On 12/30/12, I rocked my first ever fatbike century, which was also my first cold-weather century.
The Muk was resplendent with fatbiking regalia.
Porcelain Rocket Booster Rocket and top-tube pack, aero bars, and the normal build (3×9, tubeless Husker Dus, Thomson seatpost/stem, Ergon saddle/grips, Raceface bars, Carver carbon fork, etc.).
The Booster Rocket was stuffed with a Surly Tube (in case of tubeless emergency), large pump, tool kit, spare gloves, spare glove heater pack, Gore Fusion GT AS jacket for an extra layer (if needed), extra gaiter (if needed), and food. As always, it worked magnificently. It’s very versatile in terms of changing size and capacity. For short rides, I often use it with just a tube, tools and pump, rolled down to a short length. For this ride, the extra capacity was very useful to fill with the rest of my gear. It kept my pockets open for other supplies, as covered below.
Top Tube pack was stuffed with some easily accessible bars, and sausage links. Mmmmm. Sausage.
Forecast called for 9 degrees at start, and climbing to 28 degrees by afternoon. I opted for Wolvhammers:
Wolvhammer note: I had previously complained that they were hard to unclip. Following some advice from MTBR, I tried a pair of Crank Brothers stainless steel spacers under them. I was a bit doubtful that this would work, because I had been running plastic spacers of about the same thickness. Here are the steel spacers:
They worked perfectly. Clipping problems are a thing of the past…and the cleats are still recessed enough that they don’t hit the ground when you’re walking. If you’re wearing Wolvhammers and using Crank Brothers pedals, this is the way to go.
On the day, with temps ranging from 9 to 28, the Wolvhammers were perfect. I had on a pair of Smartwool socks underneath, and was perfectly comfortable and dry all day. No foot cramps, no cold/hot/wet feet, no chafing, no rubbing, no issues. My feet were comfortable and unnoticeable all day. Kudos to 45NRTH.
North Central Cyclery insulated Bioracer bib-knickers under Gore Magic Pants
The Magic pants performed true to name. Starting out, I had them zipped up, and was cold for about 10 minutes at the start, then warmed up. When the temps climbed in the afternoon, I opened the thigh zippers, and was still totally comfortable. The vent zips give the ability to accommodate many different conditions…and the pants are totally windproof. Fortunately, I didn’t have to test their waterproof qualities on the ride. Of note, they zip down perfectly over the Wolvhammers, and stayed in place for the whole ride. I was worried that they would ride up or bunch up at the top of the boots, but that wasn’t an issue. The cuff zippers on the pants, coupled with their stretchiness, made them fit well all day. It is a tight enough seal to keep wind/snow/rain out, as well.
With my perpetually cold hands, the thumbies on the Stoic liner kept it in place under my gloves, to great effect. My hands were cold at the start of the ride, but warmed up when I started riding harder. They got cold when I stopped for lunch, but again warmed up when I got rolling again.
For gloves, I was rocking my Sugoi Firewall Z cycling gloves, with a thin liner glove underneath, and a handwarmer pack inside.
That was early in the ride, shortly after splitting off from Chad. My hands were cold, but because the Sugois have a large ‘mitt’ area, I was able to cram all 4 fingers into the mitt part, and warm them back up. Very versatile and much appreciated. With other lobster gloves, that isn’t really possible…so the Sugois were the right choice for the ride. The liner gloves kept my fingers from immediately icing up when I had to take my outer gloves off–again, a carefully considered gear selection that worked well. You can see the liners in this pic:
Here, you can see the upper body layers, in action.
Up top, it was my Gore Windstopper cap and Windstopper gaiter, pulled up like a balaclava.
That combo worked perfectly, as well. My only cold-related ailments were both facial. 1) in the pic above, note the exposed cheek. I have matching red spots on both cheeks from the area above the balaclava and below my sunglasses. 2) apparently, my gaiter/balaclava got pulled up a bit, leaving my adam’s apple exposed above my jersey and jacket. I have a tiny bit of frostbite, right on my adam’s apple. Kinda funny, kinda uncomfortable.
