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Winter Riding Tips



One of the secrets to keeping feet warm is to keep the legs warm. The blood flowing around in the feet has to pass through the legs to get there. Think about running an uninsulated pipe from your hot water tank outside in the cold before it goes back inside to your shower. I can't believe how many complaints I hear about cold feet from people with exposed flesh on their legs! Insulate those pipes!

I use different cycling shoes in the summer and winter. My summer shoes are well ventilated, while the winter shoes are well insulated. Also my winter shoes are larger. This way I can use thicker socks or heavy insoles or inserts. Many people make the mistake of using the same shoes and trying to stuff thick socks into them in the winter. A shoe that is too tight restricts circulation and makes the feet even colder. I used winter cycling boots from Sidi for years with great luck, but found Lake Winter Cycling Boots were even warmer. Mavic and Shimano also make a winter cycling boot, but I haven't tried either.

I use wool socks year round. Defeet, Smartwool, Thorlo and Bridgedale are my current favorites.

For the outer layer, I like Goretex or Windstopper booties. These do a great job of keeping my feet relatively warm and dry. I've been searching for years for overshoes that will hold up. Most have flimsy soles that wear out quickly if walked on, but I have found a few in my travels with thick rubber soles - which hold up much better. My favorite overshoe is no longer made. It had a good rubber sole with a cutout for the heel and the cleat, and a Velcro closure in the rear to make it easy to get on and off and adjust for different size shoes. I really like not having a zipper to get clogged with mud. The lesson here is when you find one you like, buy a spare or two, since they may no longer be available when you need new ones!

Carradice, maker of waxed cotton cycling apparel and saddle bags also make wax cotton shoe covers and spats. The spats cover the shins, and theoretically when combined with fenders and a cape should keep the legs and feet dry. Unfortunately they don't stay up on my legs, but others have reported better luck.

I avoid neoprene totally. Every time I have tried it, I just end up sweaty, wet and cold. Some people tell me it works well for shorter rides, but I have had no luck with it, and avoid it completely. Given how much of it I see in shops, it must work for some folks - I'm just not one of them.

But this isn't always enough. Sometime it gets downright cold! There are various types of foot warmers available. For about $1 a pair, Grabber makes disposable hand and feet warmers. There are specific ones made for toes that are small enough to fit in a shoe comfortably. They last about 5 hours and are terrific. I keep a couple of extras in my saddlebag throughout the winter for emergencies. I have given them away often and recipients have always wanted to know where to get more. REI carries them, as do many other outdoor and sport shops. I've even noticed them in convenience stores.

Years ago, I used a battery powered electric insoles, but after a few years the batteries stopped taking a charge. With good leg coverings, wool socks, Lake shoes, overshoes and warmers, I have been fine even on long rides in temperatures well below freezing and have not felt tghe need to try newer electric foot warmers.