Cold weather MTB riding- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Cold weather MTB riding

    What is everyone's "Mendoza Line" that will keep you off your bike and out of the weather riding?

    Mine is 40 degrees. Call me a wimp but anything below that and I just can't seem to enjoy it AS much. I tried riding last weekend at Chicopee and could only get in the freaking Tortoise trail...LOL. Fingers were frozen. Tried wearing a full face mask over my head and every time I would breathe my doggone glasses would fog up!
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldManBiker View Post
    What is everyone's "Mendoza Line" that will keep you off your bike and out of the weather riding?

    Mine is 40 degrees. Call me a wimp but anything below that and I just can't seem to enjoy it AS much. I tried riding last weekend at Chicopee and could only get in the freaking Tortoise trail...LOL. Fingers were frozen. Tried wearing a full face mask over my head and every time I would breathe my doggone glasses would fog up!
    I rode last week in low 30's... now I'm sick

  3. #3
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    Middle Tennessee trails mostly have pretty craptastic dirt that turns into mush in the winter. As soon as we get one freeze/thaw cycle on it, it either has to completely dry out to ridable (April?) or be frozen. As such, my last ride was at about 24 degrees. I really enjoyed it, but then I've been so busy that I think I rode once in December, and I've ridden once so far this month. As far as the coldest I've ridden in? I think that'd be 8F. It's really all about understanding what you need to do to stay warm without being too warm, so some of it is understanding the level of exertion required for a certain ride.

  4. #4
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    I think the coldest I've ridden was right at freezing. I have some thick gloves but it needs to be pretty cold before I wear them, otherwise my hands overheat. I've run in temps down in the twenties. Even then, my hands will overheat and I'll end up taking my gloves off and they'll be all wet with sweat. I've made the mistake of dressing for mountain biking when road biking and froze, being more out in the open and the higher speed is a lot colder. I probably won't head out on the road if it is below 40.

    One thing you have to think about is resting. If you stop for very long, you rapidly lose the heat you've generated and cool down and then you get cold from the wet sweat. And your muscles tighten up really fast.
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  5. #5
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    Being an Idaho boy, I've ridden down to 0. It's do-able if you have the right gear (including chemical toe and hand warmers).

  6. #6
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    Just starating to experiment with purposeful cold rides. Not too many in but a few in the 28 f to 40 range where started at 40 and via mountain terrain and elevation, tunnels and such dropped to 28. Recent coldest was a night of starting at 22 that dropped to 15 f over 2 hours or so.

    What I'm doing- Bought some bar mitts ! You can use a pretty thin glove even in those 15 f temps. Bought some cheapo's off Amazon and wow..... really help.

    Cotharyus has it right. The key is the right gear for the level of exertion. Here in CO, this means have a few different layers and gear choices with you or at least at the car / trailhead. Nothing too thick or bulky.

    One trick is dress as if it's 5 degrees warmer. You may start with a slight chill but 10 to 15 min in or getting to the climb might feel perfect. We are all different and you got to learn "you" and experiment. I'm not a guy that has $80 gloves and $600 jackets but everything works. We just wanted to enjoy biking year round and we do these mostly as night rides.
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  7. #7
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    I get confused between mountain biking, road biking and trail running, I probably need to write it down. But for mountain biking, I probably dress as if it was about 20-25 degrees warmer; at 45 degrees I'll wear shorts and a long sleeve tech shirt under my jersey and basic long fingered gloves and possibly a skull cap thing under my helmet. I usually will have pushed the sleeves up about a mile or two into the ride. Below 45 I'll consider tights and a heavier tech shirt; into the thirties probably throwing on a cycling jacket to act as a wind breaker and heavier gloves.
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    Our group rides every Wed & Sun and have not missed a ride in 3 yrs. We probably won't start a ride below 12 F and we have been riding in the mid teens in Pgh the last 10 days or so.

    We did change a Wed to a Thur 2 wks ago cause it was 13 and very windy. The heat is in the pedals they say...

