Who would believe it? Just a week or so ago, the lakes and ponds in midcoast Maine were still open. But all that changed his past week when the temperatures dropped below freezing for several days in a row. Once outside temps reach zero, an inch of new ice gets added on ponds and lakes in one day.
Today was a day to be ready for serious cold. At 7 in the morning, it was three degrees at the house. It got up to nine when I left to ride the trails around Ragged Mountain, just 15 minutes away. Bubba Church is usually Sunday morning, but there going to be a badass mess of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and then rain, so our ususal Sunday ride came one day earlier this week.
I am using a couple of new products while riding the bike this winter season.
1)First, let’s talk feet. I don’t bother with expensive insulated boots that are specific to bike riding in the deep cold- for example, 45North’s Wolvhammers list for $325. They have cleats that allow you to clip into your pedals. Instead, I run a pair of $12 plastic flat pedals on my Pugsley fat bike, wearing my trusty 15 year old LLBean insulated winter boots- they are plenty roomy with one pair of thin wool Darn Tuff socks.
The new product under my feet is a mesh plastic insole that creates an airspace between the bottom of my foot and the removable boot liner. The insoles have 4 layers of plastic screening inserted between 3 layers of finer screening. I find my socks stay drier, and that I have warmer feet when using them. I got mine through Ben’s Backwoods, a very good place to purchase practical items for those of us that spend time in the northern forest, all year long.
2) Another combo that works for me this season is inserting chemical hand warmers into my handlebar pogies. I have a pair of high-vis green Cordura three year old Stellar Bags pogies made by a Minnesota cyclist who no longer sells them but there are plenty of others out there on the market: Revelate Designs, Dogwood Designs, Bar Mitts and Gup Gum Gear. Pogies do a great job of protecting my hands from the elements, especially the wind which can cool down hands fast and they let you ride wearing lighter gloves.
When then temps get really cold, I activate and then insert throw-away chemical hand warmers into the pogies, and continue on with light wool gloves. However, I didn’t like buying and throwing away cases of the hand warmers ( really- 12 pack cases). One of the vendors at this year’s Snow Walker’s Rendezvous had reusable hand warmers that are made in Maine. The product is Lemay’s Cozy Campers. These are reusable sodium acetate hand warmers that are activated by flexing a metal disc that is suspended in the gel medium. Ten minutes of boiling after use recharges the units for the next time. I have been using this product for 4 times now. It gets warm really fast, but has a much shorter warming period than the metallic mesh throw-away hand warmers. Since my rides are no longer than 3 hours total outdoor time, they are fine for what I do, but if you are out all day and need many hours of warm hands, then they may not be the best choice.
The Camden Snow Bowl, our ride destination today, is still under massive reconstruction, and any riding needs to stay away from the build zone. Our 11 mile ride today began with a serious climb up past the left side, via the top of the toboggan run onto 22 Tacks, then linked up with the Ragged Mountain Runoff bike race loop. From there, we did Jason’s Trail, then onto the seldom traveled Milk and Cookies, until we descended on the Five Brooks trail to the excellent new network of swoopy singletrack at the base of Rollins Road. There is no parking at the end of Rollins, so while part of the group rode the road back to the parking area at the tennis courts at the Snow Bowl, Jason, Ian , and I bushwhacked out way to the left around the outlet from Hosmer Pond until we got to the solid ice and then proceeded to whoop it across the half-mile of black glass to our cars.
Wow! Ice this clear and smooth is rare.
I’m running studded tires, but Ian and Buck didn’t need then as they rode up onto two of the granite islands and powered-slid around on the ice as we made our way back to the cars in the other side.
Big big smiles as we powered north on top of the water !