“Not all those who bicycle are lost.”
Last week was miserable, mostly because the snowy winter weather got the best of us here in Turkey. That being said, winter cycling doesn’t always have to be difficult, especially if you have the right gear. Though we felt ridiculous carrying around our huge down jackets, our -15C sleeping bags, and our long underwear and hats during the summer, now that we are relying on them to keep us alive and happy on a daily basis they are worth their weight in gold.
It’s not just the weather though, one of the most difficult aspects about cycle touring in the winter is the minimal amount of daylight hours, since as you may have guessed, our tent does not come with artificial lighting as your houses probably do. Since the sun sets by 4h30 we end up stopping by three or four in order to at least begin the daily process of setting up the tent and cooking dinner before it’s pitch dark out. When it’s raining, very windy, or just really cold we sometimes cook in the vestibule in order to stay warm, though with varying degrees of success since I have been known to dump full bowls of pasta all over the tent.
Depending on the terrain, it can be difficult to regulate your body temperature as you climb and then descend steep hills. Though I often start out bundled up, within a few minutes I inevitably overheat and spend most of the day wearing just a thin jacket no matter how cold it is outside. The problem with this is that I then have to stop and put on a jacket and warmer gloves – both of which I keep easily accessible in my front pannier – when we reach a substantial downhill. Then, once we start to climb again, I immediately strip off the extra layers since I’m bound to begin sweating right away which only makes everything colder and more miserable once we stop.
The toughest part about cycling for weeks or months throughout the winter is that, if you are like us and on a budget, you really have nowhere to hide. Sure, you can pop into a gas station and warm up for a few minutes, but sometimes that’s even more painful since you know that eventually you are going to have to get back out there. Since I enjoy the cold (seriously, I do) I don’t seem to mind if we go weeks without taking off our many layers, though Kevin definitely starts to feel the effects of the harsh conditions more acutely than I do.
Warm socks, gloves (for the downhills), a very warm jacket, and a good sleeping bag and pad are definitely essential for this sort of trip, and because it’s my mother who throughout the years has given all of those items to me as gifts, I think it’s an appropriate time to give a humongous thank you to her since those items are the reason I’m still trudging happily on. Thanks mom, I promise to carry on the tradition of giving outdoor gear for holidays to my children when the time comes as well.
When it’s raining we set out a hobo shelter (or just cook in the tent) to get out of the elements. But rain, that’s a whole separate story.
We have had some wonderful cold winter moments, especially during the Turkish fall!
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