The practicality of riding at extremely low temperatures takes a lot more planning than you might have thought. I am heading off to ride a loop in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan where temperatures it’s fair to say may be pretty cold. I was just out on a test ride in a cold and snowy Scotland so here is how I’ve set up my Kinesis Tripster ATR to cope.
There were two options for me;
Continental Top Contact Winter that are soft rubber winter tyres. I was looking at 650b with my new Reynolds ATR carbon wheels in a wider size would be a good option but a bit tight fitting at 650×2″.
Schwalbe winter tyres with metal studs in 700x42mm
I went for the latter because they look better on hard ice and they were half the price! Initial testing seems to suggest they drag a fair bit but grip well on snow, slush and ice. They also make a lot of noise, like riding on loose gravel, which I like so I guess that’s a positive!
In snow and slush it’s much harder work so the gearing needs to be stepped down on the front.
I went for a 38 rather than normal 42 on the front and a 10:42 on the rear.
I stuck with the Praxis Alba cranks, the praxis bottom bracket has now done a year and is silky smooth still, that’s a new record for me on one BB. I bought a cheap narrow wide Blackspire chainring as it won’t be used that much after this trip
Normal lub freezes or rather goes really gloopy at about -8, the Flaer auto lubing system I have been testing freezes at about -2 as it is water based, so I replaced that system Muc Off -50 lube. This should do the job but I don’t normally like Muc Off lube, I find the dry stiff disappears and the wet stuff bungs up the drivetrain, like this stuff has done in the picture above already, I’ll see how I get on when it’s colder!
The Dot fluid in the Hydraulic brakes is good to -40 so will be fine. Shimano Mineral oil apparently freezes at lower temperatures but unlikely to be an issue here.
4. Keeping it simple
The Lauf forks that I love for gravel riding in scotland has been taken off, the riding will be slower and they’re not really needed for the road miles. I want to stick with kit I’ve used a lot before rather than try new kit, so the original Tripster ATR fork goes back on.
In the same vein I stick with the Ritchey WCS Venture Max Bars and WCS stem, Brooks Cambium saddle and Kinesis CX Lite HD wheels, I know these are all comfy and reliable. Essentially I made as few changes as possible to what worked in the Altai in 2017.
5. Battery life
Batteries die quicker in the cold, they can be stored cold but must be warm when in use to not drain fast. To avoid issues I will record data on my Lezyne Super GPS that has a great battery life (24hrs) and this means I don’t need to use my phone at all. Likewise I’ll take my Garmin E-Trex with replaceable AA batteries too for location checking on open source maps.
6. Water Freezes
You’ll notice the absence of bottle cages because I will use a full frame bag but also because water on the bike will freeze so it needs to be near the body in a jersey pocket. The down-tube bottle cage will hold my MSR Stove 1litre petrol bottle as normal.
Things like nuts, cheese, Mars bars all freeze too so need to be stored near the body when they’re going to be eaten. To stop water from freezing and to treat it, I will mix it 50:50 with vodka.
7. SPDs versus Flat pedals for winter boots
Tough call this one and we’ll see if I was right. I went for SPDs and Northwave Raptor GTX winter boots.
I’ll also use them with a neoprene boot cover to keep the extreme chill out on the descents.
The other option was flats and winter snow boots. These won’t bung up with snow like the SPDs and are easier for walking, but the soles are soft and will slip on the pedals a lot more. I guess I’ll report back if this was the right choice.
I’ll do a full kit list when I get back, so I can report back if the crazy amount of down filled products I’m packing are too much or too little!