Monday, November 06, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: How To Plan For The Weather

Welcome to a series of posts for the Trans Iowa v14 competitors. Now, keep in mind, you may also gain something from this even if you are not in Trans Iowa, but it is mainly for these people that I am writing this time.

The inspiration for the series came from a question from a Rookie and through a few e-mails it was decided that the questions should be answered that he had openly so everyone can take advantage of the answers. (Thanks for agreeing to that, by the way!) Also- If you are a reader and have any great suggestions or ideas for these questions, feel free to pop that in a comment and submit it.

This series will kick off by answering a few questions about weather related issues and Trans Iowa. Some back ground here from one of the e-mails I received: "Here in (where the e-mailer is from) it rarely gets below  40 degrees. Typically leg warmers, socks and a light jacket will get you through the winter. I do own a pair of tights and and a med weight base layer. If it rains here we just ride in it because it is a warm rain. We have had less than 1” of snow over the last 3 years. Today it was almost 80."

It is not unusual for Trans Iowa to be wet, cold, and windy.
 So, here's the first question: "How do I dress for cold wet weather? Thermal tights? Should I look at cold and wet as the same thing?"

Answer: As with any cold weather cycling, you should think about three things: Layers, venting, and vapor barriers. If wetness is in the forecast, then waterproofness might also become a concern. However; waterproof materials aren't a totally necessary thing. I'll explain later.

Trans Iowa typically is cool to cold to start out with. We've had snow flurries at the start, rain, wind, you name it. However; generally speaking it is going to start out in the 40's somewhere and go as high as 70° during the day and back down again to the 40's. We've had a lot of night time temps into the mid 30's, and several TI's that never got out of the 50's for highs. This all means that you probably will need to think about layers and how those can work to be convertible to warmer temps and added on when it gets colder. Remember- Saturday night of Trans Iowa will come after you've been riding for 16 hours already. You are guaranteed to be sweaty and soaked, even if the atmosphere is dry. You'll want layers for the evening.

While there are freaks of nature on both ends of the "clothing needed spectrum", I am limiting my suggestions to the norms I know. Yes to thermal tights! Those are pretty much a standard TI clothing choice. Okay- if the weather is forecast to be decent, knickers. Or shorts with leg warmers. The top layers can vary, but after reading tons of rider reports, the following things have risen to the top of the mention pile. Base Layer: Light synthetic, Summer weight or light wool. Then usually a wool layer of some sort. (Note- you don't have to wear both base layers at once. You may want to save one for later)  Folks vary between tank, short sleeve, and long sleeved here. Then a jersey, usually short sleeved and made long sleeved with arm warmers. A wind jacket then is usually used over all that. A clear rain jacket or cheapo-thin rain jacket like an O2 rain jacket can be used here as well.

Following are some images from past Trans Iowas to help here.......

Start line of V8. Things were wet, windy, and cool. Note- There are some bare legs.  Image by Wally Kilburg.
Trans Iowa v10. SUPER WINDY! It was warm too. Image by Wally Kilburg.
Bruce Gustafson during the abysmal T.I.v11. It was raining, 30mph winds, and about 38°F
So, the next question or two is related: How do you keep your hands warm and mobile?  Boots or shoe covers if it is cold and wet?

Mark Johnson made use of plastic shopping bags as vapor/wind barriers for hands and feet in T.I.v13 Image by Jon Duke
Answer: Well, as can be seen above, booties/shoe covers and toe covers are rare in Trans Iowa. Some use them though. I suspect vapor barriers are common. Waterproof socks might also make the cut. Wool socks- definitely! A thin vapor barrier sock and the knowledge of how to use that is a good idea. Dirt bag tip: Use plastic shopping bags.  Weather will dictate what you will want on your feet, so bring the stuff and make a "game time decision", but in my experience, booties/shoe  covers are rare, aero shoe covers, or thin shoe covers are more common. However; if you suffer from cold toes at 50°F, then bring a pair of neoprene shoe covers or something like a 45NRTH Japanther/Fasterkatt boot. Just realize that it could go from 40 degrees to 70 and back again. Most choose the "go light-freeze at night" strategy and use the cold to motivate them to just keep moving forward. If you stop, you're toast.

