January 7, 2012

Even more winter kit considerations

Even though it's been unseasonably warm here, I'm still preparing myself and gear for more "winter-like" riding - which is sure to come.
The process is reminding me of some things I've read lately, some other things discovered along the way, that bear passing along.
I touched on this recently in a post on preparing for winter riding, so here's a few additions:

While there are lots of ways around the problem, I personally have had issues on occasion trying to use CO2 inflators when it's colder out, specifically when it gets below freezing.  Results may vary, and simply warming them up in a back pocket can solve the issue - but, for a lot more reasons than just "cold", I use a frame pump almost exclusively.  I do keep a couple inflators in the seat bag to get moving quicker when commuting - but for brevets I don't like the idea of running out of air... and it has happened to me before.  If you run CO2 exclusively, and there's nothing wrong with that - don't get me wrong - you might want to carry along a small, "real" pump in the winter:  frame, bottle-cage style, or pocket-sized... but something that can get you moving again on that especially challenging day.  There are even some clever models that are designed to do both - and while I haven't tried one of them specifically, it's a slick idea.

However, even "real" pumps have their problems .  (I keep putting "real" in quotes, because the only real pump is a FLOOR pump... and we're not carrying those on rides, right?)

So, yes:  even pumps can have issues in the cold:  from the Bike Hacks blog, this post is worth a look.  The pump in the post looks a lot like mine, possibly a Blackburn... maybe a Topeak.  In most cases, your local shop may (call ahead) have a small-parts kit supplied by these manufacturers to support quick warranty claims.  Take advantage of this, and offer to pay for the small bits it if you don't REALLY need it.  But, replacement seals, o-rings, pumphead caps for your model are good things to have spares of... they weigh very little and can be stashed in a seatbag kit with ease.  You may never need them, but it's nice when they're there!  On the subject of air, another thing I keep in the seat bag is a Presta-to-Schrader adapter for things like air compressors at gas stations.  While not recommended unless you're careful (for small volume road tires), at least you have a lot of different ways to put air back into a tube.  This is all part of the mantra of successful commuting or randonneuring:  preventing that "come get me" phone call.  Redundancy is good...
Of course, if we're talking about air we're talking about the other "F word", and while you may be adept at wrestling a tire on and off a rim when it's warm outside, making quick work of roadside repairs is paramount in colder temperatures.  You'll want to make things easy on yourself, and your hands.  Ever notice that working on anything in the cold makes things like screwdrivers slipping, pliers pinching, bumping your knuckles against something hard... the cold seems to make it all hurt more, right?  Part of avoiding frustration, do-overs, and pinched fingers involves the right tire lever.  There are many different tire levers available, but the mechanic's choice has long been the Quik Stik.  Probably muttered just as often as "where's my 5mm Allen wrench?" is "who took my Quik Stik?".  Better than three of any other lever, in my opinion, the Quik Stik is gold.  Doesn't mar rims, doesn't pinch tubes, great leverage, super strong, light, fast, simple.  Get one.  Get two:  one for home, one for the seat-bag.  Seatbag too short for it?  Trim down the handle, and take it along.  ANY leverage is good on the roadside in the cold.  Don't fumble with the usual three sub-par levers... get ONE good one.  The link is to Amazon, but I know a good local shop that carries these by the bucket in a variety of colors.

Reach that cycling mileage goal in 2011?  Awesome!  Congrats!  Your cyclo'puter is probably exhausted, though... if your display is dimming lately (like mine) it's a good time to consider new batteries before your next big ride.  Sure, sure, not a deal killer -- if you're commuting home and the computer dies the world will still turn on its axis.  However, in the miles-to-next-turn world of randonneuring, it could be a big deal - especially on an unfamiliar route.  As a backup plan here, wear a wristwatch.  If nothing else, you'll know if you're inside the time limits to the next control, you can generally gauge your personal average speed and make an educated guess as to how far you've ridden between turns, and you can even use it for direction finding if the sun is out.  Phones these days are pretty "smart", and you can probably grab an "app for that" in a pinch... but, I'd rather save my phone battery for when I truly need it.  Of course, if you're running a new-fangled GPS computer of some sort, none of this is relevant - but I still prefer getting 12 months from a battery, rather than 12 hours.

