Forum home Commuter cycling forum Commuting general

Remote Rural Winter Commuting

BordersroadieBordersroadie Posts: 1,052
edited November 2011 in Commuting general
I’m a lucky man. I live in a lovely rural, hilly place and can commute the 12 miles each way in deserted, scenic bliss. This is fine in summer or spring but having made some changes at work I am now able to continue commuting right through the winter, which is what I plan to do.

Although it’s not a big distance I need to think about my strategies seriously. What I am mindful of is that on most of my route I’m “in the middle of nowhere” so to speak, traffic is rare and have no mobile phone reception in places. The entire route is unlit back-road so will be pitch dark each way from this weekend. Parts of the route get field run-off which freezes overnight into mini ice rinks. Almost the entire route consists of the sort of roads that are the last to get salted/gritted, and we get pretty hard winters here so I’m pretty wary of the ice/snow issue but am also looking forward to the challenge!

So far my approach is as follows.
    Well-maintained old lightweight steel hack wearing Conti Gatorskins and full guards plus flaps. Exposure Toro front light. Two rear lights and spare batteries. Pump, spare tube, repair kit, multi-tool. Reflective strips everywhere: helmet, backpack, ankles, wrists plus Nightvision gear. Space blanket in bag. PSP energy drink in bottle. Multi layer warm clothes plus spares in case of on-road repair. Mobile phone.

When it’s sub zero, the plan is as follows.

As above except use a hardtail MTB with lockout fork and a pair of Marathon Winter studded tyres. I went for these over the full-on Ice Spikers because I reckon mostly they will be used on frost/ice/black ice, rarely on snow/ice.

Any advice or tales from fellow remote winter commuters will be gratefully received!

Posts

  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    I'd say you had it pretty much spot-on. I've been commuting on a very similar route to yours the last two winters. The one thing that I have that you haven't mentioned is a Montane featherlite jacket (folds to a tennis ball size) - it has a reasonable degree of wind and waterproof capability. I've needed it a couple of times when I've been fixing issues.

    Oh and the other thing is a Light & Motion Vis 360 set of lid lights. Any lights on your lid make you more visible over brows/rises in the road and above hedges. The 360 is USB rechargeable - great for the office if you need a top-up. The light at the front is useful for repairs in the dark too

    Good choice of tyres too. Exactly what I'm using.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • latex gloves for a bit of hand protection during those fiddly sub zero piddling it down p*uncture repairs where your fingers go numb the second they leave your toasty gloves.

    spare chain link and a brake & gear cable in your repair kit.

    Normal frosty ice isn't a biggy but dont brake on the field ice run off (mine is on a bend on a 1:4 downhill bit - the farmer is an a**e who never fixes it properly) it took me a couple of trips to the floor even with spikes to figure it out - treat it like diesel on a wet road.

    do you have a set leaving / arrival time and can you leave your regular route with people, so that if you do come a cropper en-route someone at your intended destination will know when you're properly missing in action and not just a bit late and where to send people to look for you.

    take a camera, its a beautiful time of the year to notice stuff

    enjoy.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Chain link is a good call. I'd say the cables are overkill. Losing one brake or one gearchange isn't a show stopper over that distance. And it's not particularly likely either
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • Thanks for the advice, meanredspider, to tell you the truth I've been reading some old threads and got the spaceblanket idea from your goodself! I'll investigate your recommendations.

    I'd be really interested in how your Marathon Winter tyres have faired, especially on tarmac - to err on the side of caution they'll probably get a lot of abuse on tarmac as I'll use that bike whenever there's a hard frost.

    An interesting observation I've made is that many of the winter commuters on here seem to be men of a "mature" age such as myself at 47 - is it just our extended mid-life crisis, do you think?
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    I'm 47 in January so there maybe something to that - or that we've reached the peak of our toughness at this age. :wink:

    I've used Ice Spikers the last two years on an MTB but, TBH, they're really hard work because of the knobbles. I'm sure the Marathons will be better as they're a road tyre. The Spikers weren't great in snow anyway - much more than an inch or two and there was no traction. But the tyres stood up really well to the Tarmac - hardly any loss of studs. I have exactly the same ice and frost challenges as you - especially at 700ft.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • latex gloves for a bit of hand protection during those fiddly sub zero piddling it down p*uncture repairs where your fingers go numb the second they leave your toasty gloves.

    spare chain link and a brake & gear cable in your repair kit.

    Normal frosty ice isn't a biggy but dont brake on the field ice run off (mine is on a bend on a 1:4 downhill bit - the farmer is an a**e who never fixes it properly) it took me a couple of trips to the floor even with spikes to figure it out - treat it like diesel on a wet road.

    do you have a set leaving / arrival time and can you leave your regular route with people, so that if you do come a cropper en-route someone at your intended destination will know when you're properly missing in action and not just a bit late and where to send people to look for you.

    take a camera, its a beautiful time of the year to notice stuff

    enjoy.

