Tips from Ted



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.

Hey Martin!

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,

Ted



Comments

  1. Ellie

    Oh, you need to see Happy Feet It’s very cute and you would like it I’ll bet!
    Great that you are doing Tips from Ted! Will be most appreciated I am sure.
    Best to you!

    Reply
  2. Irv

    Hopefully this question isn’t dumb, but any tips of the trade to avoid watery eyes during fast downhill riding? It gets particularly bad during this frigid part of the year. Good luck with training camps. Your fans can’t wait to see some Ws from T this season.

    Reply
  3. Michael

    I just got back from a ride in zero degree Fahrenheit weather. I follow a similar strategy, but add an additional layer of a plastic grocery bag over my socks inside my shoes. This cuts the wind chill and buys me another fifteen degrees or so before my feet freeze.

    Reply
    • iamtedking

      Zero degrees Fahrenheit?! That’s both badass and absurd. Where do you live… The North Pole?

      Reply
    • Becky B

      Try saran wrap instead of a grocery bag. It conforms to your feet much better than a plastic bag.
      I may be a wimp and won’t ride if it’s colder than 40ºF, but I know how to stay warm when I do.

      Reply
  4. Martin

    Wow Ted thanks for the detailed response and the shout out. I can tell riding in the cold is for you a great way to develop off the chart mental toughness. If strava would factor in temperature in its suffer score, you would certainly hit infinity.

    I’m from Montreal so i get plenty of opportunity to ride in the cold. I rode in november a few times in temperature just above freezing (0-5C) and keeping the toes from frostbite was the hardest part, especially in the cold descents on Mont-Royal.I will look around for better socks and get me a few hot pockets. I might be early spring before i put them to use. I will focus on using/wasting all my cycling conditionning into basketball, indoor basketball that is, for the coming months.

    I really enjoy your writing, keep up the good work. Hopefully you`ll make it back to the Mtl grand prix so we can cheer for you.

    Reply
  5. Bodhi

    I throw a few layers of duct tape on the bottom of my insoles where they contact the base of my cleats. Helps a little for the bottoms of my feet…for what it’s worth. Good words, Ted, keep crushing it!

    Reply
  6. John

    Magic Formula:
    – Smart wool socks of the appropriate thickness – should still allow circulation.
    – A pair of waterproof booties over your shoes. This is just to act as a vapor barrier and cut down any places where cold air penetrates.
    – A pair of wool socks over the bootie with a hold cut in the bottom for the cleat.
    – Neoprene bootie over the whole mess.

    Guaranteed to +15 F and the added benefit that it is aerobic exercise just to put that many layers on your feet.

    Happy feet to all.

    Reply
  7. zac_in_ak

    I live in Anchorage AK :) it just warmed up today to 16 with snow. It’s been around -11 for 3 weeks..to cold for me but with the warm up ill be getting off the rollers and hitting the trails. In the cold layers are your friend…and pogies…. have fun guys when you loose feeling thats bad..when it comes back thats worse. Start out short till you get a handle on cold weather riding

    my .02 worth

    Reply
  8. Stephen Taylor

    I use a pair for neoprene toe covers under the full pair of Neoprene bootees. Nice warm toes and extra layer to get the wet at bay round the toes.

    Reply
  9. Tracy Wilkins

    Nice post, Ted. You’re right on with the wool socks and MTB boots (I wear Lakes). I can ride comfortably down to about 10 degrees that way, and I’ve thought I can probably push it lower by adding the ugly neoprene booties over the top of that but at that point my hands become questionable.

    I’m trying pogies this year to get past that barrier!

    Reply
  10. Chris

    Another trick to help keep the feet dry on “moist” days is to pre-treat neoprene booties with any sort of silicone water repellent spray. IT won’t keep your feet totally dry for the entire ride, but it adds an easy and cheap layer that will keep them relatively drier for a bit longer than normal.

    Sounds like it might be time for a new IANTK t-shirt celebrating those of us kit up and venture forth in absolutely frigid temps.

    TK-if you are ever back in New England during the winter, the MC3 (Maine Coast Cycling Club) club out of Kennebunk heads out cold weather be damned every Sunday at 9am from behind Marlowe’s (just up the street from that infamous Zumba studio). I’m sure you’d find some equally hearty New Englanders on cross bikes out for morning spin…

    Reply
  11. Mike

    Try using thick wool socks wrapped in a double layer of kitchen aluminum foil. The foil acts as a heat reflector and is surprisingly good at blocking out the wind too. Being thin it molds to the shape of your shoes/feet and is barely noticeable. Throw a pair of neoprene booties or toe caps over this lot and you can ride comfortably in pretty damn cold conditions.

    Reply
    • iamtedking

      Good Lord Mike, where do you live? Aluminum foil?! I would go to heated socks before I go that deep into my kitchen drawers. But whatever works. Necessity is the mother of all invention, right?

      Reply

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