  9. #9
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    Around freezing breathing starts to get pretty uncomfortable for me at my normal biking intensity level. A flatter less energy intensive trail wouldn't be as bad as my two local trails. Under 50F I'll wear a long sleeve athletic shirt under a short sleeve athletic shirt. Below about 38F and I'll wear wool socks and a merino base layer instead of the tech/athletic long sleeve shirt. Otherwise I wear the same as I would in warm weather, including shorts.

  10. #10
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    I'm only OK down to 50įF.

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    I rode at Big Creek this morning at about 28 degrees. As long as there isn't much wind, I'm fine with that. I struggle with cold fingers even with thick gloves, but as long as I can work up a sweat they end up okay after the first 30 minutes. Until I recently had it serviced, I had problems with my dropper getting stuck down when it is under 40. It is good now, but I surprised myself last winter when I realized how dependent I am on that thing.

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    We rode today whilst the Steelers were getting their arses kicked. 15 F to start 18 when finished. Sun was shining and no wind, it was a great day to be out. 10 miles on hardpack crunchy snow with a lot of icy patches.

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    I compare it to skiing...I have had countless great ski days over the years in single digits to teens. Not uncommon to hit 50-60 mph on skis so a mntn bike ride in similar temps is not a big deal when dressed properly. Riding technical single track keeps body working and blood pumping with minimal wind chill because you are not travelling anywhere close to that speed. For extremely cold days I wear ski helmet/goggles and ditch the clip-on's for flats so I can wear warm boots. I've had many great rides in teens to twenties temps...hard and fast!
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    I've got a pair of handlebar mitts coming and some toe warmers as well that slip over the socks. I will let you all know if these things are worth the $$ and hype! Should have by midweek. I hope!
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldManBiker View Post
    I've got a pair of handlebar mitts coming and some toe warmers as well that slip over the socks. I will let you all know if these things are worth the $$ and hype! Should have by midweek. I hope!
    Uh oh, supposed to be 58˚/60˚ this weekend!
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  16. #16
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    Feet are my Achilles Heel of cold weather riding.

    Even when its 50F my feet get cold riding.

    XC skiing in skinny leather boots today, with a headband, and jacket wide open, for hours. Close to zero. No problem. Face, neck, ears, hands - good to go.

    But, something about the feet being on pedals, even in boots on flats, and they go numb.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miker J View Post
    Feet are my Achilles Heel of cold weather riding.

    Even when its 50F my feet get cold riding.

    XC skiing in skinny leather boots today, with a headband, and jacket wide open, for hours. Close to zero. No problem. Face, neck, ears, hands - good to go.

    But, something about the feet being on pedals, even in boots on flats, and they go numb.
    I slide a handwarmer on top of toes inside shoe then use shoe covers which work as wind breakers...just rode this afternoon and it was 16 degF with snow squalls. Feet were fine. Duct tape also works well wrapped around toe area and front part of shoe to break the wind and keep the heat from handwarmers contained. If you do it correctly it will not affect clipons. Also works when going with flats and wearing regular boots.
    I only use handwarmers when it's < 40 but the duct tape or shoe covers are a must to help contain heat and break the wind from the pedaling action. Have done this for years riding in CT...works great.
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  18. #18
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    Going to try to ride a day in AR while in in OKC a week from now.

    There are no wrong temperatures to ride, only wrong clothing.