    Great advice, thank you! Your field run off sounds like the positioning of mine!
  • I'm only 37! My commute is rural and 22 miles each way, but flat and not as remote. Never more than 3 miles from a village I reckon. Good call on the space blanket, latex gloves and helmet light. Now all on my shopping list.
    Dolan Preffisio
    2010 Cube Agree SL
  • Chain link is a good call. I'd say the cables are overkill. Losing one brake or one gearchange isn't a show stopper over that distance. And it's not particularly likely either


    fair do's, I do tend to go out like a branch of evans :wink:
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Forgot the gloves too. I use vinyl (B&Q sell them) these days as they are more robust than latex. I carry them all year round especially because I don't know what concoction is formed on a chain during the week but it's the most indelible substance in the world
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Chain link is a good call. I'd say the cables are overkill. Losing one brake or one gearchange isn't a show stopper over that distance. And it's not particularly likely either


    fair do's, I do tend to go out like a branch of evans :wink:

    Cue 3 cable breakages next time I ride... :wink: :roll:
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • infopeteinfopete Posts: 878
    I'd go for a backup front light. If you're in the middle of nowhere no lights are tedious (i've had a battery go on me so I know)

    But it sounds glorious where you are :)
    Oh and please remember to click on my blog:

    http://americanbicyclegroup.wordpress.com

    The more clicks I get the higher it creeps up the google radar :)
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    You can make repairs in the cold and dark less uncomfortable with a wooly hat and a headtorch.
    I use the valve retaining nut on my inner tubes but after one harsh winter, it seized in place. I needed 2 pliers to remove it. I now use vaselene or grease on the threads. I have also had a tyre explode, so a Parktools tyre boot lives in my repair kit.

    I dont think a space blanket is all that useful compared to, say an extra windproof jacket. My winter emergency insulation is a padded gillet. It goes on quickly, over a shell and doesn't get in the way of repairs.

    If you get really paranoid, you could cache some stuff at the halfway point, protected from sheep, foxes and ramblers.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    MichaelW wrote:
    I dont think a space blanket is all that useful compared to, say an extra windproof jacket..

    The point about a space blanket is that it weighs almost nothing and folds down to almost nothing and is fully waterproof. They're also very effective for what they are. So the downsides are almost zero and there's plenty of upside. I'd collected a few from out-of-date car first aid kits so the cost was zero too. You can carry loads of clobber but the trick is to balance the risk.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • infopeteinfopete Posts: 878
    Oh and.......

    My front lights are either a MR16 Philips MASTERLine 20W or a Philips MASTERLine 30W as a replacement for my old Lumicycle MR11's.These are great when it gets cold to warm your hands on and bright too :)
    Oh and please remember to click on my blog:

    http://americanbicyclegroup.wordpress.com

    The more clicks I get the higher it creeps up the google radar :)
  • MoodymanMoodyman Posts: 158
    I agree that you have it bang on with your kit.

    Re the tyres, the Gatorksins are good, but can be prone to punctures and are bit slippier in the wet. You might want to consider a Marathon Plus on the back for winter.

    I have a Marathon Plus on my rear and a mid-range puncture resistant tyre on the front.

    I absolutely do not want a flat in the cold and dark. Although I can replace a tube in less than 10 mins, 10 mins is a long-time in the cold.

    The trouble isn't just the cold hands - your sweaty clothing cools very quickly and you get very very cold. I recall shivering home once after fixing a flat. A hot shower and a tin of piping hot soup couldn't get me warmed up.

    Marathon Plus ever since.
  • bails87bails87 Posts: 13,317
    ^ The grippier tyre should be on the front
    MTB/CX

    "As I said last time, it won't happen again."
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    I think the tyre depends upon the type of "threat" on your journey. In two years and around 6000 miles I've only had one puncture in my Gatorskins. Grip has never been an issue. And, yes, the front tyre needs to be the grippiest as one of the Bails Brothers :wink: has stated.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • Listen guys (especially infopete!), you'll never believe it but I had my first off in twenty years tonight on the way home.

    Daylight, sharp right (as ridden hundreds of times) at lowish speed at the bottom of a very fast downhill, slightly damp, no frost, no wet leaves, no mud, bike just went from under me. Just back from A&E, nothing broken but now type left handed as right in sling. Very painful shoulder, impressive bruise and gravel rash on right hip, ripped forearm, scratched bike and ripped saddle. Wife (who's a medic) has prescribed brufen and red wine - superb!

    Seriously though, I'm in a bit of a state of shock, I consider myself a very experienced, confident but careful cyclist with God knows how many thousands of miles under my wheels. I did get back on straight away and ride the last 5 miles gritting my teeth (as meanredspider said, 47 is your peak toughness alledgedly!!) as the pain got worse and worse - not sure if this was worse than the bollocking I got from me wife when I got home,for not callling her!

    Just wondering if my old Gatorskins, which have been puncture free by the way, as they're a bit old (but not really worn) could have been the culprit?

