/ Winter road riding
What do you wear to keep feet and legs suitability warm in winter? I had a lovely wee spin this morning, just 45 mins, and came back with legs and toes freezing. I had double socks and overshoes on (my shoes were loose enough that this wasn't inhibiting my circulation), double layer of leggings with knee length socks and loads on my top half.
Top half was ok (a couple of merino layers along with a paramo gilet, belay jacket and windproof high Viz.)
So bearing in mind I'm a cold bunny anyway, what do proper roadies wear to survive this weather?
That’s sounds loads!
I just accept cold toes, but one thing that does make a difference is pedal material - poorer conductors like plastic much warmer.
When I say cold toes, I mean cold enough that I can't really walk when I get off the bike and I get the hot aches as they defrost!!
Plastic pedals are an interesting thought. I have some on my commuter bike, might try swapping them
It might sound daft but I wear food recycling bags over my socks which are just a thin pair and a thicker pair.
> Top half was ok (a couple of merino layers along with a paramo gilet, belay jacket and windproof high Viz.)
You wore a belay jacket whilst cycling!? Wow - you do feel the cold!!! I find for feet in the UK my feet are normally OK ish as long as they are dry. For years in similar conditions in when I lived in Finland (so autumn and spring there - winter is different) I used waterproof socks and then over neoprene overshoes. Last winter, after riding through the three previous British winters I came to the conclusion that temperature wasn't the issue for me here really, it was just staying dry - so coughed up for some waterproof Shimano cycling "boots" (they are shoes really, but with a neoprene ankle cuff so look like boots). I've been really happy with these although last week with the S Yorks/Derbyshire floods, found that unfortunately if your whole foot goes under water when cycling through a flood they let water in!
Toes can sometimes feel cold normally when the outside of the boots are continually getting splashed from puddles and water on the road - this would be in temperatures around low single figures.
Ages ago I wrote on my blog about cold toes whilst riding http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.com/2012/10/trail-riding-and-avoiding-cold-toes.html at the bottom it says what I do for winter riding in Finland - the main thing is don't use clipless pedals because the cleat on your shoe conducts too much heat away from your foot. If you get really cold feet it might be worth considering trying platform pedals and something waterproof approach shoes. Powergrips or similar are worth considering if you want to be attached to the pedals.
Crikey, I don't wear half that for cycling in minus 10 - fleece lined soft-shell salopettes and jacket over just a smartwool shirt, fibre-pile buff and fleece hat for complete head coverage, thick neoprene overshoes over MTB shoes, one pair of wool socks. Ski goggles if it's really cold to stop my eyeballs freezing. Thinsulate lined gloves.
Have you tried cycling faster?
Invested in some North wave gortex winter boots (spd) a few years back. Really good purchase. Toes don't get wet and if its really cold just put a pair of merino thicker socks on instead of the summer ones.
Have some endura brushed leggings that I wear if it's really cold for the bottom half. Try looking for brushed leggings, they may help.
Flat pedals and leather hiking boots or Winter MTB boots.
With so many warm layers not working I think you need something windproof - try gaiters?
When I commuted regularly I had those old fasioned pedals with the baskets that your forefoot slips into. I used some thick plastic bags, foam and duct tape to build a wee insulated pocket out of them and when it was very cold I'd wear leather walking boots instead of trainers. Similar thing can be done on the handlebars, stopping the wind from hitting whatever you're wearing is half the battle. I have similar issues with cold extremities (although not as bad) and that saw me ok for just under 2 hours each way through quite a cold, wet winter. I tried wellies as well and they did keep my feet warm and dry but they were quite sore where they flexed after a while, those short flexible neoprene ones might work ok.
I would normally dress down in winter and aim to stay just bareably warm enough through working hard and just hope you don't get a puncture but when I was commuting in winter I tended to dress like I was going into the hills most of the time. Does look ridiculous perched on top of a road bike but bumpy roads, pot holes, standing water and the dark don't mix so well with keeping enough speed up to stay warm so out come the mitts and gtx!
I wrap my feet in kitchen foil, seems to work quite well.
On a bike I find it can take me about 45mins to warm up and get the blood flowing into the extremities properly. After that I'm OK for the rest of the ride. So perhaps keep going? Or if you really only have 45mins, then do some pre-ride exercise to get you warmed up before getting out in the wind. Or if you have the option, start with a good hill climb to maximise warmth and minimise windchill.
On even the coldest rides (beyond which the ice is an issue I would wear no more than a pair of moderately thick socks and endura neoprene overshoes with super Roubaix bib tights, smelly helly long jersey and a planetX 365 softshell. Head and hand cover varies. Remember to tape over any vents in the soles of your shoes and maybe get some thin closed cell foam insoles.
