Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Jeny and The Race: Random minutia.

I've gotten a good chunk of personal emails about this thread from various friends and customers.  Some of them had questions that weren't worthy of a whole post, but that did deserve to be answered. There have also been a few good questions buried in the comments, and in various online spaces.  I'd like to highlight a few of those as well.

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What are your preferred studs to use in the Vee Snowshoe?

For this event I don't think it matters too much. No sane person is riding the limits of their studs in this environment and that far "out there". They're more to keep a person upright in the event that they encounter some ice they weren't expecting, than to allow you to ride every off-camber glaciered stretch of trail along the way. Stock Vee, Nokian, Schwalbe, or 45N are all pretty much the same in that respect.

If we were talking commuting on black ice all winter long in some high-latitude city, my answer would be different.

How many pairs of socks do you bring?  How do you dry them?

Part of our routine for keeping trench foot at bay -- since our feet may not feel wet but with any sort of VBL system there is at least some moisture present all the time -- is to replace the moist socks with dry ones when we get into our sleeping bags at night. Thus we have a total of 2 identical pairs of socks on our persons the entire trip: One on our feet, and one in reserve. At bedtime the dry pair goes on and our feet get to dry out as we sleep. The felt liners do double duty as our sleep booties as well, saving the bulk, weight, and hassle of carrying something else to do the job. The wet socks that come off as we get into the bag get placed under our layers, against our bellies, the heat from which quickly and effectively dries them out.  

Come morning you already have dry socks on inside your liners, so as you swing a leg out of your bag to get dressed all you have to do is slip that foot into the shell of the boot. No way for cold or even discomfort to intervene, no thermal mass to have to pre-warm. Quick and easy.

Curious what you are using for your "go to" tubeless fat set up?

I've liked and believed in tubeless for bicycles for almost 2 decades now. It follows that I had to do lots of experimenting with stacking layers of tape to make things work tubeless way back when, and again ~6 years ago when I started fiddling with tubeless fat, because there were no readily available rim or tire options.

That process can be both intensely rewarding and frustrating -- as you are undoubtedly well aware -- and often both within minutes of each other. Fiddling with layering tape and struggling to understand why some setups worked and some didn't was very educational and I'm glad to have done it.

But every tape setup has eventually failed. Some lasted ~1000 miles. Most lasted far, far less. They rarely fail in the warmth of the shop/basement/garage, which adds to the frustration of the failure. So you stick in a tube, then try to scrape the schmutz off your hands before putting your gloves back on to keep riding. During a day ride? Not the worst thing. Many days out from home? Frustrating, unnecessary, and potentially unsafe.

There are a few fatbike rims these days that are turn-key tubeless ready. I build with all of them several times a week. Of these, the Bontrager Jackalope's are my favorites. Jeny will be using them on this trip. They require one lap of normal mtb width (~22mm) tape to seal the spoke holes. That's it. Once that lap of tape is installed, you can inflate and seat the tires using the teeniest, weeniest mini pump out there. No compressor. No floor pump. No hopping on one foot while holding breath and hoping. No drama at all. Jeny proved this to both of us yesterday as part of her 'mechanical prep'. I wanted her to have confidence that if she flats she can fix it -- whether that means plugging it from the outside, patching it from the inside (which would then require her to re-seat the bead), or simply sticking in a tube.

So, in short, my answer is to stop fiddling with the layers of tape and use a real tubeless ready rim.

Would be curious as to the dropper posts you've found that work in the cold (anything below freezing). Too many of them stop functioning at a hint of a cool breeze.

Jeny will be using the Giant Contact SL.  We love the RS Reverb in summer months, but as you've described it doesn't work well in cool much less cold conditions.  We've had the Giant down to 0*f without noticing any change in performance.  I suspect it'll be good for her down to -20*f or so -- which is colder than is forecast for the entirety of this year's ITI right now.  In the event that it fails, she has a small aluminum collar that she can lock onto it that effectively makes it into a rigid post.

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?

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.

Did you guys consider a 27.5 fat setup at all, specifically the Gnarwhal? I'm guessing it would be fast for certain conditions, but not wide enough for variable conditions? I wonder if it would be a good replacement for a studded D5 setup? Should be similar width but roll faster?

We did test a B Fat Gnarwhal setup for 5 or 6 rides. Alas Jeny's frame was built with 26 x 4.8's in mind, before B Fat existed, and the B Fat's edge knobs sit a bit taller (closer to the BB) than any 26 x 4.8" tire. Clearance was tight to the chainstays when the tires hadn't yet stretched, and we knew they were going to stretch so we removed them from the running.

Jeny wasn't sure she could tell any difference in float or traction from Bud/Lou to the Gnarwhals. She was running them unstudded.

I'm guessing the sleeping bags are waterproofed? Or is the conifer cover generally enough?

Most modern/good bags have a DWR that's good enough. Also keep in mind that good winter bags have enough loft that if snow falls on them, there isn't enough of your body heat coming through to melt the snow. It just sits there at ambient until you roll over, and then it falls off. If you have a Ridgerest (or other pad with little nooks and crannies for snow to settle into), the snow can slip off your bag and into these nooks. If you roll over on top of that snow, then you'll wake to find little puddles in those nooks as your body heat is able to melt the snow that finds it's way between you and your pad.  

The conifers are big in many places -- such that you can burrow in and be untouched except by wind driven snow.

What are your thoughts on pedals? Given that there could be deep snow conditions that require extensive walking/pushing, platforms may be preferred.

Pedals are like religion to people in winter races: Suggest that they're doing it wrong and you'll find yourself in the midst of a holy war.

Jeny and I both prefer to ride clipless in winter. Our local trails are soft or softer, and being clipped in gives you better control of the bike in marginal conditions.  

It is easier and less expensive to arrive at a warm boot setup when using flats. The tradeoff being that you lose some of that fine control when things get really technical.

No right answer, no wrong answer, just compromises to choose between.

I have, in ITI's past, taken a long-handled hex wrench so that I could remove my pedals for long stretches of pushing. In 2010 my pedals were off of the bike for almost 2 days -- from just past Puntilla Lake to roughly the Dalzell Gorge. Never even thought about riding in that section, so deep and unconsolidated was the snow, and it was nice to not intermittently thwack my shins on the pedals.

For summer fatbike/beach/packraft trips I think flats make more sense for lots of reasons. And for some of those I've used QR pedals like these.

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Some great questions above.  Don't hesitate if you have others.

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