Hands are another thing. I usually see a glove liner and a thicker over-glove or mitten. That way you can shed layers down to bare hands during the day and back to layered up at night. We've seen BarMitts used though, so there are those that go the pogie route. Again, bringing everything and basing the decision on what to wear based upon weather at the time of Trans Iowa is usually the go-to method for many riders.

I know it is really tempting to go for the waterproof jackets, but you will be on your bike so long that you will end up making it rain inside your jacket with sweat anyway. I've seen the packable, clear, cheapo rain jackets used more than I have any high dollar, super fabric commuter rain jacket. That is usually more for the wind than it is for the rain though. Now Goretex has that new jacket that gets rave reviews, but it is $300 plus bucks too. If you can swing it, I've heard it is amazing.

Tomorrow: Lights and Batteries


Unknown said...

This was very helpful Mark thanks!

Ari said...

Yes indeed a very valuable post. Thanks Mark. I also believe that that commuter jacket which is 100 waterproof, taped is not a good choice. I have been experimenting with all this and the thick waterproof jacket is good for commuting to get to work dry. If you are out in the middle of nowhere the sweat is going to make you hypothermic. I do think that having a waterproof plastic jacket can be lifesaving if one has a mechanical out there. You will start to lose body temperature very quickly. Those barmitts were a good idea and I think last year the people that had them did not regret them. Grocery bags, sandwich bags for electronics, garbage bags for a poncho have really proven effective. Great post!

Unknown said...

Best advice is having a wicking shirt change available for overnight after CP#2. Nothing like putting a dry & warm shirt on for the evening. Your body will go through shock at 3:00am when you stop to fuel up so you better have an extra layer to help keep you warm through sunrise. This is for Middle of the Pack type riders - 30+ hours to finish. What I learned at V12 was that there was no way that you are going to stay warm no matter what you have in your clothing arsenal. Also, practice eating with gloves on. A lot different grabbing food from a bad with bare fingers than with a mid weight glove on and if you don't eat you have no choice of finishing!

jack said...

I second the base layer change and kept mine with dry gloves in a ziplock bag, but disagree that a fully waterproof solution isn't a good idea.

I didn't start in full raingear at V12, but once the rain settled in everyone except Dan Hughes put on full rain gear (and he's a bit tougher than the average person). Standard rainpants and a raincoat. 3 of us had hoods that we put up and down as the rain picked up.

If it's cold and wet enough, full raingear is essential. I never got chilled during V12 thanks to careful venting, wool underlayers and fully waterproof clothing. I even wore rubber kitchen gloves under my padded bike gloves the entire event. My hands sweated, but never got cold.

jack said...

Oops, replace V12 with V13. Must be trying to block that from memory :-)

Unknown said...

Base layers are on sale now at the local sport department stores. Would you veterans recommend a poly blend base? I know the advantages of merino wool but they are fairly expensive for base layers and come in many weights. Unsure which to choose from. I rode last weekend in 45 degree weather misty and rain with just a jersey, arm warmers and gore active series gortex jacket. I did notice I got cold pretty quickly when I stopped.

Derek said...

Clothing is personal. Experiment as much as you can. Find what works for you. Budget more than you think. Have a range of options. Arrive in Grinnell prepared for many possibilities. Read as many past ride reports on the web as you can find. Even the older ones are useful.

I love the idea of a midrace base layer change. Adding to my TI v14 list.

Head wear: No one has mentioned yet. I recommend a headband, beanie, and a cycling cap. Choices & weights depend on conditions & personal preference. I was glad to put on a waterproof helmet cover at TI v.13 when the rain started.

Unless you're front of the pack, be prepared to have to go a long ways (many hours) between stops and to potentially get stranded for a while (breakdown in the boonies). Some people carry backpacks; others carry extra bags. If the weather stinks, better safe than sorry.

