If you're down for protecting your digits, then these are the best way to do it.
These matching, mismatched gloves have a nice blue base, and then one says SWEAT, because thats what you're supposed to do when you're wearing them, and the other has that badass Cinelli "C" logo, because we LOVE Cinelli. Have we mentioned that?
Larch Mountain is an extinct volcano roughly 25 miles from downtown Portland topping out at over 4000ft of elevation. The name Larch Mountain does not come from the Western Larch tree but rather how early loggers would describe Noble Fir. The mountain has been heavily logged in certain sections and is now a mixture of second and old growth forests. It’s become an iconic climb for cyclists due to it’s infamous 14 mile climb to the summit. Most climbs around Portland are rolling while Larch goes straight up for over 12 miles. [portfolio_slideshow id=4448 width="1200"]
After some last minute planning Craig and I set off from the Velo Cult parking lot at 7 am. The streets of Northeast Portland are empty and we gladly take the road. Riding out to Troutdale is probably my least favorite thing to do but with good company it aint half bad.
We cross the Sandy River and head up the Historic Columbia River Highway aka U.S. Route 30 aka the King of Roads aka HRCH. The hangover is fading and the weather is perfect. It’s a little after 9am and we pedal up to the Portland Woman’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint. I take some obligatory photos of the Columbia River Gorge. The view is epic! I’ve taken dozens of photos from the exact spot yet I still feel compelled to snap a few more. It’s our last chance to fill up on water before making the 14 mile ascent up Larch Mountain. Its Craigs first time up. I am looking forward to the summit. I brought a slice of pizza to celebrate at the top; like a boss!
Larch Mountain Road is quiet. The occasional cyclists zooms by; teary eyed from the long ascent. We’re all out here early trying to beat the 90 degree heat. Some earlier than others. At mile marker 2 I tell Craig that it’s all up hill from here. The climb is infamous for it’s long 12 mile ascent and probably more so for the incredible descent back down! We’re surrounded by towering Noble Firs and my legs settle into a rhythm. The mile markers slowly go by as we crawl to the summit. I am feeling good and all of this Mountain Biking is really paying off. Mile 9, Mile 10, we’re getting close. The trees are getting shorter, the sky is bluer and Craig is bonking. I back off and we push forward. Cadence is everything.
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We summit. I drop five bucks into the Fee box and we hike up to the viewpoint called Sherrard Point. Mt St Helens, Mt Rainer, Mt Hood, Mt Adams and Mt Jefferson. It’s all fucking there. I love this ride and this is why I celebrate it. Pizza has never tasted so damn good. Am I the first person to bike up Larch Mountain with a slice of pizza? Fuck yes I am.
The descent back down to U.S. Route 30 is incredible. The roads are still empty and we occasionally fly by someone climbing. This time we’re the ones teary eyed, focused on the road ahead. Craigs out in front and I can only imagine he’s smiling as much as I am.
Winter is approaching and now is the time to prepare for the those cold commutes before it's too late. Below is my guide to suffering less. Enjoy. Base Layers
Base layers are the most essential piece of clothing to add to your winter arsenal. The purpose of a base layer is to wick away the sweat from your body keeping you warm and dry.
Budget : Uniqlo's Heattech Collection is hands down the best base layers you can buy on a budget. $13 bucks will get you the short sleeve model while for $20 you can pick up the long sleeves or the pants. I recommend sizing down to get a snug fit. Luxury : If money is not a problem I recommend seeking out Merino base layers from companies like Rapha, Ibex, Defeet and Icebreakers. These will cost you anywhere from $60 - $110.
Sierra Trade Post also has some great deals on base layers so make sure to check them out as well.
Another crucial component in your set up will be a nice mid layer such as a merino sweater or a long sleeve jersey. I personally use the Chrome Merino Cobra and the Mission Workshop Bosun. The Chrome Merino hoodie is my personal favorite because the Merino is significantly softer on the inside than most other sweaters of it's kind. Also don't forget that Merino wicks away sweat and has natural odor fighting properties that really work.
Rapha has some pretty rad Merino offerings right now with their windproof Hooded Top and their Track Top. Chrome is also offering their Merino Cobra as just a zip up without a hood which is pretty cool.
Regardless with what company you go with a good Mid Layer is gonna cost a big chunk of change but will make you infinitely more comfortable on those cold commutes.
Finding an awesome shell that fits both on and off the bike is the hardest thing ever. I used to own the Mission Workshop Orion which retails for $415!!! Truthfully it was the best piece of gear I've ever owned but ended up selling it because I lost a bunch of weight and found it to be way too big for me. The resale value on MWS gear is great and I basically made my money back. So now I am with out a good shell and winter is rapidly approaching.
So what am I looking at?
Well obviously there is the Mission Workshop Orion which is crazy expensive but is hands down the best cycling / city jacket you can buy. Theres no debating that. Chrome offers the Storm Cobra which is 200 bucks and made for the urban commuter. Swrve offers the popular Milwaukee jacket but it's only water resistant but still a great option for people facing dryer weather.
So I really don't know what I am going to do. I'll have to pull the trigger on something soon though.
Gloves are super important but you knew that already. It's fall in the East Coast right now and I can get away with wearing merino gloves but as the temperatures dip like they did today it's time to bring out the heavy weights. I am not going to recommend any particular glove because I am still experimenting with my set up. I'll try and point you in the right direction though. For riding in colder temps you want a glove system that has a liner that will wick away sweat while the outer shell blocks the wind and insulates the hand. During Fall and Spring a nice insulated glove or something made of wool should do the trick.
The Rapha Glove system has caught my eye recently and I am super into what Castelli is doing as well. I am currently using the Giro Ambients for my chilly morning rides and they perform pretty good. I can already tell that I will need something warmer as Winter appraoches.
Check out this Silk Glove Liner for 12 bucks on Amazon!
A Neck Gaiter will be your new best friend. Cheap, versatile and absolutely crucial for winter commuting. What I love about my Icebreakers Gaiter is that I can wear it to insulte my neck, pull it up to cover my mouth and even pull it over my head to make almost a complete face mask! Merino Gaiters go for as cheap as 20 bucks so definitely go Merino. Wearing one of these will change your commuting experience dramatically.
Merino socks are another big one. Yes there a little expensive but socks are crucial both on and off the bike. The thing about cheap socks is that they don't last and you always end up buying new ones every year if not sooner. So why not splurge and pick up some nice merino socks that will wick away sweat and keep your feet happy for a long fucking time. Trust me; you'll never want to wear cotton socks again.
Lastly. Don't forget your bike light! Winter is dark and cold so it's extra important that you remember to bring your bike lights. If you can afford it; think about upgrading to a better light that makes you and the road more visible. Planet Bike, Portland Design Works and Niterider make awesome lights! Check them out.
I hope this article helps you out. I tried covering as much as I can and I hope it gives you a jump start in getting your winter gear together. Commuting in winter is pretty awesome if you're dressed properly.