Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Keeping Warm pt.1 - pinkies and piggies

It's the cold that gets me.

I can handle heat on a bike, but once autumn and winter starts to draw nigh the thought of cold hands and feet becomes an excuse for me not to ride.

Winter Cycling Gloves
The main principle of dressing for the cold starts, not so much with insulation, though that is vital, but with stopping the wind and the chill which results. Even on a still day cycling will mean you're pedalling around in 15-20mph winds which will induce a Chill Factor resulting in the perceived temperature feeling several degrees lower than the air temperature.

Fortunately there are garments which can shield you from the wind and keep you warm, however, because they're usually made from technical fabrics and require sophisticated manufacturing techniques they tend to be expensive. However, you only need to be caught out once in unpleasantly cold and/or wet weather to think they're worth every penny.

I have a little arthritis in my hands, which adds to the misery of being cold so my thoughts always start with gloves and mittens. As I mentioned, look for wind-stopping characteristics as well as insulation and don't buy gloves that are too tight. You need some air around your fingers, and I also need room for my fall-back option for really cold days, silk glove liners - you can get these from Lands' End. Some cycling gloves include a liner.

Lobster Claws
Other options are mittens which enable your fingers to share warmth, but have control implications. Or you can compromise with "lobster-claw" type gloves which bunch your fingers in various combinations to give you the best of both worlds.

Feet also suffer greatly in the cold. I prefer merino wool socks, plus silk liners - Lands' End. You can purchase specific cycling socks, but I tend to use Marks & Spencers' merino socks which work pretty well when it's cold.

Toe Covers
The problem with using regular cycling shoes when it's cold is that they're designed to keep your feet cool, often having mesh built into the uppers and vents in the sole of the shoe. You can pull out the insole of the shoe and tape up any vents for the winter. There are also toe-covers which attach to the outside of the shoe to stop wind whistling through the mesh.

When it's really cold consider bootees which often have a degree of insulation as well wind-stopper material, but enclose the whole shoe.

Winter Shoes
Winterised shoes are also a consideration. I have a pair of Diadora Chilli road shoes without the tread shown in the picture. I bought them some time ago in the UK. I'm probably wrong, but I think most winter shoes available in the US tend to be MTB orientated, but that might be wiser than wearing road shoes on a wet slippery pavement. The Diadoras are sealed at the ankle and are insulated and lined with neoprene. Even my feet stay warm in them.

Whatever you choose to do, get down to your local bike store and see what they have on offer. There are several manufacturers making excellent winter gear, so even I have no excuse for not getting out when it's cold.

Coming soon; core warmth and conspicuity ...