    Confidence definitely knocked, so may just invest in some Marathon Plus. . .


    Overwhelming thought though: BOLLOCKS!
  • cyberknightcyberknight Posts: 1,238
    I think others have pretty much covered it , here is my tuppence...

    Carry 2 inner tubes as i once had a double puncture in sub zero conditions and the glue was not setting ,this was caused by an unmarked drop in the road for roadworks that some kind person had moved the sign ...
    Carry another front light as a back up as you never know .....

    I commute 10 miles each way with about 6 each way miles on unlit country lanes and i managed it most of last winter except when it was - 10 or colder in the part of the route i use that is a cycle path was covered in compacted frozen snow and ice .This was on a road bike with 23 mm gator skins, i only had 1 off and that was a low speed fall on a crossroads when i hit a patch of ice.
    This winter i intend to carry on riding the same bike all year unless it gets really bad and then i have a BSO ( off freecycle ) that i do not mind trashing that i have fitted some conti travel contacts too.This bike as been fitted with some clip on guards and a seat post rack and although it weighs a ton it will serve the purpose.

    The lights i use are a Magicshine 900 lumen model with a 100 lumen bike light as a back up, on the back i have a smart r2 on the seat post along with a standard smart flasher on each pannier bag and a rear flasher on the helmet.
    FCN 3/5/9
  • davisdavis Posts: 2,566
    Jesus. Bad luck fella!
    Sometimes parts break. Sometimes you crash. Sometimes it’s your fault.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Boardersroadie that's really bad news - feel like there must have been some other contributing factor - diesel on the road or similar. Hope you recover quickly. Well done for manning up and cycling home.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • Cheers mate.

    Arm now in sling, the collar bone has been pulled away from the outer point - torn ligaments - but thank God not broken.

    As you do, I've racked my brain for why it happened (and boy does it happen quickly!) and came to the same conclusion as you, it can only have been diesel or oil on a damp road as I went round the corner at a very sensible speed. Amazing how far I still slid once I'd been dumped onto the tarmac though.

    I feel it's really knocked my confidence but I'm glad I cycled the last 5 miles in hindsight. I guess it had to happen sometime.
  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    An interesting observation I've made is that many of the winter commuters on here seem to be men of a "mature" age such as myself at 47 - is it just our extended mid-life crisis, do you think?

    It's cos youre hard as nails (read as barmy)

    Bordersroadie:
    I found conti gatorskin hardshells to be a bit lacking in grip on the wet this summer.
    But the extra speed in the dry was worth it.

    It could be anything from a recent oil/diesel spill to oil and diesel that had been dropped in the summer coming out of the asphalt, although it's not like there hasn't been heavy rainfall to lift it already this year.

    I got a breif front end slide on a circle/roundabout in Fife a few years back, that car could normally take the circle at 30 but with it being a tad damp I was only doing 20 round it because it felt a bit slippy.

    Also lost the front end of my MTB at the weekend on a wooden surface. But I don't get on well with wooden surfaces on my MTB so...
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • andyrrandyrr Posts: 1,494
    To add :
    I'd carry 2 or 3 tubes - quite feasible to get a double puncture then you've no spare for the remainder of the ride to work/home.
    Keep a spare tube at work.
    Backup front light - I run a DX light at the front with smallish Tesco Cree LED torch on the bars and similar on helmet, I can run the DX on low power plus the helmet light which then leaves the spare bar light with a decently charged set of batteries for emergency use. Helmet light useful for repair work too.
    I'd also have 3 rear lights, 2 operating with 1 backup as with the front.
  • InitialisedInitialised Posts: 3,047
    Sorry to hear of the off. Hope it all heals up soon. Last few times I lost the back end it was ice.
    I used to just ride my bike to work but now I find myself going out looking for bigger and bigger hills.
  • infopeteinfopete Posts: 878
    Hi

    it's taken me ages to log back in. :(

    I hope you're back on your bike.
    Oh and please remember to click on my blog:

    http://americanbicyclegroup.wordpress.com

    The more clicks I get the higher it creeps up the google radar :)
  • Cheers Pete, I'm still off work as the right shoulder is still not fully functioning and giving plenty of pain(I have a manual job). Hoping to do a short tentative ride later this week.

    Feeling quite nervious about the first damp bend. . .
  • infopeteinfopete Posts: 878
    It's been drizzling here for two days. The farmers have been out and about and the roads are disgusting.

    Worse still they're all hedging..... so I'll have to watch out for she who cannot be mentioned :( Though the Highways Agency did come and sweep one road for me the other week when I complained about the foot length bits of hedge and dog rose left on the road. :)

    Anyway.... you'll be fine, it's dark you won't see a thing.
    Oh and please remember to click on my blog:

    http://americanbicyclegroup.wordpress.com

    The more clicks I get the higher it creeps up the google radar :)
Sign In or Register to comment.