This weekend was another busy weekend in my life – sometimes that is great & sometimes I’m not busy enough to keep my A.D.D at bay…. We had the annual holiday party at the training studio Friday evening – much joyous celebration of being at the ‘pain cave’ when the pain was replaced with a mini-keg of Triple Ale (9%). Great friends & Good times.
On Sunday, I finally got away from working on my car to run up to Dahlonega’s finest area of trail & Fire service roads – Bull Mt. I met up with Greg of Greg Rides Trails and a few other motley crew members for a 24 mile ride that wound it’s way up and over Winding Stairs. (several people that have ridden it before just shuddered as I write this). That’s because in those 24 miles we climbed over 3,100 feet – BUT we also descended 3K feet!
We suffered up to the top of Windy Stair & once getting there, started to Shiver! The top of the mountain was not only windy, but also significantly colder. Suddenly 1 of the guys says, ‘it’s 4pm, we gotta get around the Mountain before sunset!’ We took off, shivering & me with a re-newed nervous energy that comes from not knowing exactly where you are, nor how far you have to go until you are done.
On the other side of the mountain we found snow and ice still in Georgia. In the Atlanta area, we had a day or 2 of 60 degree weather, but here on the North side of the mountain there is less light, the sun seems to set earlier and it doesn’t get to warm-up as much due to both lack of direct sunlight and altitude. Onward we marched, I was savoring the cold wind of a eye-ball blurring, nearly out of control, descent that I haven’t felt lately, yet the whole time I was hoping that maybe I could zip up the collar on my wind breaker just a little more with out choking myself. The cold winter wind has a sneaky way of exposing every little crevice of open material in your clothing much more so than during the summer months. Don’t Figure.
I said to Greg, I think I forgot how much Fun fire-roads can be! To which he replies matter of factly: ‘then we should have ridden this route the other way’. Sweet, I got a good excuse to Bomb down Winding Stair… but I have to work my way up to the top first. Luckily Greg & I had more gears than the Motley CX bike riders did (not that they seemed to need them), however, on the descents Greg & I passed them quickly due to the suspension & Fat tires!
We hit the final descent down Cooper Gap road, which is a good pitch and some switch backs toward the end. I was having so much fun taking the turns at full speed, nearly overshooting a couple turns, and kicking a foot out to make sure I didn’t slide out completely. I realized it was the perma-grin & cold wind that was making my teeth cold. And just like that the descent finishes nearly as fast as you fly down – something about distance/pace continuum thingy…. I amped to think clearly.
We rolled back to the car, both thrilled and a little disappointed, the ride was over, yet we made it before dark. We chatted some and I warmed up the vehicle to head back into 1 of the most amazing sunsets I have seen in a long time….. maybe it was because I had just ridden over a mountain, but having the sunset in one area of the sky and the full moon showing in another area was very awe inspiring, and the icing on a stellar day in the saddle.
Riding fire roads in the winter is a great way to get in the necessary training that road cyclists need while not getting up to the speeds that you may want on the descents. Now, I really enjoy descending, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to ride them as fast as possible. Stay steady and safe on the descents. The climbing is usually less windy due to the trees, and a good average race pace on a Mountain bike is about half the speed of road training, thus half the wind-chill factor, yet you can work on the climbs as much as you would have to on most any road climb – after all it is all up to the gearing/grade.
Another point about riding the fire roads (that also effected us this weekend) is when it rains – your local trails will usually be closed. The fire roads are rarely closed, and usually drain quite quickly.
Thanks Greg for being flexible and meeting up with me! Thanks to John at Dahlonega Wheelworks for waiting on us & Thanks Hill Billy…. just for being yourself – Good Times!
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It is once again that time of year when the clocks have “Fall Back” and the weather has turned from cool to cold seemingly overnight, or you don’t know what to expect from 1 week to the next.
During this time of year, it is important to remember that if you are riding in the afternoons, you must expect that towards the end of your ride, as the sunsets, it is going to get much cooler than when you started.
This early sunset also means that it maybe necessary to have a tail-light. It is challenging for motorists to see into the setting sun – a tail-light will help you be seen. This past weekend we were out a bit longer than anticipated, unfortunately the short route had a quarter mile of a busy road – although have a RoadID is a good idea, a tail-light is more of a preventative measure.
Dressing in layers may mean that you carry extra clothing that you can put on or zip up towards the end of the ride.
Of course, The core or trunk of you body is the main area that you need to keep warm. Dressing in layers is 1 of the best ways to do this. A big thing that I like about layering is that you can adjust how much or how little air you gets to your body. My way of doing this is to have a moisture-wicking base layer. Then I usually add a jersey. Now depending on the temperatures, I will either put on the wind-breaker or vest. The great thing about wind-breakers and vests is that either one can be worn on the outside. I have found that sometimes the warmth from the wind-breaker or winter jacket is too warm, but the air flow is too cold – put the vest on the inside and you can keep cooler, yet still keep the cold air from direct contact to the body.
Another thing that I like to do is where a hat or skull cap under my helmet. Most of the bodies heat loss is through the head – so keeping your head covered slows this loss of heat.
If it is below freezing then I like covering my face and nose. This keeps the cold breeze off and allows me to warm-up the air just a little bit more before breathing it in.
The other 2 main body parts are the furthest points from the trunk of the body – the fingers and the toes. Try to Never start a ride when your fingers or toes are already cold. If those get cold, then it is tough to ever get them warmed back up.
A great tip that I learned is that once you get inside to a heated area, loose the outer layers of clothing. The warm air will get to your body easier and warm you up quicker. Also, just before you go back outside you want to trap that warmer air and keep out the cooler air by adding the layers back on. By taking off your jacket while inside, it allows your jacket to better do it’s job of keeping you warm once you go outside.
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It’s that time of year when cyclists are starting to get anxious to be riding outside.
Pro racing has already started in Qatar, and next with Oman. Even though all 49 states have snow this past weekend, you can bet that spring is just around the corner. Hopefully you have been at least putting in some gym time and riding the trainer. But are you about to go insane from being inside on your bike?
Ready to do some of your intervals outside. This will help you keep those toes warm on these chilly days!
Firstly, here is a post that I wrote about starting off warm before getting on the bike. At the WBL this winter, I even went into to Sunshine Bike shop and took off extra layers to warm-up. Then as everyone was about to start, I put the layers back on & started the ride.
To make sure I can feel my toes for a cold ride I start off with a pair of heavy wool socks. There are several brands that make wool socks and the difference b/w wearing wool versus a regular cycling sock is huge! Defeet probably make my favorite wool sock, although I have gotten a nice pair from a outdoor store also.
Next, I will put on toe covers on my cycling shoes. The reason that I add the toe covers is that it is usually the toes that actually get cold, so an extra layer over them is usually quite welcome! This layer is a good buffer, but not really enough for a below 40 degree day.
And lastly I will put the neoprene covers over the toe covers and shoes. This creates a 3 layer barrier from the cold. With 3 different layers it is easier for you to make any adjustments to changes in temperature, however, I have found that if it is cold enough for all 3 layers, I usually don’t need to adjust anything.
Now get out there and ride!
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