If you are cold wearing everything you describe I reckon you need to think about fueling before the ride and warming up in the warm before you set out. It's a lot easier to keep warm than try to get warm when you are cold. Maybe eat something spicy to get the blood into the extremities.
Used to live in Cairngorms, so fair experience of cold weather.
As mentioned by others above, found plastic bags in shoes worked, in fact more effective than just overshoes. If it was going to be a really cold one I used the bags in shoes then put a layer of aluminium foil over the toe area of the shoe before fitting the overshoes. SPD type cleats do seem to be colder than plastic Shimano/Look cleats on a road pedal platform.
Do make sure your feet are warm before you set off, as already recommended. Was out yesterday for just an hour but unfortunately spent twenty minutes fannying with bikes in the garage which has a concrete floor. Feet remained cold on the ride.....
Mates who invested in a full winter cycling shoe/boot said they were effective to a point but they do have that big hole in the top where water can ingress on a long ride.
I’m the same as you...really not looking forward to next weeks commuting in with temperatures just above zero on Tuesday...I can wear lots, keeping my body warm but my hands and feet really suffer. I use sealskins which I hate when walking but help when on the bike.
Going to try putting all my gloves and socks on radiators for 15 minutes prior to the ride tomorrow.
Nothing works for me. I just suffer.
Interesting selection of comments, thanks.
Re: the belay jacket, I have lost about 10kg this year, so I think my body is struggling a bit to adapt to the cold more than usual. I am always a cold bunny anyway, but maybe more so than usual at the moment. And it was sub zero too!
Plastic bags are something I hadn't thought of, will try that. Also, the comments about walking boots made me think of my knee length furry lined Dr martens, might look odd but could work. I don't use cleats (I'm not a real roadie, just go out for wee spins, usually less than 3 hours. I find it a good way to get out with no driving and minimal faff), so no cold coming from there. Pedals are metal though, so maybe plastic ones worth trying.
I will have a look around for more insulated leggings. If anyone has any particular brands that you like, I'd be interested to hear about them. I don't really have much cycle specific kit, usually ride in my running leggings, so not that familiar with cycling brands.
Might be getting Too hot under the layers and getting sweaty and cold from the inside out?
Winter cycle boots, merino socks and cheap ski gloves all work for me.
Just mind the gaps - neck/ wrists where the heat can easily escape?
I wear double thickness Assos bib tights - not windproof, I'd get too hot, but they're very toasty.
For feet - If it's dry, de feet wooly booly socks, and BBB heavy duty neoprene overshoes. If the road's wet, Sealskinz/endura waterproof socks, because damp is cold's best friend and neoprene isn't really waterproof. If it's raining, I put a couple of wraps of masking tape around the top of the socks to keep water from running in.
If it's really cold, take some hot hands handwarmers - (air reactive tea bags) and put those between your shoes and overshoes. They'll do several rides if you wrap them up tightly in plastic afterwards.
I suffer badly with hands and feet.
I’ve got some of the northwave arctic shoes. Paired with thick socks and neoprene booties it takes the edge off, but even that isn’t sufficient for me. You can get the disposable foot warmers too which do work relatively well.
If you really do struggle, then just be mindful that loosing feeling in your extremities for long periods can end up causing damage.
I ended up with frost bite in 2015 as a consequence of accepting numb feet on the bike. I can tell you from experience it wasn’t fun.
> Might be getting Too hot under the layers and getting sweaty and cold from the inside out?
This sounds plausible.
I'm also going to say the other thing. How've you fuelled yourself for the ride? Good nutrition, with some fats perhaps (please apply your own nutrition theories here), could really help.
I always find that the right foods make a huge difference to my ability to cope with cold or hot temperatures when spending long periods of time outdoors.
On my feet (which used to get punishingly cold) I wear Shimano waterproof boots, Defeet Wooly Bully socks and overshoes only if it's really cold.
The biggest difference was waterproof thermal bibtights. Your feet can't stay warm if the blood is getting cold on the way there! I try and make sure my legs stay warm and in turn my feet stay a lot warmer.
I'd recommend the specalized defrosted winter boots mtb or road version they kept my feet toasty, keeps road spray out as well. Other winter boots are available and are better than thin shoes and overshoes in my view. If you want cheap lots of people recommend wrapping toes end of foot in tin foil but I've not tried that. Full length leggings for legs you can get windproof ones etc something will do the trick.
crisp packets over your socks work well . just wash them out first . dont want cheesey feet .
Cold feet and often fingers are hard to do much about, especially if you've already put overshoes on to keep the wet and wind out.
Body wise, if anything it seems a like you have too much on already. I can only suggest riding harder in order to maintain core body heat.
Alternatively buy a turbo trainer and re-emerge in spring.
> I'm also going to say the other thing. How've you fuelled yourself for the ride? Good nutrition, with some fats perhaps (please apply your own nutrition theories here), could really help.
