Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Baby it's cold outside.... and wet.

Yesterday was a difficult day to be on the bike.  The morning started dry and in the mid to upper 20s.  By 8am the rain had started and the temps were right at freezing.  Though the rain wasn't a downpour, it was steady and soaking all day long.  The temperature didn't get much above freezing all day.  We were fortunate that the ground was warm enough that it didn't get icy.  

Photo by Ricky Lee Albores

I left the house at about 7am and didn't get home until bout 4pm in the afternoon.  I stopped a few times to warm up with coffee and get some lunch, but I was out doing advocacy work the vast majority of the day.  

I've been talking a lot about winter clothing, but I haven't really talked about what to do when it is raining and cold.  I got quite a few questions from friends on Facebook who were also out riding yesterday.  Many of them got very cold and wanted to know what I wore.

Here's the laundry list: 

Core: Castelli early winter long sleve base layer, Rapha wool jersey with an Endura Flyte rain jacket on top.Legs: Giro New Road wool blend bibs with Hincapie winter (fleece) shorts on top. Both had chamois, so I'm doubled up there. Over the top I used Endura Venturi 3/4 rain knickers. Embrocation on my lower legs (exposed skin) was Mad Alchemy Cold Weather - Medium.Feet: Swiftwick merino wool socks. Lake winter boots (MTB version sealed with SnoSeal bees wax sealant). Outdoor Research goretex gaters over the top.Hands: I changed gloves 4 hours into the ride since my first pair of gloves were wet. Assos liner gloves with Pearl Izumi WXB Lobster Glvoes (last year's model. Mostly waterproof and super warm) were good from 7am-1:30pm. I switched to Assos Liner gloves (the same ones from the morning...still wet) with Assos Early Winter gloves as a middle layer and Pearl Izumi WXB shell gloves over the top. The PI WXB shell gloves have no insulation, but are almost completely water proof and wind proof. My hands started out cold, but within 10 minutes were toasty warm and stayed there for the last 2.5 hours of my ride.
Head: Assos rain hat with a Laser Helium helmet with lexan cover on it that seals up all the vents.

When I felt myself getting too warm, I did one of two things... I either unzipped the jacket a few inches, or if it was raining a lot, I just backed off the riding a little and let my body back off generating so much heat.
When I got home, my jersey and shorts were dry. My base layer was a little damp from persperation, but most of that came in the last few climbs at the end of the day. My feet were dry and warm. My hands were wet, but warm.

There are three, maybe four jackets on the market these days that I'm aware of that can do what mine did today. None are cheap. Assos Sturmprinz is by far the best. Endura makes the Flyte and Venturi jackets. Rapha's rain jacket is legit. Showers Pass' top of the line jacket works great, Is the cheapest of the bunch, but seems to have build quality and endurance issues.

I've never found a garment that works as well as the Endura Venturi knickers, though in all honesty, I have not tried Assos rain pants. I'd guess they are up to the task.

Sorry that the answers all involve spending money. Rain + Cold has no inexpensive remedy. I know of some folks that do well with rain capes. They don't have to breathe because they're totally open at the bottom. For me, one gust of wind and I'm soaked.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Winter Skin Care

It's getting cold and windy out there.  We've talked about keeping warm while you ride.  We're pretty familiar with how to take care of our skin when it's hot out.  If you're new to riding all winter, you may find some of this helpful.

Sunscreen: Just 'cause it is cold out doesn't mean you can't get a good burn.  Slather yourself before you go out.  Not only will it protect your skin from the sun, it also helps it from being dried out from the wind.  Exposed skin takes a beating from a cold wind.  

Embrocation: Not sure if everyone gets this, but I know my legs really get pretty beaten up in the cold.  I tend to wear knickers even when it is pretty cold an cleave my shins out to in the cold.  Even when I wear tights or pants, my legs come back pretty raw if I don't do something with them.  Embrocation is a balm made of essential oils that are blended to provide warmth for your muscles and protection for your skin.  They come in different levels of warming from no warming up to stuff that really heats your legs up!  

