The Best Thing I Bought for My Bike

Ok, sorry that the posting was sparse last week. It is crazy time here right now. This week is finals, so I am grading like mad (or not grading like mad and stalling while writing this thing here). Last Friday I took the NYS DEC Basic Wilderness Search Course and next week I’m taking a Wilderness First Responders course. We will get to why over the next couple of weeks. Anyway just stay with me for a couple of weeks while life gets onto the summer track.

As promised, the Best Thing I Ever Bought for My Bike……

I live as many of you know way Upstate New York. Just about as far north in NY that you can go and still be in NY. I Know I’m from Upstate. (The very last person who is in that video, yeah I’m from that town. What he says is true.)

The point here is that I live pretty far north and that corresponds to pretty darn cold most winters. Though this winter we didn’t really have winter. We had more winter in April than in February. That of course made my purchase last summer of Sunday to be something of a disappointment.


Sunday is a Framed Minnesota 3.0 XWT (extra wide tires, 4.7″ wide) fully rigid fat bike. I call her Sunday because she is the nice little thing you get after dinner to make your day complete. In theory you could live with out it, but really why would you WANT to? I mean let’s be serious.

Now Sunday is NOT the best thing I ever purchased for my bike, well because she IS a bike. But Sunday is supposed to enable biking in the winter, when its cold. And THAT my friends is the problem. The cold.

From the moment I started biking seriously here in Potsdam there has been a problem with biking in the cold. Its cold. And the crux for me biking in the cold has always been my hands and what kind of gloves are right. If I go with thick gloves then they eventually get a little “soggy” which lets the cold air in and my fingers freeze. If I pick a glove that has enough wicking then my fingers freeze. There wasn’t any good answer. Then I found Bar Mitts. Bar Mitts are neoprene things that stick over your handlebars. You put your hands in them and ride.

Here have a look:

They are simply put the BEST THING I have put on my bike (since I bought a GPS). I went riding this winter when it was cold. So cold that my eyes froze shut when I blinked. So cold that… well it was this cold. I was biking at work and went back to my office as the support staff were going home for the day. 🙂

doug winter

Sunday equipped with Bar Mitts  enabled that ride.


The Bar Mitts work because you are basically encasing your hands in a neoprene igloo. The neoprene shell protects your fingers from wind and wetness. There is enough air circulation that your fingers do not sweat but enough insulation that all you need are your summer fingerless gloves inside the shells.

If you ride in the winter and have trouble with cold fingers. You really should give them a shot.

And BTW. I paid for mine (full price) and I would pay for them again if I needed too.

Author’s Note: The fat bike is a hoot. I would not replace my normal mtb with my fat bike. Meaning if I HAD to pick ONE bike it would not be the Fat Bike. But it was a lot of fun to ride in the snow and it was also a lot of fun to ride in the real serious mud. 

Author’s Second Note: The rumor that a fat bike tire acts like the suspension on a normal mtb is FALSE. Riding a fully rigid fat bike is like riding a fully rigid mtb only bouncy.


Monday Morning Slider: Sometimes you beat the track and sometimes the track beats you….

Sunday morning 7 am. I’m gearing up for the 2016 Luge Masters Race. I check the starting order and notice that I drew the first spot which meant that not only was I the first slider of my group, but since my group went first, I was the first slider of the day. Since the second run start order is reverse order of finish (meaning slowest first run goes first, fastest goes last) I realized that my day could be over very quickly.

The great part of having zero expectations of winning (or placing or showing for that matter) is that it doesn’t matter how well you do, the competition is all internal. I got myself ready to race and found I was having a lot of fun. I didn’t sleep a lot the night before because my neck was sore from my whiplash run the day before and I couldn’t get comfortable. But the aches melted away. I was with my friends.

I presented my sled, weighed in (the one place that my zombie apocalypse energy reserves were a good thing) and got ready to get onto the track. The track workers did a fantastic job of prepping the track and it looked shiny and smooth. They called my name and off I went. How did it go? It was my 2nd fastest run ever. I made it through my “crux section” the upper labrynth and flew into the chicanes

remaining calm on the bumpy gnarly track. I cam close to the wall but made it through clean. Into the lower “Heart” section and into the final corner. There are 2 lines through the final curve. One takes you smoothly through the other takes you high and ejects you into the wall, but after the timing eye. The second line is fast, but sub optimal for the slider. I let it go flew across the finish line and tagged the far wall. But it didn’t matter I was super happy.

The first sled of the day showed the track was fast. And the first slider of the day showed a year of rust was no obstacle.

Now luge races usually show big gaps between groups of sliders. The four fastest sliders are about 1-1.5 seconds faster than I am. The second slider of the day was a guest slider from Park City Utah. He is super fast. Once I came down off my cloud I listened to the second half of his run and watched his split times. THIS COULD NOT BE HAPPENING! It was a total stinker of a run. Mr. Superfast dude came down (after leaving some marks on the walls) and was about 1.2 seconds BEHIND ME! Woot!

The other 3 fast guys (from my local club) came down and had fast runs. But seriously? I was in 4th place.

