This year I think I’ve finally got a setup that I’m happy with for riding right through the winter. Here it is:
Most important thing has been to stave off Raynaud’s which is always a problem for me. First of all, the Terracycle Windwrap WGX fairing keeps the bulk of the cold wind off your body and feet. I’m still in 2 minds about this exorbitantly expensive piece of kit. Does it help keep you warmer? Yes, and that’s the main thing. It doesn’t really give a lot of weather protection though, and it also gives the already front-heavy trike noticeably poorer traction in the wet on steep hills. It also doesn’t protect your hands – it’s not wide enough. It would probably work a lot better on a two wheeler with your hands in closer. I’m betting most users are trikers though. So it does help keep you warmer at the very least, and my feet need all the help they can get.
I further protect my feet by ditching my standard cycling shoes and using my Karrimor Gore-Tex trail boots instead. I’m not paying for super expensive cycling winter boots because I don’t think I’d use them enough and most of them use SPD cleats which give me a lot of foot pain. So my £40 Karrimors do the job nicely, with a set of flat pedals laced with Power Grips. 2 thick pairs of socks, and my feet are pretty toasty even when it’s well below zero.
The Power Grips are better on upright bikes as they are not really designed to hold your feet tight to the pedal, so you get a bit of shuffling around on the platform due to the position of the pedals out in front instead of below you. I don’t mind this though, especially with the convenience of having nice big clumpy boots on that are completely sealed and ready to wander off into the snow. The Power Grips are really only there to stop the cruciform of the trike running over and breaking my leg if my foot slipped off the pedal (leg suck). I would use toe clips except I’ve never found a pair that were big enough. I started out my recumbent adventure with Power Grips, and it’s nice to revisit them again after 5 years. They’re a nice cheap-ish flexible option if you can live with the lack of tight binding to the pedal.
For my hands, I have a set of Bar-Mitts copies that I got off Amazon, cheaper than the originals but still extremely effective. They are waterproof, windproof and have a removable fleece inner. With another pair of normal gloves on below, this keeps my hands fairly warm. They are still prone to going immediately white within a minute of taking them out, but that’s just Raynaud’s for you. The actual bar mitts are really good. They’re by a company called Rockbros. I can highly recommend.
Using bar mitts does cause some issues with mirrors, I had to move mine down a bit to enable the mitt to come far enough down the bar. My Mirrycle gave up the ghost recently so I replaced it with a B&M Cyclestar long mount mirror which makes it a bit easier to move out the way of the mitt.
In the photo above, you can see I’ve put a cheap Decathlon bag on the main fairing support. This is handy for 2 things – 1) I keep food in one pocket and it’s easily reachable, and 2) I keep a power bank in the other to power my Garmin. In the winter, the Edge 520 gets about 90 minutes run time unless you have external power. The fairing cross bar also makes a good place to put your Garmin, as you can see above. On the other side, I have a Terracycle light mount. Do yourself a favour, just buy a cheap bar end for a third of the price. You get a good position for your light here as it’s higher up than the mount on the front of the trike. I had thought the fairing would get in the way and cause the beam to get messed up but it’s pretty good. I have been out at night with the Cateye Volt 1200 and had great lighting.
Tyre wise, I’m currently running Marathon Winter plus on the front wheels. These are complete [insert favourite profanity here] to get on the rim. That’s 2 hours of my life I won’t get back! Next time, I’ll buy a tyre bead jack. Seriously, unless you have hands like Conan, you’re probably better just getting the jack before you try. By far the most difficult tyres I’ve ever had to fit. I think it’s the 20 inch rim size and the ‘plus’ designation that is the killer combination. They are fully studded and make a fabulous crackling noise as you ride along the road. No chance of zombie pedestrians not hearing you approach.
The sharp eyed will notice in the picture above that the right hand tyre is on back to front. I did make one attempt to remove the tyre to turn it round, but in all honesty my hands were trashed by that point and I had lost the will to continue. It makes no difference whatsoever to handling anyway. I might blowtorch those things off with additional help from a chainsaw just to get my revenge!
On the rear, I have a Marathon Winter Spike – this is the one with only the central studs. It’s a bit cheaper, has half the stud count of the full Marathon Winter, and at the time it was the only one I could find in stock. This one went on much easier – just a bit of thumb force and it popped onto the rim. 26 inch rims are of course much easier to get tyres on.
To date, I’ve been out just a few times in winter conditions with this rig. By ‘winter conditions’, I mean unsalted back roads covered in a thick layer of ice and topped with hard packed snow. If I’m honest, traction is nowhere near as good as I’d hoped it to be. Partly this might be me expecting too much in conditions that are hilly and snowy as well as icy, but as soon as the grade gets to about 7% I start getting wheel slip. By about 10% I have to pedal really hard just to get enough traction to move slowly forward, and much above that I have to get off and walk. Today I did 25 miles up to the Granites and back, at an average speed of 8mph. I was pedalling pretty hard throughout, a lot of that power was lost through wheel slip on the hills. I had to walk up 3 of the steepest rollers. The trike is easy to push with the rear rack making a convenient handle! Good training 🙂
I think I’m possibly pushing the limit on what this trike is designed to do. I’m also not sure if the lack of outside studs on the rear tyre affects traction, or whether the generally light and relatively unweighted rear end of a trike is also to blame. Certainly, if the rear end was that loose on a 2 wheeler I wouldn’t be going out – it would be suicidal.
At higher speeds on hard packed snow and ice, the rear skids from side to side a lot. This was a bit unnerving at first but after a while I got used to it and you just need to take appropriate steering action to keep it straight. It’s immensely good fun!
Front braking is good with the Marathon Winter Plus tyres – I rarely skidded and it was possible to let the trike fly on descents and be fairly happy with my ability to slow down in time for bends and so forth.
On less severe conditions, e.g. tarmac with patches of ice and so forth, this rig sails over pretty much anything. On bare tarmac the tyres make quite a lot of crackling noise as I said earlier. On snow they are much quieter, and on ice they bite with a nice crackle.
The fairing keeps you pretty protected from wind chill, and with the bar mitts and winter boots I have to say I was very comfortable today despite the temperature being several degrees below zero. I think this will be a great winter setup for when the roads are less severe. I have had immense fun tooling around in the snow and ice but it is definitely hard work for very slow progress.
I can imagine that a similarly rigged ICE Full Fat would be a much saner choice. However, my bank account and marriage could not survive any further cycling investments. I’ll stick with the Sprint. It’s a fantastic machine. I’m going to possibly try some different rear tyres to see if I can improve traction in the snow. Maybe a fat mountain bike tyre? I have no idea. If you have any experience, please let me know what works in the comments!
See you out on the road!