In temps below 50 degrees, I'll use a non-warming or very mild warming embrocation.  I'll go to medium below that.  I personally don't use the really hot embrocations.  My skin doesn't like them that much.  

The awesome thing about embro, in addition to helping keep your legs and muscles warm, is that it keeps your skin really smooth and healthy… protecting it from the wind and elements.  

Note:  Applying the warming embrocation is something to be careful with.  The stuff in it that warms your legs can also be uncomfortable if it gets on your tender, soft tissue.  You also don't want to touch your face or eyes if you've got any embro on your fingers.  Trust me, you'll be inventing new curse words if that happens.  I apply warming embro using latex gloves and then toss them away.  It makes everything easier.  

Note2: Embro works best on shaved legs.  It is easier to apply and remove.   

Post-ride skin care:  I'm a guy… facial skin care isn't high on my priority list.  I generally use a moisturizer (read hand cream) on my hands and face after I get out of the shower.  Suave vitamin E lotion is my fave.  It is cheap and works well. For people who really care more about what they use on their face, I generally suggest going with something a little more heavy duty to repair and replenish what the cold takes out of the skin on your face.  

If you're looking for the simple answer for everything…. just go to town with the Suave lotion and you'll be okay.  If you want more in-depth information, read on!  

On my legs I'm more systematic.  Decades of winter riding has beaten the heck out of my legs.  If I don't take care of them, the skin really begins to hurt.  I've found a few things that work well.  For every day use, I use Trader Joe's Vitamin E oil.  It smells good and feels good on my skin.  My legs feel great right away.  If the ride was wet and my skin is really beaten up, something like Bag Balm (it is actually a cow udder ointment) from the drug store gives a bit more relief.  Bag Balm is also great for saddle sores.  It is good to have a tin of it around the house.  The third product I just started using is from Donkey Label, a company that makes embrocation and chamois cream.  It is called Recovery Oil.  It is designed to not only repair your skin, but also helps your muscles recover when you use it as a massage oil.  I use it just before getting out the Foam Roller (  My legs feel great after. 

I know that's a lot of information.  It makes my legs feel happy though. 

Happy winter riding!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Powhatan Dirty 200

From the brain of the person that brought you the Kill Bill Century and the 140 mile fixie MoCo Epic, I would like to present the Powhatan Dirty 200.  

The short pitch:  I'm likely going to be too poor to attend the Dirty Kanza 200 this year.  That doesn't mean that I am going to sit on the sidelines, watching the internet while friends do a leg-breaking gravel grinder ride next year.  

Similar to DK200, the PD200 will be a self-supported, 200 mile gravel grinder done in one day.  I'll create a century version too, for those who want a tough ride, but don't have a 200 mile day in their legs.  I'm talking about it now because I want to train and I want others to be able to train for it.  

Different from DK200:  This is not a race or even a supported ride.  Basically I'm going to go for a ride.  If you'd like to join me, you are completely welcome to.  You will need to be completely self-sufficient.  You can have a support crew resupply you, but you're not required to.  You can carry tons of stuff with you.  You can resupply at country stores along the way.  I'll try and make it so there is a place to resupply every 30-40 miles.  You will need to have a plan to be picked up if you need to bail mid ride.  The plan will likely take the form of making sure you've got a loved-one or friend who can pick you up if you call.

Date: TBD -- Late May or Early June, 2014 is my choice.
Route: TBD -- but it will include some time on the C&O as well as gravel road miles in Loudoun, Montgomery and Frederick Counties.  Some of the roads will be familiar.  Some may be new to you.  There will be pavement. 
Why? That's a question that takes a bit extra to answer…
Because it is there and needs to be ridden.
It is an opportunity to raise money for my favorite charity.
Finishers will get a PD200/100 Finisher frame sticker.
The photos and stories will endure for EVAR!