    I tried to ride a few times in OK and in AZ when it was significantly below freezing, one time in AZ it was 5įF in town and surely colder in the mountains, worst ride I can remember, decided I was never ever going to attempt something like that again. Now I'm perfectly happy down to -20 and more. Much of the clothing people will already have or they can get for good deals if they know where to look. Due to the wider range of (colder) temps and how frequently i experience it, I need a fairly large wardrobe to be able to rotate everything, but if I had just gotten a few of the things I have now, I would have been far happier on some of those colder days in OK and AZ and if I had to do it again, I'd get some of the stuff. Protecting hands, feet and head are the most important parts. Head can be done with a thin beanie or thin balaclava, I find the latter to be more versatile, but sometimes the temps rarely call for anything more than the beanie. For hands, thin gloves and pogies, even on skinny-bikes, the best part is you can roll them up when you start getting warm, so you don't get your gloves wet. Riding with "winter" mountain bike gloves is always a disaster for me, I have no control, my palms get sweaty, and my fingers freeze...every time. Inside the pogies, if you have to go that far, you can use adhesive boot-warmers on the handlebars. Grip em for a few minutes and they will stick to the bar and provide good heat. For feet, the "real" winter shoes like Lake 303s are only really good down to the 30-20F range for me, usually perfect around 40 degrees. There are a pretty good variety of shoes that work well, but beware a few that are just basically "summer" shoes with extended neoprene cuffs. The clipless pedals are amazingly efficient heat-sinks and the closer your foot is to the cleat, the more you are going to lose, and it often ends up being a losing battle. If you like to do DH, these do pretty nice double-duty as good DH clipless boots.

    Then, do not over-do the mid-section/core. Make sure you have breathable stuff. You should be a bit cold when you start, and 20 minutes in you will get up to operating temperature. Good to have an extra layer/extra handwarmers just in case, but heavy jackets and ski-weight stuff is going to make you miserable. Windblocking on the front side can be helpful, but most people, no matter where I go, tend to overdress their core, complaining about their extremities. Focus on the extremities. It may be hard to justify the boots/bar mits (pogies), but like I said, I should have done it and it makes riding in colder conditions fun, rather than a fight for survival.
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  19. #19
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    I've pretty routinely ridden down to about 24f, I think that's my cutoff, more because the bike handles poorly than anything. The key is to have the right gear on and plan appropriately.

    I start with a merino wool base layer below 45 and a thick long sleeve jersey. The base layer keeps your sweat from pooling on you and getting cold, while also keeping your body heat inside.

    The next upper body layer is one of the most important when riding in the cold, that's a windbreaker. Most jerseys breathe really well and you'll lose a lot of bodyheat that way, having a windbreaker (preferably purpose made) really helps. You can always shed it, but I find unzipping it keeps me plenty cool up to a point. If it just gets too hot, I take it off and stuff it in my pack. Some of these pack up really small, some are waterproof, etc, there are lots of options.

    For my hands, I usually wear my handup gloves above 30. Below that, I have a set of winter riding gloves that act as a sort of windbreaker for hands.

    For legs, below 45 I wear my leggings. Not so much that my legs get cold, but if you get any water on your legs, they'll be frozen. I learned this the hard way, riding after a snow when it was 40 out, everything was fine but my legs were numb by the end from the cold water kicking up and accumulating on my legs. I also wear kneepads, but that's something I always do.

    For shoes, I wear slightly thicker shoes, but never bought any purpose built ones. I don't have an issue with cold feet. I wear a thick pair of socks with another pair over the top, mainly to protect against outside moisture. If your shoes have ventilation, you can duct tape the vents shut.

    Glasses are also helpful, that cold air on your eyes hurts.

    If I do all of this, then I can usually ride down to about 20-22 and be fine. Below that and it's not worth it for me to bother going out.

    It's also worth keeping in mind that below freezing, your bike may handle funny too. Your dropper post may stop working or slow down, depending on the model. The oil in your suspension thickens, which will make it harsher and rebound slower. Your tires will freeze and not grip as well. I can handle the low temps, but my bike feeling like turd makes it less fun, although it does seem to help if I drop a psi or two out of my tires.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OldManBiker View Post
    What is everyone's "Mendoza Line" that will keep you off your bike and out of the weather riding?

    Mine is 40 degrees...
    Mine is at 55 degrees. Anything below this I am just not having fun anymore and riding becomes a slog for me.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldManBiker View Post
    What is everyone's "Mendoza Line" that will keep you off your bike and out of the weather riding?

    Mine is 40 degrees. Call me a wimp but anything below that and I just can't seem to enjoy it AS much. I tried riding last weekend at Chicopee and could only get in the freaking Tortoise trail...LOL. Fingers were frozen. Tried wearing a full face mask over my head and every time I would breathe my doggone glasses would fog up!
    My threshold is 10 degrees or below.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dunleavy View Post
    I rode at Big Creek this morning at about 28 degrees. ...
    More power to you bro. I have driven past Big Creek and the temp is 18 and there are people just finishing up their ride! I have always wondered who these people are; now I know its you and your cold loving buddies!
    Last edited by Brodino; 02-19-2018 at 11:38 AM.

