I just wanted to throw up another post on winter riding and more specifically, winter clothing. I covered the subject in an earlier post here, but things have developed a little since that early-season post.
I’ve struggled all winter with cold hands and cold feet. I don’t mean “mommy, my feet are cold and I want to go home”…I mean “honey, look at my feet they’re fucking blue and I can’t feel them”. Same with hands. For one reason or another I appear to have developed poor circulation to my extremities. I feel it even when sitting at home with the heat running at 70F.
Let’s start feet first.
I’ve tried a variety of different things, and to be quite honest nothing has really worked well. Some combinations buy me a little extra time, but in most cases the maximum I can endure before pain sets in is about 90 minutes.
The temperature range that I’m uncomfortable in is around 20F to -30F. At or around 20F I can usually be outdoors for perhaps two hours or so, before I become really uncomfortable, when it gets into the low minus range then I can be cold and uncomfortable within 20 minutes or so.
To start with, I’ve had a real problem finding footwear in my size. I’m a snug size 14 in a shoe, and for winter boots I really want to be at 15 to accommodate an extra pair of socks and still have room to wiggle. I haven’t been able to find a pair of winter boots in that size at any of the main retailers in Sturgeon Bay or Green Bay. Yep, that really surprised me too. Perhaps I left it late and they’d sold out, I’m not sure. But I went to Green Bay specifically for boots, visited Menards, Fleet Farm, Gander Mountain, Dick’s, Cabelas…..and came home with naught. Heck I even went to a couple of those shoe places out at the Mall, Zippos or whatever they’re called, and they had nothing.
It’s the same kind of deal shopping online. I’m somewhat limited in the style of boot as I can’t go too bulky. The boots I have rub the cranks so they’re at the outer limit for size. If I bought a pair of those moon boot things in a size 15 I wouldn’t be able to get my foot on the pedals. So I need good insulation, preferably 400gms or more, and a fairly compact boot. Yes, I’ve looked at winter hiking boots. I’ve even bought a couple pairs from here and there and had to send ’em back when they didn’t fit.
After doing lots of research on the cycling forums, I decided to really splurge and to buy a pair of 45NRTH Wolvhammer. The Wolvhammers have a good reputation for handling cold temps and seem to be the boot of choice for off-road cyclists in winter.
They have an inner laced boot and an outer padded boot with a heavy gauge zipper.
But gawd are they expensive at $325.00 for the SPD version and a bit less for flats.
At the start of the season I wouldn’t have considered a boot in this price range, a bike….maybe. A bloody pair of boots? No way.
But by early February I became conscious of being mid way through the fools’ loop. You know, where you’re trying to save money by trying things that don’t work, and you end up spending more than you would had you gone out and bought the right gear in the first instance.
So I whipped out the credit card and went online to find a pair in a size 50. But guess what? No one has them. Not just in a size 50 but pretty much any size. I contacted 45NRTH and they confirmed that demand had outstripped supply and that I should check back in November. NOVEMBER!! It’s bloody February!
After a week of searching online and calling bike shops around the nation I spotted an ad on the Facebook Fat Bike Trader group. ‘Lightly used Wolvhammer mountain bike boots - $275’. Shi’ite, that’s pretty steep for a pair of used boots.
I’ve never bought used boots in my life, and they idea kinda repelled me, but I was pretty desperate. So I PM’d the bloke and we went back and forth for a while, but when I asked him ‘have you ever had trench-foot?’, he stopped responding to my PM’s. Caught ya.
Anyway, to cut a long story ever so slightly short, I still have the same boots that I bought going into the season, and they don’t work too well.
Oh, I should also say that on the advice of some bloke on a forum I splurged about $35 on a pair of fleece-lined neoprene socks from this place - Socks. Another waste of money, they did nothing to help.
So I’ve pretty much resigned myself to winging it until next season, where I’ll pick up the Wolvhammers, or whatever is flavor of the month by then.
To round-off the feet, yeah, I’ve tried chemical toe warmers but they’re a waste of time. They’re air-activated and there’s insufficient oxygen in my boots to allow the chemicals to activate and generate heat. So when I take my boots off after a two hour ride, the chemical ‘warmers’ are cold. Then 15 minutes after I’ve taken the boots off they’re nice and warm. Go figure.
About the only thing that’s made a difference is a pair of heavy wool socks that I picked up for $14 at Cabela’s. I’ve tried other wool socks, various combinations of different thicknesses etc, but the Cabela socks seem to work a little better than the others I’ve tried.
I highly recommend Pogies, and if you click the link at the start of this ramble you’ll find the link to the cheap ones I bought from Amazon (less than $20).
Pogies keep the wind off your hands nicely, the down side is that they do restrict your ability to operate the shifters a little. It was fine on the old Charge Maxi, but on the new Beargrease with the longer shifters, it’s a bit tight. Also, when falling off the bike, as I do frequently, I’m sometimes unable to get my hand out of the pogie quickly enough, so I hit the deck using my elbow as the set down point. I imagine I look just as spastic as someone doing a fall-over while clipped-in.
Anyway, the pogies (or bar mitts as people call them) do help.
I’ve also found that the insulated riding gloves I use make my hands sweat. They’re great at the start but once the gloves get wet their capacity to retain warmth diminishes and my hands start to freeze. So a trick I found is to wear a pair of those surgical latex gloves under the insulated gloves. They contain the moisture and prevent the outer gloves from getting wet.
So that’s it, really. I’ve spent enough this season on gear, so any further additions will need to wait until next season.
If you have any thoughts, ideas, tips or tricks, please share!