Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This Little Piggy

One of the things I've enjoyed learning this year is how to dress for cold weather riding.

Last winter, it was about running. I learned how to manage just about any foul weather, even a blizzard. I don't recommend the latter unless absolutely necessary, like if you're hypothetically stuck at work, the city shuts down, MAT recalls all their buses and your boss is calling for T.P.S. reports from the warmth and coziness of his/her home. Not that that's happened to me. More than once. Last winter. At 2:52pm on March 1, 2007 when it was 27 F, snowing with 31.1 mph steady winds and 43.7 mph gusts. If this happens to you, bundle up with everything you've got, put yaktrax on your boots, say a prayer, call your loved ones and take care of any unsettled necessary business. Then, say another prayer for a tail wind, head outside and run straight down the middle of the street. Don't worry about traffic as cars are stuck, buried, or in the hypothetical case of my boss, is parked securely in the warmth and coziness of her attached garage.

But I digress. This post is on what I've discovered on my last four cold rides: my toes can't take it.

T-Day +1 Ride with Murphini at 11:00 AM in KC.
26.1 F with 9mph Winds. From head to toe: helmet, helmet hat, muffler; silk thermal, long sleeve tech shirt, long sleeve woolie, glove liners, mittens, tights, bib overalls, smart wool socks and road shoes. After the initial shock, the head and torso were very warm. Legs and hands were cool. Feet were deathly cold and I couldn't feel my toes. They felt like this for about 60 minutes.

T-Day +2 (Shabbos) Time Trial at 1:00 PM in Omaha.
35 F with 12-16mph winds. Same gear as above. Feet were cool, toes were cold but bearable.

Tuesday, 11/27 commute to work at 7:00 AM.
21 F with 8mph North winds. Same gear. In the 20 minute ride, the torso was just warming up while the toes were working toward freezing. It's amazing how tingly a hot shower is on those little fellas afterwards.

Tuesday, 11/27 15 mile lunch ride.
28 F with 9mph winds. Same gear. This time, after 55 minutes of riding my feet and toes were both frozen. It should be noted that I followed Fredcube's advice to pick the one day of the week that was nice enough to ride. The weatherman promised 51 F. Maybe he was looking at a weather chart for Houston.

So, what I'm discovering is that in these temps, most of my body can take the cold except the feet and especially the toes. They just can't bear it.

Looks like some Neoprene booties will be on the stocking stuffer for Christmas this year.

Until then...Hey Munson! Teach me how to duct tape my road shoes. I'm looking for an R-Factor 49.


  1. Duct tape is good yes. And you'll have way too many cold rides to keep your toes around till Santaday without Neoprene booties. So here's an option: chemical toe warmers. You can buy cheap, not so great ones at Walmart or Canfields in bulk, or you can spend some dough and get the deluxe versions at the bike shop in single(both feet) packages. The former are kinda like sand in a little baggie which aren't comfortable when you stuff them between your sock and shoe if you have snug fitting shoes. The latter are napkin thin and feel like a furnace is blowing on your toes. It's great. So if you can find the fancy kind for cheap, it's pure gold.

    My own input on this subject: I've heard different angles on how to keep your toes warm. Some say it's a matter of keeping them dry. Well I kinda tried that on my ride to the shop yesterday by wearing my mtb sandals(!) and wool socks. I was comfortable for the first 20 minutes with a tailwind. But after I turned into the wind and had to work harder, my feet were slightly moist and promptly became ice blocks by the time I got to HighGear from UNMC. I don't think there's anyway to keep feet completely dry for long periods of time no matter what you do. They always sweat, at least mine do.

    Others say that neoprene covers over regular shoes and thick socks do the trick. Well I had that setup on our T-day +1 ride and my toes were cold as the ass of death by Fort Calhoun. The Feaganator gave me a packet of the deluxe toe warmers that he wasn't going to use and I had all 20 digits back again. I think some people can get away with less on their feet if they have padding or their nerves and veins are well hidden. I have boney feet and I mash my pedals instead of smoothly spinning so my toes lose feeling and blood really quick. Some people say to focus on pulling up only when pedaling to allow circulation back to your toes. Well this only accomplishes two things; I go slower, and something else goes numb because I'm pressing onto the saddle while pulling my feet up. Not a good compromise.