  23. #23
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    Being new to riding MTB I am still trying to find mine. I originally said it was going to be 40 degrees but Sunday I did a ride below that and was fine except for my hands, had summer long finger gloves on. It was supposed to be a beginner clinic but only two of us showed up and so the instructor took us out on the trails and we ended up riding 12 miles with the last few after the sun had set and downhill. I had planned on minimal trail riding based on the description and was dressed appropriately for that. With my other gloves I would have been fine so now mine will be somewhere lower than previously expected.

    It has taken me several rides to get a better idea of how to dress for MTB v. road. My first several MTB rides since getting my bike in November I was way overdressed. What works on the road does not work on the trail, I find I need much less to be comfortable.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by sturge View Post
    I slide a handwarmer on top of toes inside shoe then use shoe covers which work as wind breakers...just rode this afternoon and it was 16 degF with snow squalls. Feet were fine. Duct tape also works well wrapped around toe area and front part of shoe to break the wind and keep the heat from handwarmers contained. If you do it correctly it will not affect clipons. Also works when going with flats and wearing regular boots.
    I only use handwarmers when it's < 40 but the duct tape or shoe covers are a must to help contain heat and break the wind from the pedaling action. Have done this for years riding in CT...works great.
    Yeah, those "Toasty Toe" adhesive warmers are great. I too put them on the tops of my feet. One issue with them is that if they don't get enough 02 they go cold, and since most winter biking shoes are close to air-tight those warmers don't stay very warm once the shoe is snugged down.

    If there exists a trick to keep feet warm out there, I've tried it. I think I'm a lost cause.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miker J View Post

    If there exists a trick to keep feet warm out there, I've tried it. I think I'm a lost cause.
    I think part of the problem is too many people look for a trick. Sometimes the solution is actually really easy. The only time your feet get cold is on the bike? Maybe your saddle is causing a circulation issue that isn't so bad it bothers you most of the time, but manifests itself as cold feet when the temps drop. What happens if you stand up and pedal more? Stay out of the saddle some?

    You've indicated you can't keep your feet warm in multiple different types of shoes on the bike, so I assume it's not this - but I had a pair of shoes once that was simply too tight with a pair of warm socks on - again leading to circulation problems. It doesn't have to be enough to put your feet to sleep to reduce blood flow enough to make it hard to keep warm.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miker J View Post
    Yeah, those "Toasty Toe" adhesive warmers are great. I too put them on the tops of my feet. One issue with them is that if they don't get enough 02 they go cold, and since most winter biking shoes are close to air-tight those warmers don't stay very warm once the shoe is snugged down.

    If there exists a trick to keep feet warm out there, I've tried it. I think I'm a lost cause.
    On those super bitter cold days in Idaho, I normally get off the bike and run with it (cyclocross style) to get the feeling back in my feet. I also wear Shimano winter shoes which help a bit. One of the big issues with today's shoes is that air is let in from the cleat mounting hole area so I also put a layer or two of gorilla duct tape over it (between the insole and the holes).

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldManBiker View Post
    What is everyone's "Mendoza Line" that will keep you off your bike and out of the weather riding?
    Normally I'd say I don't have one, but those polar vortexes and that recent spat of single digits to teens would make me a liar. Near 0F and 100% humidity just ain't happening.
    I'll ride in the 20s, but am not happy with temps that low for mtb(though 20-30 is perfect hiking weather, IMO).
    I don't like wearing any kind of jacket, long pants, windproof gloves with liners or any of that stuff on the bike, and my cutoff for shorts is mid to high 30s. Beyond that, I enjoy it less, too. Sucks double with our humidity when it gets below freezing.
    It usually warms up pretty quick, even if it's below freezing at sunrise, so it can be worth delaying an hour or two, if not pushed for time.

