Saturday, July 23, 2011

Toasty Warm Winter Hands With Icebreaker Quantum Gloves

I mentioned these in my last blog, but I rode with them again today and was, once again, blown away by how warm they were for something so thin and lightweight.

When I first opened the box and pulled out my new Icebreaker Quantum Gloves, my first thoughts were that they look nice (all Icebreaker stuff does), they fitted well, and the grip pattern on them looked very practical. I must admit that I also thought that they looked to be a little too lightweight for the zero-to-five-degree rides I had been doing of late, and so put them aside for when the weather was maybe a little more favourable. Big mistake on my part there. Last Wednesday, I decided to give them a little test run, just to see how they fared against a fresh two degree evening for our MMBC night race and I couldn't believe how warm my hands stayed. I got home, and my hands were probably the warmest part of my body. So not only do these puppies keep your fingers toasty warm, but they weigh nothing and are completely non-bulky so you can still feel the brakes, the handlebars, and your fingers.

The Quantum Gloves are made from Icebreaker's 260 weight Merino wool. They have a grip pattern across the palm of the hand up to the tip of the index finger and thumb, perfect for braking (unless you brake with the incorrect finger, like I do, in which case, I still found they worked perfectly fine) and the sleeve of the glove goes nice and high up your wrist so you don't have nasty wind making it's way right up the sleeve of your Icebreaker Oasis Crewe (which you should be wearing under your jersey in this sort of weather!!!). I'm really stoked with these gloves as a Winter riding buddy... Totally worth the investment and no more expensive than a standard pair of decent riding gloves!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Race Update - MMBC, NDuro and Night Riding in Sub Zero Temps...

Ok, so I've left this a week (or two) late, but it really has been a very exciting couple of weeks with very little time to blog. I've finally gotten into the swing of things with my new job as General Manager of Mitre 10 Mega in Palmerston North, I've started going to the gym again for the first time in about 3 years to work on some additional strengthening and the days here lately have been absolutely stellar Winter days... Crisp, clear, and bloody cold!

A couple of weeks ago, I tripped out to Santoft for the third race in their Winter series. We were lucky enough that the rain stopped long enough for us to race, then started falling again as we left the carpark. There had been a lot of rain during the week and, being a sand-based venue, the trails were subsequently running really sweet. Having been a number of years since I last frequented the gym or did any work with weights, I have been finding myself to be quite sore for a few days after a session. This particular week, I decided that I would do my leg workouts on a Friday, so as I hit the trails on Sunday, I was finding myself quite sore and my muscles heavy and sluggish. Truth be told, I spent all but the first ten minutes of the race grimacing through considerable pain. Having said that, though, I still pumped out a surprisingly quick average speed, so I'm hoping this strength training at the gym is working out well for me and when I freshen up before my big races, I should be flying (similar to how I felt after the four day tour of Wanganui in February). I took Clare along for her first ever mountain bike race and she won the recreational category (I'm so proud!) and I ended up placing second in the open category well off the pace from Fiona McDermid (that woman is a machine!).

Last Sunday I made the day trip up to Rotorua for the second race in the NDuro series... I left at five o'clock in the morning when the temperature read about minus two degrees and when I arrived in Rotorua about four hours later (after a very sketchy, slippery drive), there was still ice on my van (BRRRR!!!). I must say, though, that driving Desert Road right on sunrise was quite a treat, with snow lining the road and the three mountains in Tongariro National Park an amazing sight covered top to bottom in snow. It was a perfect Winter's day as I arrived at the Green lake carpark... Perfect blue skies and crisp, cold air. It's hard to know what to wear on days like this... Gut feel is to rug up warm but then you run the risk of overheating on the climbs... There was no risk of that today... I layered up with my Icebreaker, jersey and windproof vest, two pairs of socks and my Icebreaker undergloves with my riding gloves over the top. Today again made me question if I have chosen the right day of the week for my legs workout at the gym. As with the weekend before, I felt quite sluggish, and with 1200m of climbing over the 45km, I was definitely stacking up the training quite nicely, but not very comfortably... I think I will be swapping my Friday legs session and my Monday arms session at the gym now. The trails in Whaka forest were running superbly and were great fun as always. We started out up a 3.2km climb and then into the sweet trails of the forest. Some areas had recently been logged and trails rebuilt (including "be rude not to") where the going was a bit mushy and slow, but they will bed in quite nicely. I remembered this same course from a couple of years ago and remembered there was a last minute climb at the end. Geez it was hard work but a great day out on the bike... I pulled up in 5th place for the overall women's category... Fairly standard fare for me at the NDuro series (in fact, I don't remember the last time I came anything other than 5th at one of these races!!!). When we finished, there was still ice on the trails... BRRR!

Manawatu Mountain Bike Club have been awesome enough to negotiate some special access for our Wednesday night races to some trails at the Linton Army Camp just out of Palmerston North (note that these trails are NOT allowed to be ridden at any other time except for these races!). I met up with my training buddy Piki (Sasha) and we rode out there together for a bit of a "warm" up. The track was a mixture of farm track, fire trail and singletrack and we folk in the open category had two laps to complete. It was great fun but quite flat with some little pinchy bits and very slick, which made it quite hard work and an absolute necessity to remain switched on if you wanted to stay upright. We blasted past scary barking pitbulls, through the aptly named "bog of doom"and then through what I decided to refer to as the "forest of deja vu" (I was sure I had ridden that corner just two minutes ago!!!). It was great fun and I even got to take home a sample of the bog of doom attached to my derallier! We then cruised home the 9km to Palmerston North (it was a beautiful evening!) to clean our bikes and warm up our feet. I recently received some new Icebreaker gloves (Quantum 260). They look quite cool and have some grippy bits on them for the handlebars and brakes, but I must admit my initial impressions were that they didn't appear to be thick enough to protect my fingers from the cold... How wrong I was! I was completely amazed that they were noticeably warmer than "double gloving". In fact, when I got home, not only were my hands not frozen, they were actually warm! Very impressed! As I now nurse the chilblains on my toes, the next challenge is to figure out how to keep my feet sufficiently thawed for the duration of a ride!!! Suggestions welcome!