Mountain Biking - The Zone - Extreme Winter Biking
Extreme Winter Biking
Temperatures have been known to dip to -82 degrees below zero in Tok, Alaska, but that hasn't stopped John A. Rusyniak of Alaska Biking Adventures from biking year around. John, Director of Technology, for Alaska Gateway School District, bikes to work, travels on frozen rivers, snow machine trails and more, regardless of the weather.
When it drops below -10 John brings out his bunny boots (AKA Mickey Mouse shoes). Yes they are much heavier than your standard biking shoes, but he never gets cold feet. He has found that polar fleece is the best protection for the upper body, especially if it has wind proofing in the front. John has tried various forms of head gear, but prefers a polar fleece cap under his helmet, with a polar fleece turtle's neck for his face. He covers his hands with winter biking gloves and then protects them further by wearing large wind proof over mitts with gauntlets that cover his forearm.
Many rib him about looking like a moving Christmas tree with all the lights he has flashing, but John is happy that people see him as he commutes to work on the shoulder of the Alaskan Highway. Of all the lights he's tried, he prefers the Nite Hawk XCL Pro with it's rear flasher.
When riding to work along the Alaskan Highway as the temperature dips between -30 to -60 degrees below zero, John enjoys the security knowing his flashing lights penetrate the ice fogs that forms as the exhaust from cars and homes freezes in the air.
John is currently collecting information for riding in various winter conditions. He feels it would be helpful as this sport continues to grow to have information to share with those beginning in the sport.
Extreme Winter Biking Basics
Winter biking in the interior of Alaska is a very extreme sport. When temperatures dip to -60 degrees and the ice fog sets it, both rider and bike best be ready to endure the challenges in store. For the last ten years, I have been riding in rural Alaskan communities.
Winterizing your bike is critical to the success of your riding, when you're riding in temperatures below zero. It's best to begin by making sure that you've changed the grease. In our extremes we use grease designed to work smoothly at -60 degrees. It keeps your bike from acting as if it just seized up. Lighting is a second consideration. Depending on where you're riding it's often as important to be seen as it is to be able to see. Extreme cold weather zaps batteries very quickly, so try to find lighting systems that can easily be charged over night.
Possibly more critical to winterizing your bike is being dressed properly for the conditions you'll encounter. Extremities, head, hands, & feet, need the most protection. It's imperative that your upper body be dressed in something that breathes very well. Gortex is not a desired product below zero. If you plan on stopping along the way, carry along extra gear to keep you warm when not moving.