    I could tell you what I wear at various temps, but wouldn't recommend anyone else follow suit, 'cause I'm like a human furnace when active.
    Rode for 3hrs at Oak Mtn in AL yesterday morning. 38 when I left the house, 42-48F while riding, but the wind picked up, so it actually felt coolest at the end.
    PI Canyon shorts, lightweight Nike Pro long sleeve baselayer with a short sleeve cotton T over it to take the edge off the wind. Stayed pretty comfortable the whole time. Except for the t-shirt on top, I wear the same thing at 100F...

    There were people jogging on the road in fleece and beanies

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by OwenM View Post
    Rode for 3hrs at Oak Mtn in AL yesterday morning. 38 when I left the house, 42-48F while riding, but the wind picked up, so it actually felt coolest at the end.
    PI Canyon shorts, lightweight Nike Pro long sleeve baselayer with a short sleeve cotton T over it to take the edge off the wind.
    Similar attire and location, I'm usually either there or Tannehill, may see you around sometime.

  29. #29
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    Snake Creek TT in North GA was 11* and wind chill was 0 last January. I rode that. Probably wouldn't leave the house had I not already paid to race.

    In general, I am typically down to ride anytime it is above 20*. I have some NorthWave GTX MTB shoes and a good air of wool socks keeps my feet warm. Past that, some good Endura winter gloves and layer up!
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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by AF2NR View Post
    Similar attire and location, I'm usually either there or Tannehill, may see you around sometime.
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  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    The only time your feet get cold is on the bike? Maybe your saddle is causing a circulation issue that isn't so bad it bothers you most of the time, but manifests itself as cold feet when the temps drop. What happens if you stand up and pedal more? Stay out of the saddle some?

    You've indicated you can't keep your feet warm in multiple different types of shoes on the bike, so I assume it's not this - but I had a pair of shoes once that was simply too tight with a pair of warm socks on - again leading to circulation problems.
    Good tips, never thought of the seated / circulation issue.

    I've definitely had experience with the socks/shoe fit criteria. Can't speak for everyone but I think the right fit is real critical in those temperature ranges that begin to suffer comfort. I discovered it long ago in the my youthful skier days. Ski boots / fit with proper socks. Too tight and it's quick to cold feet.

    For me at least lately (as I'm geting older), I'm finding my tendancy is thicker ski type socks with shoes or boots just a big big enough to allow roomyness.
    I'm doubtful the right fit with a thin sock will ever work for me in the future.

    Be advised this is a shoe size consideration in case you default to your 'normal' size that may not be best with "the right socks".

    Cold rides
    I know it's a matter of time til I hit that temperature range or wind that makes a ride No Fun. So far I only recall a few rides that were not comfortable and they were due to not wearing the right gear or being prepared. Even then, those were mild temps like just below 40 degree morning rides years ago - hands !!

    Wind
    Another memory was hellacious winds between Palmer Lake and much of the Air Force Academy. Thankfully it was mostly crosswinds, a mild to warm day and ended up being a good test of riding in unfamiliar conditions. I remember it being around the time weatherunderground was new to me. I was excited to get home and search the local wunderground stations in various neighborhoods and that area we rode to witness the actual measured winds speeds, max gusts and direction. Once you identify with various thresholds, you better know what you endured and what you can handle or expect. That was a mid morning of 20+ wind, peak gusts 37 to 40 mph. Every biker we spotted riding north/south was leaning 25 to 30 degrees toward the east... lol.

    W-underground links to wx stations at various resident locations and tracking history too so you can look at a wind speed , direction or temperature graph to see recent history. Monitoring live temps and wind on wundermap is neat too but if I sound a bit too weather geekish, some of this is job related, nightshift, Building automation.

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    Lastly, I'll mention a time living up there by the AFA when I was feeling bored and slightly headachy. It was a chilly windy day and not much snow cover on the ground so I decided to take a chance that some bike exercise might snap me out my headache. Soon I was realizing the open range area out north of the AFA was much colder, more windy and I was pushing hard on the pedals cutting through minor snow drifts. I was on my rigid 3x7 and it was just enough adventure and exercise that I either cured my headache or just plain forgot about it.