Jacket and hat wise, I was very comfortable. As the day wore on, I was able to regulate my temp just by unzipping the Phantom jacket. That airflow regulation alone worked to keep me comfortable across a 20 degree temp swing. The wool base layer kept me warm, the singlet kept me dry.
I started with 2 water bottles on the bike, and 1 in the center back pocket of my Phantom jacket. My 9, my bike-mounted bottles were icing up. I ended up riding with 2 bottles in the back pockets of my NCC jersey, under the Phantom. That worked perfectly, and kept them unfrozen all day. Drinking meant stopping and unzipping, which was less than perfect–and meant that I didn’t drink as much as I probably should have. In retrospect, I probably would recommend either adding something to the bottles to keep them from freezing (alcohol?), or wearing a hydration pack under the Phantom. That probably would have been an ideal solution. Live and learn.
Food wasn’t an issue at all…I had enough food packed with me to keep me munching all day, and the top-tube pack meant that I could eat without stopping. When I did stop, I’d pull a bar out of the Booster Rocket and stuff it into the top-tube pack, to replenish.
Aero bars: I gotta say…I was torn about whether or not to run them. In the end, I was in the aero bars for a good 40 miles.
They gave me a different riding position, to rest my wrists and back. They gave me a break from the morning’s headwind. They gave me a comfortable position to stretch out. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of control I had, even in the aero bars, and grew to trust them over loose gravel as the day went on. My weight was more evenly split between the front and rear wheels, and that lent trustworthy handling characteristics, even on ice and snow.
The bad news? I probably looked like a tool. Also, the aero-bar position puts a lot more pedalling effort into your hamstrings, which can be challenging if you’re not prepared for it. In all honesty–not kidding here–I think recent singlespeeding prepared me for that in some ways. The only other downside? My neck is not used to that riding position–with your head tipped back more. My neck is sore, as of the day after the ride.
Overall, the aero bars were a worthy addition for this ride, and well worth the minor weight penalty. Whether they’re worth the appearance of aero bars on a fatbike is up to you. Riding this ride again, I’d use them again. They made the cockpit a bit tangled looking, but function outweighed form.
For lights, I ran my trusty Knogs. Being a daytime ride, I had no headlights.
Up front, I had a white blinder mounted on the bars, that you can see at the right side of this pic.
It was facing straight, angled towards oncoming traffic, and helping just a bit with visibility.
To the rear, I had my 4 bar blinder strapped to my helmet (as the Booster Rocket impeded seatpost access).
The silicone straps give a lot of versatility with mounting options. I had mine on all day, at full blast, from 8am-3:30pm, in the cold, and ended the day with battery to spare.
I would be confident with this clothing, and nothing more, down to moderately sub-zero temps, with reasonable wind, for active undertakings. Much below 0, or with more stagnant activities, I’d probably throw on the Fusion GT AS as an outer layer, or consider a warmer base layer. All of that is regardless of precipitation–I’m confident in the weather resistance of the outer layers.
For temps above, say, 30 degrees…I’d moderate the base layers a bit, and contemplate switching out of the Wolvhammers if temps are above 35.
There was a marked difference in my warmth when I went from churning along at single-digit speeds early in the ride, and when I started pushing hard after 10am. The amount of heat that your body can generate is nothing short of amazing…and even with my cold hands, I was able to get enough bloodflow out to my hands to warm them up rapidly. (Cold feet were never an issue, at all, of any kind, thanks to 45NRTH).
No moisture problems, no wind problems (save for the 2 self-inflicted issues mentioned above), no food problems, and no hydration problems, other than predictable issues with the cold. The bike was flawless in all aspects, shifting with authority even in the cold, and the Avid XO brakes had no issues with the temps either…the brake fluid used in them (rather than mineral oil as in certain other brakes) is a big reason that I use Avids on the Muk, instead of other brands.
I’ve got my gear pretty well sorted–and everything performed admirably. Best cold weather gear picks of 2012, for me: 1) anything Windstopper (I’m a convert); 2) wool base layers; and, 3) Wolvhammers.