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How To Dress For 'Beat the Dark!'

Wow! So the forecast for "Beat the Dark" isn't quite the nice summer day that we had last year. Oh well, it's going to get cold and snowy sooner or later, you might as well get used to it! Also, this being an "out and back" makes it a perfect opportunity to test out your winter riding gear. If you nailed the clothing, awesome! If you missed, you can head back in early none the worse for wear!

Athletes often discuss training and nutrition, but apparel is oftentimes just as important for achieving your fitness goals. It doesn't matter how fit and fueled you are if you're freezing cold. Bearing that in mind, here's the forecast for "Beat the Dark."
The good news is the overnight low is above freezing, and the fact that it's raining means there isn't likely to be much snow on the trail, haha! The bad news is there are no hills on the Gandy to block out the headwind (that's an inside joke between me and Chris Locke--hills don't really block headwinds). In some ways, 41 degrees and raining might be the most difficult conditions to dress for. Moisture is what makes you cold. When you're exercising in sub-freezing conditions, you want to insulate yourself so that you're warm but you don't sweat. If you sweat, you get cold eventually. But if you manage to stay dry, you can spend hours out in the cold with little discomfort.

The trick with rain is that a lot of rain gear doesn't breathe at all so you end up soaked from perspiration. If you have semi-breathable rain gear, you're going to get wet from the rain, so it's a balance without any real great solution, but there are ways to deal with this.

First of all, your polypro or wool base layers are vital because they'll keep you warm even if they get a little damp. A good set of winter riding boots will be important too because your extremities get cold faster than anything else (toe warmers in the boots make for a much more comfortable day as well). On your legs, you can probably go with just your bicycle shorts, plus leg warmers or tights. Your legs pretty much take care of themselves, it's your core, head, hands, and feet you have to be worried about. It will also be a good idea to bring along an additional base layer, gloves and hat to change into at the halfway point. Here's your checklist:

  • Good riding boots (with wool, or sport tech socks)
  • Wool or sport tech base layers
  • A windproof breathable top--or a straight rain jacket depending on how it feels that morning
  • Extra top, socks and gloves in your gear bag
  • Lots of toe warmers (you can put these on your legs or stomach if you get cold--not right on the skin though)
Swing by Cyclova if you have questions on any of this, Steve Clark rides his bike to the Birkie every year and camps in the parking lot, so if anyone knows how to dress for Sunday's conditions it's that guy.

With temperatures and conditions like the forecast predicts, this looks to be an epic day. Don't bail out just because the weather is bad. The pre-ride atmosphere in the parking lot is always more jovial when everybody knows we probably should have all just stayed in bed. Come out and give it a try. However, these are potentially serious conditions, so make good decisions about when to turn back. Don't feel like you have to complete the whole event, especially if you don't have your clothing dialed in and you start feeling really cold 20 or 30 miles out. Come for the camaraderie and the fun, and let's all help each other get back safe and warm to someplace that serves beer!

Here's the Facebook event, see you Sunday!

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