    Last edited by bachman1961; 01-27-2018 at 01:55 AM.
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    Good news is on the way!!! Weather Channel shows that in the ATL area, starting Monday Temps should be in the mid 50s to mid 60s. Just need to bang out a ride in the 40s this weekend and then we are off!!

    At least lets hope the Ground Hog does not see his shadow.

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    First off, I live in Wisconsin so cold-weather riding is a necessity rather than a choice. (I'm browsing this forum looking for a place to visit to do some Summer style riding for a week or so, 40-degree temps sound awesome!)

    I have had great times riding in the single digits Fahrenheit, it's all down to how you dress and keeping your energy up.

    What works for me is to under-dress for the temperature and bring along lots of quick energy snacks! Most of the warmth on the trail is provided by body heat, to the point where venting clothing becomes necessary. But if you run out of steam and stop moving you get cold fast, which is dangerous.

    Over-dressing is just as bad as under-dressing because then I get sweaty and overheated on the trail which leads to getting fatigued and pissed off.

    Generally I carry chocolate in large quantities and lots of water, remembering to drink even if I don't feel thirsty and stop once an hour to cram my mouth full of chocolates (the cordials with the liquor inside them are the best!).

    Ivan

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    Quote Originally Posted by craZivn View Post
    First off, I live in Wisconsin so cold-weather riding is a necessity rather than a choice. (I'm browsing this forum looking for a place to visit to do some Summer style riding for a week or so, 40-degree temps sound awesome!)
    I somewhat agree but in many places down here it isn't only the air temperature but the air itself. Having spent 12 years in the Air Force and 7 in the mining industry in different areas I noticed the temperature wasn't the only indicator. There were many times when I left one location coming home to AL, and the temp was cooler where I left but felt much cooler here due to the moisture in the air. Same thing happens in the summer but reversed. Humidity and the dampness it creates can make it feel much cooler, or warmer, than the temperature itself. YMMV.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by AF2NR View Post
    I somewhat agree but in many places down here it isn't only the air temperature but the air itself. Having spent 12 years in the Air Force and 7 in the mining industry in different areas I noticed the temperature wasn't the only indicator. There were many times when I left one location coming home to AL, and the temp was cooler where I left but felt much cooler here due to the moisture in the air. Same thing happens in the summer but reversed. Humidity and the dampness it creates can make it feel much cooler, or warmer, than the temperature itself. YMMV.
    Thatís a really good point, I hadnít taken humidity into account. But youíre right, that can make or break a ride regardless of temperature! Guess Iíd better pay attention to more that just the local temps in my quest for a destination.

    Ivan

  36. #36
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    The coldest I've ridden this year is 22 degrees. Cold is not an issue for me.
    Visit us here: ArkansasOutside.com

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    0 degrees f.

    In between 5-15 F is a great temp for winter riding provided your clothing is good. Pogies with summer gloves and layers with breathable backs make it pretty easy, that is without serious wind. Plenty of room in winter boots with a good merino wool sock helps as well, even with clips.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by angelo View Post
    0 degrees f.

    In between 5-15 F is a great temp for winter riding provided your clothing is good. Pogies with summer gloves and layers with breathable backs make it pretty easy, that is without serious wind. Plenty of room in winter boots with a good merino wool sock helps as well, even with clips.
    You do realize this is the Southeast/Midsouth forum, right?

    Or are you making fun of us?
    This post is a natural product. Variances in spelling & grammar should be appreciated as part of its character & beauty.

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    I began going back to the gym to get stronger, work on my core, get fitter, etc so that I could enjoy riding better and keeping up with our group of insane crazy good riders in this forum. What I didn't expect to happen is to work out THIS MUCH because I can't ever seem to get on the trail and ride! This is insane! ARGH
    OMB :thumbsup:
    2019 Yeti SB130 Turq XX1
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  40. #40
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    This has been a terrible winter for us SE mtb riders. The weather and I are in a major fight right now. But to be fair I donít think he cares.


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