 9:30 when the trails will be frozen. I took advantage of that window on both days, riding 14 miles or so last week, and 10 miles today, and conditions were ideal both mornings. According to Apple Fitness, my ride-time temperature last week was 26°F and today was 25°F. By 9:00 today, things were warming up, and I could tell the window was closing, as some areas were starting to thaw (I liken it to Cinderella’s coach turning back into a pumpkin at midnight). We got close to 3 inches of rain this past Sunday into Monday, and all of the streams were still running high, with lots of evidence of water run-off on the trails. There’s no way I would have been able to ride had the trails not been frozen. I’m sure everything was a muddy mess in the afternoon, when temperatures got up into the 40s.

I have found that I have to dress differently for winter mountain biking than I do for road riding. On the road, the faster speeds make a windbreaker a necessity to stay warm. On dirt, the windbreaker makes me sweat more, because it doesn’t breathe well. So, I leave it home and wear several breathable layers instead. Today, I wore a short sleeve wool t-shirt with arm warmers, a thin synthetic “32 heat” long sleeve pullover, and my heavy Canari winter cycling jersey. On the bottom, I wore my Garneau cycling pants, Smartwool socks, and waterproof Altra Lone Peak shoes with warming insoles. I rode with Bar Mitts and medium-weight gloves (by far my preferred setup for winter riding). On top, I wore a balaclava under my usual MTB helmet. This setup keeps me quite warm and comfortable on the trails, but does get a little bit cold if I have to ride for any significant distance on pavement.