Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jeny and the Race: Happy feets.

To say that it is easy to equip one's self for the ITI these days is, from my perspective, a massive understatement.  That doesn't mean it's cheap, nor that work isn't required.

Swing by any decent bike shop on your lunch break and, if you've done even a middling amount of research, you can order a complete ready-to-ride fatbike shod with high volume/low pressure studded tires and complete with good lighting, pogies, a frame bag, gas tank, feedbags, under-bar bag, etc...  Plunk down your credit card and 4 or 5 days later voila -- your chariot hath arrived.

Likewise with clothing, food (gluten free and vegan freeze dried, anyone?), shelter and insulation -- options abound and if you've educated yourself on the basics and know yourself at all, then the most difficult thing about the process is getting past the analysis paralysis and pulling the trigger.

I'll spare you the 'kids these days don't know how easy they have it!' grumble and just say that it's a good time to be in the market for a fatbike and associated accoutrements.

Of particular interest in this conversation are shoes -- or boots if you will -- for February riding at 62* north latitude.  I wrote this a decade ago, after spending many years fiddling with different systems to achieve a warm, dry, clipless-ready setup for the ITI.

I've continually refined that setup and it's what I use today.  But you don't need to go to those sorts of lengths to set yourself up now -- you can (see above) simply swing by your LBS and have them order you something.

Specifically, Jeny will be riding a set of the 45N Wolfgar boots in the ITI.  We sourced them roughly 4 sizes too big for her feet, knowing that we were going to get medieval on them.  

Even though 45N has highly polished my decade-old idea with modern materials, thusly making these boots good enough out-of-the-box for 90% of lower 48 riders, they don't arrive quite ready for the ITI.  Why?  Moisture management.

In short, unless your feet are frozen they will be sweating, and that sweat has nowhere to go -- it just collects and saturates the felt liner.  For a day ride?  Pfft -- no biggie, just lean them on the heat register when you get home and they'll be ready to go tomorrow.

For the ITI, where the clock is ticking and the opportunities to hover over a heat source are basically nil, you have to do better.

Spend a few bucks at the local hardware on some contractor grade trash bags and a can of spray glue, then go get sticky fingers in your basement while effectively shrink wrapping your felt liners.

There are two benefits to this arrangement -- your perspiration is no longer a concern, and now, should you happen to slosh through overflow or have to wade through a creek, you haven't hosed your insulation.  In fact after you've waded Pass Creek and Dalzell Creek you simply remove your liner, pour out the water, slip your foot back in and head up the trail.

Sock choice still needs to be considered -- too thick and they hold too much moisture, and once your feet are cold you can't produce enough to re-heat that amount of thermal mass.  

Like many of the ITI crowd, Jeny has been steadfastly and incrementally preparing each part of her kit such that a slow building of confidence is happening imperceptibly as she sews, glues, researches, wrenches, and even sleeps every night.  Like adding bricks or blocks to a foundation, each one adds to the last and if you keep at it, eventually you stand up, stretch your back, and marvel at the totality of what you've built.

Thanks for checkin' in.


  1. I'll totally echo your observation, kids these days DO have it easy with respect to equipment, and its fantastic!
    One observation, Wolfgars, amazing! Ditch the stock felt inners and put in Intuition liners. You don't even have to oversize them. Warm, no moisture issues.

  2. I have Raynaud's, and I use Wolfgars even in the lower 48. Perspiration is an issue for me even in a full day ride, leading to chilled toes. I'm trying to understand why your solution helps with sweat management because it seems like it would be trapped inside those plastic bags. Can you explain?

  3. Your toes are getting chilled now because your sweat is degrading the insulation through the day. Wet insulation isn't as effective as dry.

    The plastic layer prevents your insulation from getting wet, meaning it is just as warm at the end of the day as it was at the start.

    That aside, there is a growing body of evidence out there that says that a VBL system (which I have emulated here with the plastic) "tricks" your feet into producing less sweat, as they eventually sense that there is already lots of moisture down there, so hey, why not tone it down?

    It's not proven scientific fact for every person in every scenario. More like lots of anecdotal evidence to support it.

  4. If you do this again anytime soon - please film it. I just see the first time I try this, it would be like a sitcom, I would be covered in adhesive from head to toe with a garbage bag stuck to the side of my head.

  5. VBL all the way. Big fan of it... will we see you up here?

  6. I'm just learning about VBL and the concept makes sense to me (not that science cares whether I get it or not). My only question is - what becomes of that moisture after your foot leaves the boot (or your body leaves the sleeping bag, assuming you're in a VBL liner there)? Wouldn't your foot/body chill and freeze rapidly from the moisture build-up? Thank you for helping this part of the VBL setup make sense too.