Windsor Winter Ride Challenge Series

img_2021The Winter Ride Challenge Series has gone international.

Last Sunday I did the Windsor version.  The points scoring is similar except that they measure their temperatures in celsuis like the rest of the world.  

I rode my singlespeed winter bike but I’d brought a knife to gun fight.  Most everyone was on geared cyclocross bikes.   I had no problem hanging with the group at 18 MPH, but then the attacks started.  The pace was pushed to over 21 MPH and I didn’t have the gearing for that.

So, I dropped off the back and made my own ride by heading north to the river and admiring all the work Windsor has done to make biking easier and safer with bike lanes, trails, signage and more.

For those thinking about heading over for the ride, you will have to pay some tolls at the bridge ($4) or tunnel ($3.75).   Make sure you bring your identification as well.

The City of Windsor does have a bike map on their web site.  It’s difficult to print and use, so you want to pick up a copy at a Windsor bike shop instead.

Betting on the Bank Thermometer

Photo by Robert Herriman

Photo by Robert Herriman

Tonight was ride #36 of Robert’s Winter Ride Challenge  Series.

I had to go.  Robert awards points based on temperatures.  The colder it is, the more points you get.    My points had me in 9th place and I couldn’t afford to miss out on these points and drop in the rankings.

The ride started rough.  I was late and a had a slow motion crash on my way to the ride.  I turned too tight on smooth, dry concrete and the studded front tire just slipped out.  No biggie.

Though I missed the pre-ride photograph, I did make the ride, biked 21 miles,  and got 120 points.

On this particular night, we’d started the ride by going past the local bank thermometer.  It read 8F.  Before we got near that same sign on the return, Alex Dolpp and I guessed at the new temperature.

He guessed 5F and I guessed 6F.

As we rode up to the sign, it flashed 6F and Alex gave his congratulations.  Within 50 feet of the sign, it changed to 5F, which was good for a laugh.

According to Robert, the lowest recorded wind chill during the ride was -5F.

There was Challenge in the Series tonight.

Avoiding Cold Feet on the Bike

img_1976I made a change recently in my footwear and it’s really made an improvement in keeping my feet warm.

To begin, I wear a very thin synthetic sock as the base layer.

Next is a Patagonia Insulator sock, which is made from 2mm neoprene with sealed seams.  These socks are made for fly fishing, but they work well for cycling because they are waterproof (a vapor barrier) and fit relatively snug.  Best of all they can be rinsed clean rather than washed.  Hopefully this translates into a very long life.

The outer sock is a thick synthetic Patagonia sock, though I don’t recall the name.  Most anything would work here, including wool, so long as it can stretch over the neoprene.

Of course I can’t wear my normal shoe size with this much insulation on my feet, so I wear size 13.5 Lake winter cycling shoes rather than my normal 9.5s.

I could also throw in a chemical heater outside of the neoprene, but it hasn’t been necessary.  I recently rode 15 miles in -20F windchill and my toes only felt a slight but sustainable level chilliness.

I had been using SealSkinz socks, which work well.  The problem is they have a soft lining material that absorbs odor and requires washing.  After using them for a year or so, the socks are no longer waterproof like they once were.

Link: More information on keeping your feet warm while biking

My Winter Bike

Custom Slingshot singlespeed

Custom Slingshot singlespeed

Between the snow, ice, and salt, winter can be pretty tough on a bike.  Rather than ride your best rig this time of year, many of us hobble together something a little more rugged, simple, and less expensive.

This year I built up an old Slingshot frame I had laying around.

I originally bought this bike as a demo bike.   It never really worked well for me as a mountain bike, so I rebuilt it as an urban cross bike.  That didn’t work, so I had Scott Quiring build a custom fork and replace the rear dropouts with horizontal ones.  We believe this was the second Slingshot with horizontal drops but the first to be built up.

I was a great singlespeed.  I raced it at the Iceman and won the MMBA CPS singlespeed series on it (back before the super fast guys started racing singlespeed.)

As a winter bike, it’s still a singlespeed with the following features:

  • 44mm extra wide SnowCats rims made in Fairbanks, Alaska
  • the front rim is custom drilled with half-inch holes (Thanks, Eric)
  • the rear rim is the SnowCat SL with one-inch drilled out holes
  • the front tire is a Nokian Extreme with steel carbide studs
  • the handlebar covers were made by Schroeder Sports
  • Cane Creek Direct Curve brakes which work well with wide rims
  • Softride suspension stem – the best suspension for winter riding

Many MTB front fenders attach to the downtube, which is really not an option on Slingshots.  I’m using a fender that uses a star nut in the bottom of the steerer tube.

Sparks were Flyin’!

img_1974The day started, or actually didn’t start well.

I don’t drive all my little VW diesel all that often.  All that sitting around doesn’t help the battery in these below zero temps.  Despite the battery being just a couple  months old, it didn’t have enough juice to get the engine started.

I quickly tried untangling some frozen extension cords (which should be a new Winter Olympic sport) and ran a battery charger to the car.  Not fun.

So after work I took a spin on my main transportation.  My bike.

We’re in the midst of the Winter Ride Challenge Series.  Riders get points for attendance.  The colder the windchill, the more points one gets.  And there are bonus points if it’s nighttime and if you ride a singlespeed bike.

With the windchill well below zero, tonight was a huge night for points!

The roads were icy and snow covered, which wasn’t too bad, though I did nearly wipe out in Royal Oak.

While navigating a turn, my rear tire started to slide out.  Eventually my front studded tire started to do the same.  I rode the two wheel drift long enough for the front tire’s stud to finally hook up.  According to the guy behind me, sparks were flying off the steel carbide studs as they skid across the pavement.

Whoo hoo!

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