FRANCIS PEAK, UT - MAY 2020
From 4,500' - 9,500' in elevation with variable conditions. How do you prepare?
Words by Jonny Hintze
With spring comes nicer weather and warmer temperatures, but depending on where you live and ride, going out in a short sleeve jersey and bibs may not always be the right choice of clothing. If you live in a high desert, like us here in Utah, temperatures and conditions can be unpredictable and change quickly. What can seem to be a nice warm day can change for the opposite, without notice, especially on rides with significant elevation gain. So how do you prepare for these unpredictable conditions? Here are a few tips to help you along the way and a few things we learned as we climbed up to 9,500' on Francis Peak in May 2020.
When thinking about what to wear or bring to ride in changing conditions, consider items that can easily be layered, added, or removed depending on the conditions. Consider fabric weight and content when selecting items. You'll want something that is good at regulating body temperature, such as merino. It regulates body temperature even when wet, and pulls moisture away from the body keeping you dry and comfortable. You can learn more about merino here.
Item's to consider packing include:
- arm and knee warmers - Shop Warmers
- a windbreaker vest and/or packable jacket
- a cycling cap - Shop Caps
- neck gaiter - Shop Neck Gaiter
- a good pair of socks - Shop Socks
On this particular ride, the base elevation was 4,500 ft with a temperature of 65 degrees. I started out wearing a long sleeve jersey, vest, and knee warmers, knowing that I would be ascending into cooler temperatures. I put my other packable clothing in my jersey pockets for easy access. As we climbed, I found out pretty quickly that the vest was too warm, so I simply unzipped it - no need to remove it since it would be needed again shortly.
As we continued to climb, the temperatures started to get cooler, clouds lingered, and I found myself zipping my vest back up halfway into the climb. The most noticeable temperature drop was when we hit the snowline. This is something you'll want to note when preparing for a ride that gets to an elevation where snow still exists. It's an incubator for cold, plan accordingly.
We eventually reached a hike-a-bike snowdrift about 3/4 of the way up and that's when my gloves and packable windbreaker jacket were needed. I usually reserve these items for the descent, when the wind from descending can freeze you to the core, but I was sweaty, there was already a cold breeze, and I needed the added warmth.
I continued to climb with this gear to the top, where we reached 9,500 feet in elevation and the temperature was a chilly 39 degrees.
As we stood to enjoy the view, that's when the cold really set in. I quickly pulled out my Merino Winter Cap to keep my head comfortable and zipped my jacket all the way up.
I remained comfortable in this attire as we started the descent back down. However, once reaching lower elevations, with warmer temperatures, I found myself removing my jacket, cap, and gloves, reverting back to the same clothing I started in.
By having the proper packable apparel, you can stay comfortable, no matter the conditions by easily removing or adding clothing.
In the end, the total elevation gain was 5,000 feet, with a temperature difference of 26 degrees. Despite these conditions, I was comfortable from top to bottom. Some of my colleagues were less so.
I didn't use the neck gaiter I had packed, but it's a great versatile piece of clothing to have. It can be pulled up over the neck and face or double as a beanie. It's lightweight, very packable, and easy to carry on rides.
Other items to have on rides like this:
- protective walletor pouch to protect phone & valuables from the elements
- hand pump, replacement tube, and tire levers.
Go farther. In comfort.