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Winter Clothing - Covering Your Extremities

   Posted January 10, 2013 - Permalink
   to: General Bike

The rain is coming down here in Portland and the snow level is down at an extremely low level! Fat Bikers around the country are rejoicing with the freshly fallen snow and the winter solstice is only days away now. In our last newsletter, we covered a bit about winter clothing for your upper and lower body. Those pieces help keep our core warm and our body heat regulated. But, we need to give some attention to the extremities. These are the areas that can, not only get damaged in severe cold, but end a fantastic ride as quick as it began. I am referring to hands and feet . These areas are key heat loss areas and can even effect your bike handling skills in a negative way. At the same time, if you have the right gear, you can stay out for any epic ride you want. And, when that happens, the bike "season" never stops. It becomes easy, and fun, to ride throughout the worst of winters.


More than anything else, keeping your hands warm is crucial for your bike handling skills. If your hands get cold, then can easily stiffen up and it can be very difficult to steer and grab your brakes when needed. Also, in cold climates, it is very easy for finger tips to get frostbite if you aren't careful. Logic would say that the biggest, thickest gloves would be the best bet. But, not always the case. Yes, if you are road riding (be it gravel or asphalt), and you stay in the same position for a long period of time, then a thick, warm pair of gloves is your best bet. If your hands aren't moving too much, then you need a thick winter pair of gloves. These gloves will usually have a liner of some sort and are really designed to keep that cold air out. A couple of very good options are the Girodana Sotto-Zero Winter Gloves, Castelli Estremo, or the Giro 100 Proof winter gloves.

If you are a mountain biker, usually, your hands are moving around a bit more as you negotiate the terrain. The challenge here is that you want your hands to stay warm as you sweat from the inside. Rule #1: We have found that if you are going to stay out for longer than a couple hours, bring two pair of gloves. Gloves aren't heavy and a fresh set can really save your hands (and the ride!). If you are riding in drier winter climates, choose a winter glove that has a good amount of insulation and some waterproof protection. The challenge is to keep your hands warm, but not over heated, and somewhat dry if foul weather hits. A couple of good examples of these gloves are the Giro Pivot Winter Gloves, the Craft SIberian Gloves, or the Gore Tool SO Windstopper Gloves.

Water: Unfortunately, there really is no such thing as a "waterproof" set of gloves. Yes, gloves can keep water out for a long time, but eventually, it will get through. If you ride consistently in wet climates, neoprene gloves are a fantastic option. Yes, your hands will get wet. But, just like a scuba diver, neoprene will keep them warm! Additionally, neoprene does have some grip to it, so your handling skill stay intact. Here in the Northwest, neoprene gloves work fantastic. Often times, I don't even need to break out my second set of gloves because my hands are still warm (after 4 hours) with neoprene gloves. A couple of good choices are the Answer Strike Gloves, the Glacier Premium Gloves, and the Troy Lee SE Cold Weather Gloves.


Without a doubt, keeping your toes warm is crucial for winter riding. Toes don't move around much when riding. That means less circulation of warm blood getting to them. And, cold toes are painful. Very painful. Not only does that pain eat away at your motivation while riding, but it gets worse because you are pushing down the pedals. You are, literally, pushing down on the pain. The first line of defense is a good set of wool socks. Wool is an incredible insulator and heat regulator. Cycling socks made from wool are not itchy or uncomfortable. They are made from things like Merino Wool which is soft, cosy and comfortable. Two of our favorite wool socks are the DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks and the Endura Baa Baa Merino Winter Socks.

After you slip on your wool socks, there are two choices to keep your feet warm. You can either get a pair of full blown "winter" shoes, or you can use shoe covers. Both options work very well. Winter shoes will usually combine neoprene, Gore-Tex, and some type of fleecy material. Additionally, these shoes will have a slightly wider toe box. This allows you to move your toes around, getting that crucial warm blood flowing to them. We have proven time and time again that winter shoes get the job done. They solve the "cold" problem and allow you to forget about your feet. Two of our best winter shoes are the Shimano SH-MW81 and the Mavic Drift winter shoes.

The downside to winter shoes is that they are expensive and some people feel that they are a bit bulky, or overkill, for the type of riding they do. A good solution to both those problems is to choose a set of shoe covers, sometimes called "overshoes". As the name states, these are covers that slip over your current shoes. Road shoe covers will often be fleece lined and have the goal of keeping water out. Mountain shoe covers are usually made from neoprene and will often concentrate on warmth over staying dry. Hands down, we have found Endura Shoe covers to be some of the best you can get. They come in both Road and Mountain versions. They are durable, priced right, and have years of success behind them:

As with all winter clothing, when it comes to keeping your extremities warm, think about what conditions you will be riding in and how long you want to stay out. We have found that, sometimes, you need to try different products to eventually find what works for your particular needs and desires. What works for me does not always work for some of my best riding partners. But, they find what works for them and we all have fun. There are plenty of really good winter products out there. So, don't give up if you try a product and it isn't quite what you were looking for. Over time, and miles, you will find exactly what works for you.


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