Friday, 21 November 2014

Finally Some Winter Cycling!

Ride on ice like its dry pavement!
Well, we finally got some temperatures below freezing and some snow, ice and slush.  I was looking forward to putting SubZero (aka Project: SubZero aka The Scrambler).The only downside was I would have to ride after dark; I can't leave any earlier due to my day job.

The weather conditions were not ideal.  The temperature was about -1C.  It was snowing pretty heavily but most of it was melting right away.  Anything that did manage to stick ended up being pretty slushy.  In other words, pretty crappy conditions.  I'm not a commuter so I have the choice to shy away.  If it was raining I would have.  But I've been waiting eagerly to try this bike out in real world conditions.

For clothing I tossed on a MEC Ardent jersey with the Pearl Izumi thermal tights.  I thought about doing a waterproof shell but that combo always ended up too warm.  I wore merino wool socks and my hiking boots on my feet.  For gloves I thought I'd give my lighter MEC gloves a shot.

Snow acting like icing on a muddy cake.
I start off by heading down to the muddy road where I tested before.  I figured if anything the snow would stick there better than on the pavement.  Well after carving myself a path through the sopping wet mess, I found my way there.  There was definitely lots of snow as well as a lot of mud, clay and water.  I found that I was still kicking up mud as it hadn't frozen at all.  Riding through mud with snow on top is even more difficult than riding through mud.  After several minutes of powering through it, I figure it will be more funfun to try out in daylight hours when things are a bit colder.

I set my sights for a nearby multi-use path and started pedalling over.  That's when my chain started slipping a lot.  This is the same problem I had each time I took the bike out!  I've already replaced the chain and had it eyeballed.  It seemed like it had no problems prior.  I figured I should make some observations (what gear, how much slippage, does shifting help, etc.) so I would have lots of data for my bike mechanic.  It seemed to slip more in higher gears; shifting back and forth sometimes seemed to help and sometimes didn't.  But the problem would go away for 5 or 10 minutes at a time before returning to plague me.

Snowiest patch of the entire MUP.
I ended up on the MUP only to be disappointed.  I had been expecting some snow as there was slushy snow on the roads.  In my township, MUPs do not get plowed, roads do.  My guess is the MUP is slightly darker and retained more heat from the daytime sun.

I found my clothing choice was not good with the weather.  I've always concentrated on using certain clothing at certain temperatures.  If it wasn't snowing so heavily I would have been fine.  Snow would land on me and melt instantly due to the warmth I generated.  So in short order my clothes were already wet.  I was starting to feel the cold so I made up with it with some more exerted effort.

Winter cycling version of HIIT!
I found an open field of snow and figured I'd give it a shot.  Well now I know how to peak my heart rate pretty quickly, just mountain bike over some snow and grass!  I got most of the way across when I felt the need to stop.  I quickly realised I was getting cold fast from being wet so I got out by spinning a much smaller gear.

I was running out of fresh terrain to test out on and figured I'd give the nearby parkway a shot.  It was definitely bicycle and runner friendly during the summer.  In the winter it doesn't get cleared so there ends up being less car traffic.  Later in the year there would be a surge of snowmobile and ATVs.

Reflections look better when they aren't pairs of eyes.
Upon arrival I noticed it was pitch black on the parkway.  Really a great way to test lights!  I felt like my lighting situation was sufficient (head lamp, handlebar light, animated pulsing rear light, laser red outline around bike).  But then the dreaded chain slip hit me again.  I started to think about being stuck by myself on the parkway in the dark, already soaked.  Walking home would be a good way to freeze.  So I ended my trip on the parkway early.

Snow.  Or a broken hyperdrive.  Mmm.  Probably snow.
I ended up cycling around on residential streets (and the occasional patch of grass) to get a feel for the snow and slush.  It didn't take long before I started getting chilly; the temperatures kept dropping and I was still wet from the snow.  I really need to learn to mix and match my layers more, to take into account the type of precipitation I was going to experience.  The last time I tried a waterproof shell I had these clothes on underneath; it was entirely too warm.  Maybe I need to try with some lighter layers underneath?

There was one other thing I wanted to check next ride and it involved my chain.  My current hypothesis is that something ends up failing whenever I apply a lot of force to the pedals.  Both times this problem occurred were after I had tried riding through that muddy area.  The other time we experienced chain slippage was after any forceful pedalling in the mountain bike area.  On my next ride I would stick to fast, light spinning and see if I had a similar issue.

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