Tights: agree w/all! Midweight (rated mid 40s-60s) should work. Super thick, extreme cold ones will probably be overkill. Knickers or shorts w/leg or knee warmers - only if lucky and it's unusually warm.

Socks: agree, Wool is essential! I use Darn Tough cycling ones.

Booties: I used PearlIzumi WXB waterproof at TI v.13 and was not unhappy, nor were my feet cold. Wool socks and Giro VR70 shoes were also part of the factor.

Gloves: At TI v.13, I used thin silk liners with medium weight (40-50F) winter gloves. When the rain started, I switched to waterproof Castelli gloves over the liners. I have cold-ish hands but did OK w/this setup. *I heard that nitrile rubber exam gloves work well as liners in cold & wet so I carried a few, but I've yet to try them.*

Base layer and jersey and jacket - I think of these as a system & technology is evolving. It's personal. Experiment, shop, and have multiple options! There are many medium, water-resist jerseys now that are very jacket-like.

Base: Be careful. It needs to wick. I've heard mixed experiences about the stock C9, Under Armour, etc. stuff in department stores. I use Helly Hansen 100% polypro (cheaper than wool & I'm a long-time user). Wool is great, but I would go light wool. Midweight base layers are typically for less intensive activities or extreme cold. You can go long-sleeve or short-sleeve plus wool arm warmers.

Jersey: I used a jacket-like Castelli Perfetto long sleeve (windstopper, water resistant). It's awesome and kept me warm in the low 40s until the rain started.

Jacket: You need something. I agree w/Jack. I think a real one is worthwhile *if it is seriously rainy* and cool, not just drizzle or passing showers. My problem is they are bulky and expensive. I bought a pricey Showers Pass commuter jacket but was glad I had it at TI v13. I stayed dry for several hours under this and did not overheat or sweat underneath. If real rain is not in the v.14 forecast, I will carry an inexpensive lightweight shell.

If there are any places to save money, I would cut on booties, gloves, and jacket but splurge on the others.

Lorenzo said...

Stupid question: are people usually wearing tights over a short bib to easily remove or add a layer?

Or are they wearing the padded ones and keeping them for the whole duration of the ride? (or changing the whole bib to a short one... but this seems very unlikely to me)

Guitar Ted said...

@Lorenzo- Yeah, it kind of depends upon what the overall forecast is looking like. During times when the weather looks less cold and not rainy, we're seeing tights over shorts/bibs or even just leg/knee warmers w/bibs or shorts. If it looks to be cold then you are looking at thermal bib tights with a chamois all day/night/day, or tights over bibs/shorts. It kind of depends upon your tolerance for cold and what you are comfortable in. There is no real "right" answer, but there may be several wrong ones.

Basically, you have to weigh how much you are willing to suffer versus how heavy and bulky a bag/pack you want on the bike. You can carry a lot of stuff, but typically this is often times looked back on as a "rookie mistake", and you find people that come back again carrying a LOT less than they did on their first attempt or even if they finish the first time.

Try to read as many TI race reports that you can to find out more, but this is the overall theme I've noticed over the years.

Steve Fuller said...

Late comments

For ME, and how my body tolerates cold/heat and assuming typical weather (IE spring and windy w a chance of showers, but no extended rainfall in the forecast.)

- spare base layer and spare pair of wool socks are always in my TI race kit. Change at or around CP2. Can use both sets for additional warmth if it gets super cold.
- I prefer arm warmers and leg warmers as supplements to my bibs and jersey vs a separate long sleeve base layer and long tights. They pack smaller and are easier to adjust for changing conditions. I can quickly tug leg and arm warmers down for climbs and then pull them up for descents.
- Summer and fall weight gloves to cover varying temps.
- Windbreaker / rain coat. Pit zips in the coat are nice. Might go with just a wind vest if there's no chance of rain.
- A thin cotton buff is worth considering. Can be used to keep dust out of your lungs and even a thin one can help with heat management on your head/ears.