OK time for run #2. Mr. Superfast went before me and threw down a smoking fast run (it was in fact the fastest run of the day that anyone had). I went to the start line and prepared to enter the record books. My second run was fantastic. See, I kind of even look like I know what I am doing…

The splits will show I was faster on the upper portion of the course and entered into the chicane at 85 km/h (53 mph). Then just as I was about the leave the chicane I hit a rut and tagged a wall. Game over. OK, I finished, and my time wasn’t “horrible”, but 4th place slipped out of my gloved hands. Actually I would have needed to slide about 0.5 seconds faster than my previous personal best to keep 4th place, and I wan’t going THAT fast. Still.

OK, so what was different between the runs? Me, myself, and I. How focused was I on the first run? When I entered the chicane (right before that video) I head a loud metalic ping. My brain registered it and then left it in my wake. The ping actually came from a bolt that came off my sled while I was sliding. On my second run I entered the chicane and was immediately uncomfortable. If I had been more relaxed the rut wouldn’t have resulted in me finding wall.

Yeah, sometimes the track beats you.

In the end I ended the race in 5th place over all. Right about where I would have predicted before the race. Coreen said that I really should slide more next winter. Yeah. Yeah.

Monday Morning Slider: A Unique Way to Prepare for a National Championship

In January I got a couple of emails from friends telling me they missed luging. Which was really funny seeing as how they have never actually been on a track luging. They asked when I would share the stories of my winter escapades. Apparently by “missing luging” what they really meant was they missed hearing about me beating and bruising myself on a sled. I told them that the stories this winter went something like this: I wasn’t sliding and I didn’t know if I would be sliding this year. For a number of reasons, none of which are important to share, luging had become something that was not fun and so my sled sat dusty in my basement.

Somewhere around February I started to feel like I wanted to get back on the track. And so I circled the US Luge Masters National Championship on my calendar. If you do a quick search on this blog for Luge Masters you are going to find a lot of entries. Things like this. Masters is my favorite time of the year in the luge world. What better weekend to get back on the ice? What better way to prepare for a National Championship than to not prepare or practice at all? Yeah baby!

We had two days of practice before the race. My first practice run was “exciting”. It felt fast. By fast I mean, it felt like my brain was just a little bit behind my sled on the track. That my friends is the very definition of an exciting run. But I made it to the bottom. Rust knocked off, most of my skin still on. I called it a win. My second run was my 3rd fastest run ever (ha and you thought my plan was foolish!). My 3rd was again a little bit all over the place, but I got down.

OK. Onto Saturday and the second day of practice. Saturday morning was when the universe laughed at my little training plan. It started with g forces causing me to “loose my head” (you head flies back and you get to look up instead of forward) in the last corner. I finished but wasn’t super happy. My second run was again really good. Then my third run happened…..

The track has taken a beating this winter. While it is a refrigerated track, the winter of non-winter, has been hard on it. It was a bumpy mess. The chicanes (a track description is here for those of you who have forgotten) in particular were bad.

I cleaned up some issues on the upper portion of the track and entered into the chicanes with a good bit of speed whereupon which I bounced my way through this “straight” section of track. When I got into the long fast 3 corner combination (the Heart) to end my run my head snapped back (lost again). This is a really interesting place to be looking at the roof of the track. There is a mural, similar to that from the Sistine Chapel, painted on the ceiling. It’s a spectacular view. OK, not so much. Its a BAD place to be looking at the roof. You cannot see your steering marks PLUS its a spot on the track where you can get hurt if you don’t hit your marks.

I managed to cop a quick peak at some point and saw I was “OK” line wise and finished. My neck was sore (whiplash from bouncing through the chicane and stress from fighting g’s with my “fresh” neck muscles). I’m getting better and listening to what my body says and my body was saying that a couple of more training runs had NO upside. I decided to call it quits and get ready for the race the next morning……


Dusting off the Cobwebs

According to the stats on this site its been 8 months since my last post. Jeepers.

You might have wondered at the cliff hanger I left from the Hampshire 100. ******Its was hard, I cheated by cutting the course along with many many other riders (For the record I was STOKED to have the race be 30 minutes shorter than it should have been) and was “rewarded” by the organizers with a free entry into the race this summer. Weird I know.****** You might be wondering how my luge season went (I received 2 whole emails from people begging me to tell them about my adventures on the track!) Or really you might just not even noticed that the lights were not on here in this little corner of the blogasphere.

Really what happened was my light bulb burned out. I had a lot of things going on (physically, personally, professionally) and needed to recharge.

But here is the thing. I’m charged. I bought a new bulb for this place (LED). I am heading into an exciting 18 months…..Yes 18 months, and depending how things go it may be more like a 24-30 month campaign (that’s why I needed a LED). It’s going to be a real Living Dangerously time. Turns out that I recharged not only my spirit, but my, umm, “weight reserves” (you know the zombie apocalypse reserves). My legs are also very very “fresh”. Yup. June 4 is going to be a really interesting day.

Over the next week or so I’ll catch you all up on my winter (yes there was luge), describe what its like to crash a bike on the equivalent of sandpaper, let you know what’s happening in the next 18 months, and tell you about the single BEST thing I have bought for my bike (maybe since I bought a bike).

Talk to you all soon!