    So if your toes go numb easily like mine, I highly suggest stocking up on chemical toe warmers. Mitosis have thanked me for them. You can put them below your toes if you have room in your shoes (although pedaling can get funky if they slip down to the balls of your feet) or you can stick them to the top of your sock, right above your toes. This method works just fine with the deluxe toe warmers.

  2. Thanks Mike. Do you own some neoprene booties so I can give them a try?

    I'm more of a spinner than masher, but am pretty sure Mr. Happy would not like the unnecessary pressure of focusing on pulling up.

    Like you, my feet sweat always. And since my shoes are very snug, it looks like the napkin thin toe warmers are the way to go.

  3. Yes, I have some neoprene booties. However, asking to borrow them at this time of year is like asking to borrow my water bottle inventory during the month of August. Sure you can borrow them for a day or so, especially during the week, but I can't survive a ride longer than and hour without them.

    I'm surprised you went on as many rides as you have in this cold weather without having booties. We'll have to figure out how to let you test the wonder that is neoprene booties sometime soon. I'm using them tomorrow night for certain, but Friday is an unknown, as well as Saturday morning. If I do ride Saturday, I will definitely need them and of course they will be in use on Sunday for our Shabbos +1 extravaganza. Call me or email me if you have any thoughts on how we can wetsuit your feet.

  4. I have an even better idea, Brady -- just go buy some neoprene booties.

    I know, it's nuts. Just call it Christmas come early.

    Personally, I go with a thick pair of wool socks, shoes and thermafleece shoe covers. That is all. But I'm tougher than Mike, so take that as you see fit.

  5. Nothing like some good smack down on Steel-cut.

    Didn't know about the thermafleece shoe covers. Thanks. From this picture, it looks like they cover half of the foot? No?

    Which reminds me that on the longer rides my Achilles was feeling a little cold and tight. I'm guessing that the neoprene boot offers a little more warmth back there.

  6. Nope -- these. They're the older version, but made of the same stuff as the Calientoes. They're not as thick as neoprene, and therefore a little more versatile.

  7. Here's a suggestion site that has some good, um, suggestions to help combat frozen tozies.

    Like Bryan said, it's probably one of those things you should have sooner than later. Sure you could tough it out, or be cheap and use duct tape on your shoes, a plastic bag in between 2 thin socks, and chem toe warmers, but losing toes is more insane than tough. Plus it sounds like your whole foot (achilles) would appreciate the covering.

    Just my suggestions. I know budgeting is tough this time of year.

  8. Roadbiker website has good info on warm feet. Thanks.

    I'll get the toe warmers at the next LBS visit. Booties likely too pending what's available. *Soon* is my M.O.

    While Bryan likes his amfib shoecovers, what brand/style would you get if you had to purchase again?

  9. I have the heaviest duty shoes covers from Pearl. They're just like these, but don't have the fancy light thing in back. Neoprene with a fleece liner = toasty. You could probably find the ones I have at the shops since they're last year's models and most likely have not sold out.

    IMPORTANT!! Make sure to take your bike shoes with you so you can try them on to see how they fit in the real world. The sizing Pearl has doesn't matter, just how they fit. If they are too tight, it's going to increase the pressure on your feet, cutting off circulation. That and they'll be a bitch to get on. I wish I had followed this advice when I got mine and taken my bigger mtb shoes so I could fit them on easy. They are a little too snug now on the mtb shoes.

    You can even try different brands too. I had some awesome Trek (or Adidas?) covers that had a nice rubber soul that made walking easy and didn't break down. I only replaced them with the Pearls when the zippers completely blew out on both feet. The Pearls have double stitching around the heal and cleat holes, but they still get worn down from walking and eventually the neoprene starts ripping. Not what you'd expect from something that costs $40 or more, but they gotta keep you coming back somehow.

  10. Oops, now that I'm looking at the Amfibs, they are like the ones I have. I didn't realize they were Neoprene. So yes, the Amfibs are just fine.

  11. Pearl Izumi's winter accessories are about as good as it gets. Everything is well-made and worth the money.

    It's just their shorts that I don't like.