Friday, May 22, 2015

random ramblings on--How light is to light?

How light is to light?

Great setup Marshal. I like the zipperless gas tank.

I get the distinct impression from you vetrans light=fast. How light is too light though from a comfort/safety point of view? Of course you locals will be much more aclimatised to the cold and can get away with less.

Got this comment from Flyboy at and thought I would sound off just a bit…………

General Riding --Hypothermia is real and in 2014 I saw several racers flirting first hand with it.  Saw some stupid, risky moves by some upper/mid pack racers.

You need to be able to ride ‘all-day’ in wet, windy, semi-cold conditions.  This means sufficient layers of insulation for the core.  If you are riding and not stopped, at some point you may (most likely will) ‘wet-out’ these layers.  Once wetted out the key is wind proof, fitness, food/fuel, experience and course knowledge.  All these factors play together in making correct judgment ‘safety vs racing’ calls.

My layer system for 2015:

Upper Body

·         Light weight SmartWool undershirt (will be on start to finish-except when being washed)

·         Standard full zip bike jersey with 3 rear pockets (will be on start to finish)

·         Ground effect semi-wool arm warmers (always on but pull up and down as needed)

·         Windproof, water resistant Gilet/vest (I expect it will be on most of the time)

·         Lightweight rain/windbreaker jacket (Endura FS260 Pro)—this layer is key—it’s packable like a windbreaker but really is a semi-breathable racing style ‘rain’ jacket (will be on and off for rain and warmth as needed)

·         Large, loose fitting ‘O2’ style 5 oz rain jacket (used occasionally during ride time, to be worn over all other layers in truly nasty/extended conditions or for added warmth when wetted out, also part of my sleep system)

·         Optional white arm coolers (for hot sunny days, will buy a pair in Colorado if needed)

Note: my ‘two’ rain jackets weigh same or less than my single ‘2014’ eVent rain jacket, yet will be warmer when wetted out and much more flexible/adjustable for changing conditions

Lower Body

·         Ground Effect shorts (really like these shorts—the no-layer chamois system is truly game changing design imo)

·         Ground Effect semi-wool leg warmers (always on, pull up and down as needed)

·         Baggy fitting O2 rain pants cut to knee length (fast pull on/off to keep shorts mostly dry while riding hard, about 2 oz and can fold up and fit in jersey pocket)

·         Gore Tex full length rain pants (used occasionally when truly wet & cold, also part of my sleep system)


·         Helmet

·         Visor’ed cycling cap

·         Sweat band (for ear warmth)

·         Light balaclava (part of my sleep system and will start off cold mornings with it still on)

·         2/3 Disposable shower caps, over helmet or cap for rain/wind


·         Specialized short finger BG cycling gloves (best ‘heavy padding’ glove available imo)

·         Specialized semi-wool liners (will slip on/off over short finger gloves often/as needed)

·         2-3 disposable ‘latex’ style gloves (slip on over short finger or liners, 100% waterproof, but really more for wind/warmth as they will quickly wet out form inside)

·         ShowerPass rain gloves (use in pouring rain and when hands are truly cold, also part of my sleep system and early/cold morning/descend kit)

·         2 Large Ziploc bags (light multi-purpose item that works remarkably well in pouring rain and cold descends)


·         3-strap style Mavic Pulse shoes (still the best multi-day shoe available--3-strap for adjustability for swollen feet or thicker socks, lighter than the shoe you use, very grippy sole, just flexible enough for extended HAB sections, and dries out pretty fast)

·         Ankle length SmartWool socks (one extra ‘dry’ pair for sleep system)

·         Plastic bags as needed for rain/wind/warmth (I prefer subway sandwich bags)

Overall thinking on the matter…..

In short-from a safety point of view--if you can keep your core warm in the worst conditions then you have enough.  However this varies quite a bit depending on experience and fitness.  Are you fit enough to ‘ride’ on thru harsh conditions at night and use the resulting body heat to keep you warm.  Are you experienced enough to make correct judgment calls, do I continue, do I lay-up, what constitutes a good stopping location in the backcountry and finally do I have the know-how to make a fire as a last resort while in wet, windy, cold conditions?

