I like to pretend I know a thing or two about this bike riding thing. I’m paid real dollars (well, Euros rather, but those are then converted to dollars) in exchange for spending an inordinately large amount of time on two wheels, which has been the case for nearly a decade. (On a related note, if anyone wants to pay me an inordinately large amount of money to spend a real amount of time on my bike, I’m happy to make that word-change/salary-change as well. Any inordinately wealthy takers out there?)
People frequently pick my brain on the full spectrum of topics regarding life on two wheels. Ranging from tire pressure to how to dress, I’m always more than happy to oblige with a response. So when Martin posted a question on the last blog entry I figured that rather than answering on a one-off basis, why not make it a regular thing? Without delay, let’s kickstart the Tips from Ted campaign. (…actually, the KoS has partaken in at least one TfT. That’s style, this is function.)
Martin astutely asked, “Any tricks to keep your feet warm Ted?”
Boy do I ever! Mind you Martin, I’m born and raised in bucolic New Hampshire, home of the world’s highest recorded wind speed; I got into cycling in Middlebury, VT during my collegiate days and during one particularly snowy winter, I proudly only rode the trainer inside three times – those other days I just put on enough neoprene and Goretex to scuba dive or row a boat around the Antarctic, if that sounds like a fun weekend adventure. Moreover, I’m also the creative director of TUSB: versions 1.0, 2.0, as well as 3.0. Plus some other iterations thrown in for good measure.
Anywho, cold weather and winter conditions are rapidly approaching and Martin needs a response on how to keep his feet from freezing off and crashing into a snowbank. Probably more the former but whatever. Let’s go.
I’m glad to hear you’re sucking it up and going for a ride when it’s cold. Of course this all depends where you live; if you’re worried about your cold feet and you live in Phoenix, AZ then I’m sorry to be the first to tell you, but you’re a wuss. If, however, you’re inquiring about managing cold feet in the heart of winter in Anchorage, AK, well now you’re drinking my sake, Kimosabe!
Resolving cold feet will involve an investment, but frigid tootsies are a fast road to a miserable ride so I think you’ll find the purchase to be worth it.
First, you need to find as thick, wool (or similar synthetic) socks that you can fit into your cycling shoes without having your feet go numb due to the fact that there is now so little room in your shoes. One pair of socks is totally affordable, but shopping around for a dozen pairs to find the right ones will set you back into the triple digits. So shop wisely, feel how thick they are (as in, don’t buy 1/2 inch thick snowboard socks), and hopefully try some one before you buy.
Actually, let’s backtrack one more step: make sure your shoes fit with regular socks first. If your shoes are uncomfortable for any reason, maybe you’re strangling your feet and they’re freezing cause you have no blood flow in the first place. Just trying to cover all grounds here.
Depending on where you live, investing in some winter mountain bike shoes is likely a stellar idea, a la these. They are usually slightly larger to allow those warmer socks plus you gain the benefit of traction and studs if you’re a winter, snowy-conditions rider. As a fringe benefit, mountain bike cleats engage with the pedals easier if you’re fighting through snow, sleet, ice, and slush. But 9.9 out of 10 times you can work your road cleats/pedals with mountain bike shoes just fine as well.
Next, the thickest, ugliest, biggest pair of neoprene booties will soon become your best friend. They’re a brash effrontery to style, but looking extremely good on a bike when it’s 17F takes less precedence than not loosing your digits to frostbite. Usually in the sub-$100 range, this might be your best purchase yet.
Meanwhile, “waterproof” shoe covers are a moot point when it’s actually raining. Sure it’s a good way to keep your white shoes white(r), but with water coming down from above and up from below (the road and your tires), your feet are going to get WET, hence the use of quotes. Again, this means big, thick, ugly neoprene booties trump thin waterproof ones.
If it’s dry and it’s absolutely frigid, consider yourself lucky. In said scenario, I often slap one of those chemical toe warmer/hand warmer packs on top of your shoes and under the neoprene shoe covers. Heck, your toes might actually sweat with this genius set-up. I suggest a box of 20 or whatever, since they’re a buck each when you buy in bulk, versus maybe $4 a pop otherwise.
Lastly, as for mere “tricks” like you ask, try to cover up any secret holes in the bottom of your shoes. Often there are more cleat screw holes in the soles of your shoes than are necessary to accommodate all the cleats options out there. So either plug them somehow or make sure you have a durable, non-breathable insole to prevent cold wind from venting in and freezing your feet.
I wish you the best Martin. Warm feet are happy feet and Happy Feet is a movie… which I’ve never seen.
And that draws to a close the first ever Tips from Ted. Feel free to keep the questions coming, cause I answer them as long as they’re not dumb.
Happy weekend y’all,