“It's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another.”
The thing about riding in seriously cold weather is, there’s always shit to figure out, always something to refine. How do you keep a hydration tube open? How do you keep a free hub from seizing? How do you keep your toes warm? How do you keep your camera batteries working so you can shoot pics for your stupid blog?
The most common solution—with accessories like water tubes and cameras, at least—is body heat. Keep ’em inside your clothes and hope for the best.
Now I’ve found out that I have to start getting cozy with an aluminum tube during my nocturnal adventures (and you thought this post was about frigidity).
During Saturday night’s ride at -15F, I offered my Crank Bros. Power Pump to another rider in our group, who needed a few strokes to firm up his flaccid Endomorph. When I turned the head of the pump, the rubber valve seal was too frozen to compress, so it blew right through the threaded plastic ring that was holding it in place.
Wham, bam, thank you ma’am, we have a Dead Pump In the Middle of the Road.
Or, more accurately, on the trail. In the dark. At 15 below zero. Someone else got another pump working, but this could have turned unpleasant. Especially if it had happened on a solo ride.
After polling other winter riders for recommendations on a better pump, I found myself right back at the old solution: It’s not the pump, it’s the lack of heat. So now I’ve installed an aluminum lock ring for added strength, and will find a way to start carrying the pump inside my jacket, at least on sub-zero rides.
It’s either that, or take Pete's tip on warming up the valve seal to restore its flexibility: “I just give it a good long, warm blow with my breath and that rubber responds quickly,” he said. I’m sure his technique would work, but it might take a few minutes, and I'm really not eager to go all Monica Lewinsky on a tire pump in the middle of nowhere.
If it’s painful and embarrassing to freeze your tongue to a flagpole, can you imaging getting your lips stuck on a pump?