For typical TDR terrain/conditions my thinking is with my ‘layers’, if I have food, the will and a functioning bike I can always ride on till I reach an acceptable stop point. 
On the other hand with my sleep system I feel I can sleep ‘warm-enough’ anywhere on the route, even in a pouring rain storm.


  1. I think more than a few racers would have benefited from reading this before leaving Banff last year. It was interesting/educational to see the mistakes in clothing and judgement during that first week of the ride.

  2. I can't emphasise enough how important a synthetic insulated jacket is in the whole system. it's a key layer for when everything else is wet/damp. I sleep in mine too.

    I'd consider only one pair of rain pants. if it's raining you will need full protection. the weight of a primaloft layer is 9-11 oz.

    I live in SW Colorado and spent many years living in Montana, Bozeman & Yellowstone. this year has been especially wet and cold and my primaloft jacket goes on every overnite training ride.

    I also think " being able to ride through to keep warm" is a recipe for disaster in this race.

    just my experience. happy to elaborate more.


  3. JC, so many variations on the basic theme, I think you might be on the right track with primaloft,, especially for sleeping and touring pace, but do you wear an insulated jacket when cranking out hard miles? Mine is always stowed away while moving at anything above freezing temps.......

    Thanks for following...

    1. I Do wear mine alot when it's below 40 and damp. not so much on climbs of course but down hill and fairly level. But I also put it on every night as soon as i stop and make camp. the extra insulation helps my base layer and jersey dry out completely every night. Primaloft is really good at moving moisture. I use this layering system on many alpine climbing trips upto 21,000 ft. and down to -40 . I'm never wet. when I'm tired and cold at the end of the day this makes a big difference in comfort and not being chilled or cold makes a big difference in my attitude.

      I recently bought the Outdoor Reasherch jacket.

      I chose this model as the side panels are stretch woven so it has more breathability and freedom of movement while on the bike. the hood is a huge bonus, almost as good as a second layer.

      I agree with you on the wind jacket. I am bringing mine and wear the same basic kit as you: merino T, SS jersey arm warmers, eVent shell and Ground Effect 3/4 rain pants. I am starting the ride with a pair of 3/4 bib knickers, they are cross style with thermal wind proof fabric by De Marchi, but Rapha, Pearl , Craft and other make this style. the shed mud well and fairly wind proof and water resistant. keeps my knees warm. i only wear them at below 55 F.

      It's snowing again here in Ouray, down to 8000 ft this morning. On monday i'm riding over to Salida and down to Del Norte for three days, my last big training ride before the race. let me know if you want to ride together in around Salida.


  4. Thanks Marshal, I am glad you took the bait and shared your kit ideas with us! As I have said before, my cold weather experience is limited and I think I will be "packing my fears" here but am trying to keep them under control.
    What really prompted me to ask was the unanswered post on where someone overheard locals complaining about "always having to rescue cyclists". To me, yes you race but you really have to self rescue as well. You can't be so lightly packed that if things go slightly astray you need rescuing. That is considered very poor form here in Australia and you would rightly be roasted for doing it.
    Hence my fears are not being prepared enough and putting local out by imposing.
    Thanks again for your insights. They are very much appreciated.

  5. Flyboy, the original 'self-supported' multi-day race concept is based on being fully self-sufficient and not needing to 'ask' for help. Many of the TDR racers have no real clue and technically should be dnf'ed for some of their 'forced' trail magic begging

  6. JC, thanks for the overview--in essence we use the same approach, its key to have a insulation layer when stopped.
    I think you will find the conditions of the TDR are a bit different than what you have been training in (mostly lower elevations, higher humidity). Body warmth while riding is not usually an issue except early mornings. Wetting out and sustaining a good pace while wetted out all day, day after day was the main 2014 issue

    Who knows what 2015 will bring. I would love to join you for a 'last' big ride, ha- but work says no


  7. Marshal, you mention "Ground Effects shorts" as a game changer. Which model of these short do you like?


  8. Robert,

    I am using the Exocets shorts--the ones with the external "eXo™ skeletal pad"