More on Cold
Our NZ friend Bruce Stevenson stayed with us on his way down from the Birdsville Track, and in our hours of talking, we inevitably dealt with the issue of wind and cold. Bruce has ridden all over the world, and finds Oz a cold ride! We have a huge diurnal temperature swing; I've ridden in 7 degrees to 46 degrees Celsius in the one 24 hours!
I also have a really nice jacket made from wind stopper fabric which lets most of the sweat out and is peachy warm down to about ten degrees, despite being tissue thin, but which then fails miserably. Since people like the GCN say such jackets plus a jersey and base layer are now so good that they are all you need in most circumstances, how come it doesn't work here? After all, the UK has snow; us Aussies say it has three miserable months each year, and then nine months of winter. By comparison to the UK, our climate is gentle.
The issue for folk like Bruce and me is that we are not doing 60 or 80km rides, but often riding all night; or as Bruce has just done, pushing into a headwind all day long. In this country, as Bruce put it, "You can't hide from the wind. In New Zealand there is always a headland or a valley to break things up; here it just blows." He is correct about this; I rode up Greenhill Road a week or so ago at around 9pm. The temperature was around 10 degrees, and with the warmth of the climb, just bearable. But as soon as I was off the side of the ridge and exposed to the wind, it was painfully cold, and I had to add a layer under my jacket. Even then, I was still too cold.
The solution, which was the addition of a padded gilet, verifies what I have been formulating in my mind for some time:
Cold is cumulative in its effect on the body. What you can stand for an hour or two becomes debilitating after 3 hours. And long distance night rides with no wind shelter mercilessly strip out the heat. Long day rides with a head wind and no sun can be as bad. You can push through, for the most part, but the ride is an agony and can be more tiring than twice the distance! And there have been times when I have simply had to stop and climb into my bivvie.
We have to lose heat because cycling generates heat, but the heat loss needs to be controlled. If not, long night rides simply lose more heat than we generate.
Thick fabric which lets the wind through means we get evaporation at the skin, and also get direct conductive heat loss even if not sweating much, so a woollen jumper or jacket is of little use in controlling heat. Conventional clothes are simply inadequate. There needs to be a windproof layer.
The problem with windproof clothing made for cycling is that it sits extremely close to the skin to improve aerodynamic efficiency. So my new jacket completely stops the wind getting to the skin, but the evaporative and conductive surface is still only 2mm from the skin! Effectively, once I warm up and begin to sweat, there is a 2mm wet path between the air and me. It is a direct heat conduit and becomes intensely painful at night. The water loss is slowed by the windproof fabric, which also keeps the wind directly off the skin, but the heat path is uninterrupted and highly efficient at transferring heat; that is, in allowing me to get cold.
The solution has been to increase the distance between me and the evaporative surface. I have managed this with a padded winter gilet my wife brought back from London. It's nicely tailored with a long back, and most of the time it is too hot to use here.
But at night, or on one those 10 – 12 degree days (or less) with no sun and a headwind, it puts the evaporative surface out 5-6 mils from the skin. I put this over the windstopper jacket and find I am good down to 0 — -2 degrees for several hours.
This does not keep me dry. I can feel plenty of sweat, but it is not cold on me. The surface of the gilet gets very cold, but the padding does not act as an efficient heat conductor.
In extremely unpleasant conditions I have found that a loose Kathmandu wind jacket works really well. Being longer, it gives some protection over the hip area, but its major benefit is that being loose over the arms, it removes the evaporative surface from the skin of the arms in the same way the gilet does for the body core. Clearly, it is less aerodynamically efficient, but it makes up for that because I can keep riding!
There are some wrinkles to all this for long distance touring where you have to bush camp. I find that if I wear a long sleeve jersey and then jacket, and gilet if necessary, I can happily last five to six days with a MucOff Dry Shower wipe off each night. There are more than a few places where this will happen in Australia. In this situation, a base layer and / or tight jersey sleeves stink very quickly, especially if you have to cover up for rain. So I've stopped using a base layer. I think the stink issue has something to do with creating an anaerobic environment with tight clothing, whereas letting plenty of air through stops the build-up sof uch bugs and the subsequent ammonia they produce. (The gilet bleeds a bit of air around the edges.)
The Australian Institute of Sport found that putting athletes on a low salt diet also meant that sweat is much less smelly, and that is my experience.
The sad fact is that if you ride all day in rain, everything begins to stink under rain wear. Again the issue is that we are talking 10-12 hours rather than 2 or three. On my latest really wet outing, I left my rainproof jacket home and used my big water repellent windstopper Kathmandu jacket instead. It seemed to me I was less wet for longer, and despite being wet all day, I did not stink at the end of it. Mind you, that was only about 8 hours, and not continual rain.
I'm planning a dash over to the snow country in September and will run with
* Long sleeve jersey
* Long sleeve fabric jacket (Good down to around 15 degrees with some sun and a bit of wind. Allows full evaporation. Ok at lower night temperatures with a following wind.
* For lower temperatures I will replace that jacket, or layer over it, with the Windstopper Jacket (This has a potential for arm stink over longer periods, as it is tight around wrists and forearms.)
* The next step is to add the padded gilet at around 10 degrees at night, with our without the fabric jacket.
* If it rains: add windstopper Kathmandu rain jacket. My experience so far has been that I can take the gilet off when I add the rain jacket.
All this gives me layering options which will vary depending on wind direction and air temperature.
The image speaks volumes about cycling in Australia. It's July 25 2016 at 1.19pm. We are 50km or so south of Alice Springs, and I'm wearing the padded gilet. Graham is standing alonside in a short sleeved shirt, and is quite comfortable. Add windspeed for a few kilometers and you need the two sets of long sleeves I'm wearing, plus the gilet!