This page is intended to highlight some of our lessons learned whilst cycling across Turkey, the Caucasus and Central Asia in the winter of 2014 / 2015.
Pogies and Winter Tyres
For us, pogies were an absolute lifesaver; we are not saying we would not have been able to cycle in the temperatures we were presented with had we not had them, but it would have been many magnitudes more difficult. We purchased our pogies from hotpog. Seriously consider them if you are cycling in the extreme cold.
We had heard stories from some cyclists whose blogs we followed (ridingaround) that they had had some bad accidents from slipping on black-ice, so for a relatively small amount of money we purchased Marathon Schwalbe winter tyres. Neither of us came off on ice, so from that respect we assume they worked.
We cycled with them out of the winter and into the spring in China; on roads not covered in ice, and after around 4,000km of wear and tear they started to self generate punctures… the metal studs would be pushed in and puncture the inner tube. To be fair they are not designed for spring cycling, so we can’t complain. Just take them off after the winter section of your journey and you can’t really go wrong.
Vapour Barrier Liners (VBL)
Vapour Barrier What?!?!? … exactly; we had almost no idea what they were before we started the journey.
Sweat is the single biggest problem that you will face; if you cycle too fast you will generate too much heat and sweat, which can seep from your inner layers to your outer layers, freeze and become very dangerous. The key here is to manage the sweat and stop it getting to the outer layers. This is done be using VBLs.
We knew almost nothing of VBLs when we set off and learnt the hard way in the mountains of Georgia where we got very, very cold (probably dangerously cold). The biggest problem areas were hands and feet. Below are some photos that show what we used to combat this…
The dishwashing gloves worked an absolute treat. At -20 degrees in the Uzbek desert I got away with wearing only dishwashing gloves, a very thin pair of merino gloves and pogies. There was absolutely no need for heavy duty gloves (although we did carry them in case of emergencies).
The one thing that we would recommend is not to tuck the gloves into your jacket, as the heat escaping only has one place to go and that is up inside your jacket, which then freezes. The alternative is to tuck your jacket arms into your dishwashing gloves and most of the heat escapes to the outside of your jacket, freezing on the outside… you’re welcome
For our feet we used plastic bags, they did not work as well, but they certainly helped keep toes warm(er).
If you are camping out in the winter cold you should seriously look at professional VBLs for your sleeping bag (Helen Lloyd gear list). We created home made VBLs, but never got to test them as we were always offered places to stay indoors whenever we asked.
Spend money on high quality Goretex jackets and trousers. You will see from the following photo that when cycling in the extreme cold you will get build-up of condensation on your gear and you need to be sure it is not going to let you down.
A down jacket is a must (preferably with a hood); not for cycling in, but for putting on when you finish cycling. We actually had to cycle in down one day because the tailwind was so strong that we were basically not required to cycle, this meant we were not generating any heat and needed the down. This was the only time.
Carrying food and water in the extreme cold is challenging!
Face mask and Goggles… the two items of equipment that we wished we had!
Hopefully this is a starting point to answering some questions you may have on winter cycling.
Please let us know (via our Contact Us page) if you have any questions, we will answer them as soon as we can.