Bonk rations.  I always carry an extra energy gel in my seatbag.  You never know when you might need a little pick-me-up or boost if you run out of food or fumble your pocket rations onto the highway.  Like anything else in the seatbag I don't usually have to resort to using it, so when I checked my seat bag contents last month I found it to be reallly expired... well, yeah, it wouldn't have killed me, but it would have been a little thick and gross at best.  So, this is a good time to rotate your rations!  Next time you hit the shop for resupply, by an extra pack of a flavor you love, stash it in your seatbag, and forget about it.  When that c-store that's "always open" is suddenly closed on a long ride, you'll be glad you did.  Better?  Stash two: one for your riding buddy.  A good ride-guide will show you a great road and a cool scenic overlook... a master ride-guide will surprise you with a snack when you unexpectedly run out.  
Riding master you will become... yesss...  </Yoda>

I also mentioned "sanity savers" in that other post - something that can make riding, mentally, easier when the distances extend.  Keeping cable housings from rattling against one another, keeping seatbag contents silent, keeping your computer itself from jiggling around in its own mount all come to mind.  Recently I also performed a few other sanity-saving measures:  A VERY small amount of grease applied between the tops of your shoes and the underside of the Velcro straps that fasten them closed... or ratchet straps, what-have-you.  It's amazing how noisy shoes can get when pedaling up a hill.  A good shoe polish can accomplish the same thing if you have real leather... but most shoes are some kind of synthetic these days.  This keeps the places where parts of the shoe meet from binding and "sqw-creaking" under loads.
Keep your cleats "wet" also:  Phil Wood grease is still my preference for just about anything bike-related - (except the chain) - it just works, and it stays put.  Less can be more, as you don't want to replace little squeaks with a gloppy mess.  Small amounts under the "nose" of your cleats, or underneath the pedal bindings where the cleats will click in can help keep things silent and smooth.  Sometimes noises pop up while already riding, like after getting caught in a considerable rain-shower.  An effective method that works when cleat noises materialize out on the road:  lip-balm.  It's waxy, it's cheap, it stays put.  It's great to take along for your lips in winter anyways, so if you have some in your pack, roll out some excess from the familiar, tiny tube and remove a glob with your finger... apply to the cleat where it meets the pedal, or, to the pedal directly - either way, the annoying cleat noises will soon be gone.  While modern, 3-bolt, Look and Shimano plastic road cleats have been updated with high PTFE content at these interfaces, all-metal SPD cleats can still get noisy.
Disclaimer:  Grease cleats with caution and at your own risk.  You should be pretty familiar with clipless pedal entry and engagement before you go smearing slippery stuff all over your pedals:  less is more, even if it guarantees a need for reapplication later.  Limit application to the underside of the pedal bindings, not the upper surfaces.  You absolutely don't want to make the bottoms of your shoes or the upper surfaces of your pedals slippery to the point of danger.  This is especially risky when departing from a traffic light -- sometimes, even after years of use, I sometimes don't QUITE get clipped in... instead of trying to feel around for engagement while coasting across an intersection, I just pedal lightly to get across the intersection and out of traffic, and worry about fully clipping in once across.  Take care not to get grease or even lip balm on the tread of your shoes, the pedal body, or the bottom surface of the cleat which doesn't actually contact the pedal.  Clip in securely before giving it the beans, lest you slip and take a veneer of your shin.  

These tips aren't only handy for winter riding - this is just a good time of year to go through your stuff.
I hope you found something useful here!

Now...dress warm... go ride!  Enjoy!

1 comment:

Planet MarTay said...

Great tip about lip balm! I always carry lip balm in my bag - and usually have a spare for my friends. I'll share energy gel, protein bars, tubes, tools, first aid kit...but I don't share my lip balm!