Let me know what you think.  



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Putting Lights Where They're Needed

Every year I work with WABA ( and Bike Arlington ( to give out bike lights to help people with being seen.  It saves lives!  This is really popular with volunteers as well as with the general public.  Any time I'm doing any kind of advocacy on the local trails, I get asked if "we" are going to be giving out lights again this year.  I say that we are, but that they should not let that keep them from purchasing lights and reflective gear on their own.  Lately the number of people who are perfectly capable of affording their own lights, but hold off so that they can get free ones from local advocacy groups kind of rubs me the wrong way.  I still do the main give-aways.  They are important, really help and are a very visible way of doing advocacy that improves cyclists standing in the community.  It is important outreach.  

I've started another quest of my own on the side though.  With the help of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association ( and its Suburban Outreach program, I've been going to un-official day labor sites early in the morning and at quitting time to give out lights to people who ride their bikes to and from every day.  I don't speak Spanish, but manage to make myself understood.  WABA has some great stickers in Spanish that I've been using as my business cards.  

The reception has been awesome!  I've visited 4 different day labor meet-up spots so far.  I've got a few more that I want to hit in the next week or two.   I've noticed many, many more people riding with lights as I make my early morning rounds.  

I started going to a few restaurant districts around 2 in the afternoon, when the dinner shift is arriving at work and handing out lights.  I don't hang around for closing, but I'm guessing the lights come in handy for the ride home.  

I love seeing the lights we all give away on the bike paths of the DC metro area.  Seeing some in other areas being ridden before dawn and after dark makes me even more happy.  

Rock on!

The Blue and the Blue

I'm a weird magnet.  I've been that way for as far back as I can remember.  The last 2 days were an interesting contrast.  I've taken to doing working lunches at places that have cheap food and free wifi.  It is a different setting from which to work and study.  

Yesterday was election day.  The Pancake House was packed with college kids who had the day off because it was election day.  They were all quite individual.  They dressed completely differently, but somehow managed to all be wearing virtually the same combination of sweat pants or PJ bottoms, tight t-shirt with a flannel shirt over the top with the sleeves rolled up.  Most had baseball caps of some kind over their not-naturally colored hair and bed-head style.  The ones that didn't were doing so to show off the part of their head that had been shaved.  Interestingly the sound-track was made up of a bunch of music that the kids parents probably would have liked but that they hated.  

Today I lunched at the local deli.  Much of the hair color came from a bottle, rather than mother nature, but the age group was quite different.  Blue, red and purple were the main color groupings.  There was one lady with pink hair.  It looked awesome.  The uniform was also remarkably uniform.  The music soundtrack was almost completely made up of songs that their children would have LOVED, but they hated.  

Yesterday some of the kids geeked-out on my cross bike… laughing at some of the stickers and generally liking it.  

Today the topic of discussion was my cargo bike. One gentleman walked up and sat down at my table as I chowed down on my burger and asked me to explain my bike.  His 2-pack-a-day voice could barely be heard over A-Ha's "Take on Me".  We talked about the bike for a few… I explained that I was going shopping, but I don't drive, so this bike lets me carry stuff.  He thanked me and got up and went back to his table. 

This opened the flood gates.  Representatives from 8 or 9 of the other tables started filing over to ask about the bike.  We talked, laughed and generally had a good lunch.  I got no work done.  Eventually I got invited to go for a frozen yogurt date 4-doors down at the local God-Fearin' Yogurt place.  Once we all had our yogurt, the conversation about the bike, cycling and what exactly I do continued.  

Eventually I had to say my goodbyes and head for the grocery store.  Two came with me to do a little shopping and watch what it looked like when I loaded groceries on the back of the bike.  I was invited to the Italian Inn tomorrow for lunch.  

I likely won't see the college kids until next election day.  I'll report back on that.