I am a lucky son-of-a-gun. I spend a good amount of time in my happy place: the woods, both on my bike and off. Riding, adventuring, supporting races and teaching across the US, into Canada and occasionally more rugged places like New Zealand and Costa Rica. As a founder and instructor for Backcountry Lifeline, I sometimes teach First Aid for Mountain Bikers classes in these dreamy places. However, unlike a casual ride or adventure, when teaching and supporting events we don’t often have a choice to stay inside when the weather becomes character building and the sky turns sour. The class must go on, and unless flooding wipes out the trails, we keep on rolling.
Our goal at Backcountry Lifeline is to increase riders and racers preparedness for emergency situations out on the trail. Often the hubs of the mountain bike world have some semblance of dirt, and often varying weather. When riding and operating as usual, people get cold, wet, and muddy, but this isn’t a problem when you’re exercising and generating heat. When you get hurt and are immobilized, you become grounded in the dirt. The earth sucks the heat from your body, and the wet produces evaporative cooling even when the air is already chill. When short rides turn to hunkering down in less than ideal situations, the importance of gear that can keep you comfortable, warm, and dry becomes painfully obvious. As a provider of care, and a teacher, it becomes even more critical to not let your mind dull and your hands fumble with cold.
One drizzly example of nasty example was our spring 3 day course in Oregon. Temperatures in the mid 50s, and rain of varying degrees of “that one kinda hurt when it hit” made for some all too common conditions during the three day class. Luckily the classroom lodge had a fireplace, and plenty of wood to keep the drying crackle rolling all day. We still rode, and lay our stunt patients in muddy trails to simulate crashes. Most jackets were slick and wetted, and more soggy bottoms than a daycare. Decision making degrades in the cold, and the students started to move hastily to get back to the warm classroom. We stayed out longer, knowing that the indoors will give a chance to pick apart mistakes made from a comfortable chair. I think they learned that the added insurance of a good rain shell pays out in those situations.
For years, I’ve pieced my foul weather gear togther from scraps and sale items of whatever I can afford after bikes and parts. I’m now lucky to be clad in Gore-Tex, and wrapped in warm base layers. Gear like the Power Trail Gore-Tex Jacket, Power Trail Gore-Tex Pants, GTX shorts, Power Trail Windstopper gloves, and Power Trail Thermal Jersey give me a buffer against extended exposure to the elements that take so many by surprise, and chip away at good judgement and sound problem solving. Those 3 days put more use on my gear that a season of riding in Colorado.