Everything is a learning experience (if you want to improve) and I'll look at kit after every trip to see what worked for me, didn't work for me, things I can learn from others, even on rides where I think everything went OK. With that in mind here's a look at what I got right and wrong on last week's Rovaniemi 150 race.
Looking at what I wore it doesn't look like much (Roubaix bib longs, thermal shirt of uncertain vintage, lightweight cycling top (that was on its last legs) and a Haglofs ultralightweight windshirt that I'd bought secondhand off the Bearbones forum) and certainly at the start I was "cool" but I'd done a couple of rides the previous days in the area at low intensity and kept warm so I was confident that in the fine weather we had on the day it would be fine. Keeping in the "Goldilocks zone" is paramount in cold weather, you don't want to be too warm and so get your base layers soaked with sweat. Equally you don't want to be chilled. My hands did get cold (see below) but the rest of me was always comfortable to warm.
I also had several buffs that I used to cover my head and face as and when I needed to. This along with unzipping the top few cm of the windshirt meant that regulating my temperature was relatively easy.
With good conditions it was a fast start and while I was fairly quick to the first checkpoint I was well behind the leaders. I've no idea how many were in front of me as we were all a bit quick for the guys at the checkpoint and they photo'd us rather than us signing in and out (plus there were the 66Km racers in the mix as well) but at the third checkpoint (which was the first without the 66 Km competitors) I was at the bottom of the second page. From then on I was continually moving up the leaderboard but never quite made it to the first page until the finish.
My pacing was also good in that I didn't get a single twinge of cramp, in fact I was fine overnight and the next day as well which proves I didn't go "into the red" for any significant period of time.
What didn't work
I'd left things a bit late plus I needed something that would fit the Jones Loop bars which many of the standard "go to" solutions explicitly say they don't do. As a result I ordered a pair of Alpkit Bear Paws which are a new line for Alpkit so there was no user feedback anywhere. Suffice to say, they aren't up to the job when temperatures really drop, a lot of the "features" are really faults in low temperatures: no elasticated wrist closure; velcro opening for quick exit; not fully lined (see the photo below). It's now a case of "I know what doesn't work so I'll find something that does what I want". The Alpkit Bear Paws will be fine for the UK and in temperatures down to around -5C.
|The paper is aligned with the edge of the fibre pile insulation.|
Stupidly, I'd got chemical warming pouches with me but didn't use them.
Packing of my bike Bags
I basically used my summer/autumn/UK winter system which has bivy kit in the front harness, spare clothing and stuff I don't expect to use in the seat pack, stove and evening stuff in the frame bag then food and other trail items in stem cells and the like. This meant that I didn't have spare gloves to hand when I needed them. Eating on the go when riding on potentially untracked snow isn't really feasible - it's better to stop and eat. The food should have gone in the frame bag while spare gloves and buffs should have been in the Lioness bag out front.
I was a bit worried about this beforehand. I happened to find an insulated flask with flip-top plastic drinking spout in town so used that and a normal water bottle inverted in a fleece mitten. It didn't really work.
Not sure how I'll work around this.