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The Backcountry Bike Team: Packing for Wintery Destinations

So you say you’re going on a road trip to a chilly destination. Maybe it’s to your parents’ or the in-laws’ for the holidays, and maybe you’re going to squeeze in an event like the Iceman Cometh. Late fall and early winter can be a volatile time weatherwise. Unless you’re headed to somewhere like southern Florida or Los Angeles, you can’t be too certain of what weather to expect.

Heck, when traveling with the family or to see family, you can’t even be too certain of what time of day you’ll be able to go for a ride. Sneaking out to the trails at 7 a.m. in the shade of the mountain is a far different experience that doing the same ride at 3 p.m. at your leisure. Often these trips tend to be all about eating, so being able to sneak out for a ride will help balance the calories and the guilt, plus buy you a little bit of the precious solo time we all need.

Let’s pack

Whether you’re headed back your Ma’s or crashing on your brother in-law’s spare bedroom futon, this time of year is not the time to pack light. Start with your basics – bibs, undershirt, leg and arm warmers, short sleeve jersey. One item each if you know washing clothes won’t be a big deal, but throw in another pair of bibs just in case.

For November events like the Iceman Cometh, it can be anything from sunny and high 50s to the worst of the worst, low 30s and slushy snow coming at you from both the ground and the sky. Its here that packing and preparation is key:

Gloves: We all have our hangups, and cold hands and fingers are mine. For uncertain weather, I have a caddy of gloves – summer weight and winter weight standard mountain bike gloves to two levels of Gore Bike Wear winter gloves – a middle weight glove like the Mistral and a heavier weight option like the Alp-X will do the trick. Gloves are small, last a long time, and can make or break a riding experience. Trust me.

Socks: On the flip side, cold feet don’t bother me too much, and there’s not a lot you can do for them, either. Wool socks are a great start, as are devices to block the wind. Gore overshoe booties are the professional way to do it, and they keep your shoes clean as an upside. In a pinch, I use a modified MAKE PARTY IN THE MOUNTAINS beer coozy wind blocker for my toes. The neoprene does great when it gets wet, too.

Hat: The Gore cycling hat is another life saver. It blocks the wind, protects from moisture, and if you’re follicularly challenged like me, becomes more and more crucial to cold weather rides as they years go on. Anything that fits under your helmet will do the trick, so the focus is – keep your head covered.

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Outerwear: If its dry, you’ll warm up pretty fast on the mountain bike. Often, however, you’ll end up riding to the trails from your in-laws so that’s when the wind can get you. A put-it-on-and-keep-it-on jacket like the Gore Bike Wear Oxygen jacket works in everything from PacNW drizzle to sunny but chilly fall days. The worse the weather, the better, for a jacket like this.

Pants/Shorts: Now let’s take it up a notch. The weather is bad, its wet, its cold. You’re going to ride no matter what (or race!). Let’s keep your lower half dry and warm. The Gore Bike Wear Alp-X shorts keep the spray off your backside and the icy drizzle off the legs. From the knee down, that’s your call, but from the knees to the waist, a good set of leg warmers and a pair of outer shorts will do miracles at keeping your legs from entering the dead and wooden state that comes with being cold and wet.

Tiny Details

Lube: a good oil-based heavy lube will last longer in wet conditions than lighter or wax based. Make sure you’re starting with a clean chain, eh?

GoPro: While it’s not easy keeping the lens clean on days like this, pulling this little camera out of your pocket from time to time will make the memories so much sweeter.

Towel: ‘Nuff said.

Plastic grocery sack: Don’t track mud all over your host’s house, come on. And when you do, you can stoke out your nieces and nephews with a stack of Goat stickers to make up for it.

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Photos by Jason Sager


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