> I always find that the right foods make a huge difference to my ability to cope with cold or hot temperatures when spending long periods of time outdoors.
I have tried many different ways of fueling myself in cold weather over the years, and never found any difference in any of them. As it was a very early ride today, I didn't eat first, but I have tried in the past and it just doesn't matter what I eat, I still get cold. Now my eating is focussed on continued weight loss, and will deal with warmth through clothing.
Going to search around for windproof/ thermal leggings and try the plastic bags in my shoes for starters and see where I go from there.
when it’s cold and I’m cycling dealing with the windchill is essential, which means windproof leggings. I have a pair of Endura Windchill bib longs which have panels of wind proof fabric on the front, I’ve ridden in these at 10 below zero and never got cold legs, I find they are so warm I rarely wear them if it’s above zero.
I have tried neoprene socks, overshoes, but best of all has been a pair of Specialized defroster boots. Importantly sized up so I can wear them with a pair of mountaineering socks and an extra insulated insole to insulate my foot from the cleats.
Surely riding faster means more wind chill? I maybe should choose a hillier route in this weather. It was a pretty flat one as I didn't have much time.
No chance I'll be using a turbo trainer, I have never even used a gym! Bikes go places, it's a pleasure because you get views, hear birds etc. If it's too cold to ride, I will run!
Yeah I said harder rather that necessarily faster but one thing is for sure riding slowly will make you cold.
I ride more for fitness than for getting outside, I have climbing for that. So for me of riding is getting too grim and miserable as winter draws in then I'm happy to switch to a turbo. My wife on the other hand is more like you and rides for the enjoyment of being out in the countryside.
I have a female friend who's keen on running and not so on being cold and running seems to work for her even in the winter so could be worth focusing on that for a bit.
> It might sound daft but I wear food recycling bags over my socks which are just a thin pair and a thicker pair.
I use dog poo bags ;-)
I do too, but over my shoes and under my overshoes.
Hills are a double-edged sword because you can sweat going up which makes you chill more going down. I also find the extra torque constricts blood flow to my feet which makes them even colder.
Ok, I have ordered some decathlon winter tights. Probably not the absolute best make, but I generally find their stuff to be not too bad. Will combine them with plastic bags on the feet and see how the next ride goes.
> I use dog poo bags ;-)
Nice touch. It works though doesn’t it? I put mine between the two pairs of socks and I’ve never had cold feet, even when cycling in trainers.
When it gets cold I take a newspaper to shove down the front of my top for the two mile descent on my route. Unbelievably warm.
Last winter I commuted to work (about 30 mins) at temperatures as low as -30. I wore long johns under thick cargo pants, and two pairs of socks with a good winter boot. It was tolerable.
If you're not using cleats, then what pedals you're using will be moot, as the sole of your shoes will be doing all the insulating you need.
On the other hand, if you're not using cleats, then cycling shoe covers will either get destroyed or would be slippery on the pedals. Roadie forums suggest using toe covers under shoe covers, but that would be even worse.
Anyway, I'd suggest if you're using overshoes to tuck a heating pad between your shoe and the overshoes - you can get toe specific ones. If you use the disposable ones, when you're finished your ride, wrap them tightly in an air-tight bag (i.e. eliminate contact with oxygen) and they'll last for your next ride.
Also, make sure you're starting off with warm feet - put socks and gloves on the radiator before you go and, if you have to take your gloves off, tuck them inside your jacket to keep warm.
> Invested in some North wave gortex winter boots (spd) a few years back. Really good purchase. Toes don't get wet and if its really cold just put a pair of merino thicker socks on instead of the summer ones.
I've got some winter SPD boots and they're great in the dry, but if it's really wet, then you just end up with each foot in it's own private puddle.
> I will have a look around for more insulated leggings. If anyone has any particular brands that you like, I'd be interested to hear about them. I don't really have much cycle specific kit, usually ride in my running leggings, so not that familiar with cycling brands.
Running leggings will be far too thin to keep the wind chill at bay. Have a look on Wiggle/Chain Reaction/Evans/LBS for anything that says thermal/Rubaix/winter - you can even get some with softshell panels to keep the wind out. Ideally bib tights - they'll also keep your lower back warmer than run tights will, at the expense of faff if you need a loo stop - but there are waist tights, too.
I definitely find it useful to do the first 10 minutes or so at significantly higher cadence in lower gear than usual just to get the blood flowing.
I get very cold toes cycling in winter. Pair of warm walking socks then knee length ski socks for me! Knee warmers under thermal bib tights and it's not too bad.
I wear a pair of Shimano SH-SD5 sandals with a thick pair of socks, and Seal Skinz cycling oversocks.
Although this doesn't keep my feet bone dry in heavy rain (not that anything ever has), the fact that the water can leak out again means I've had dryer and warmer feet than when wearing normal shoes with oversocks.
> Rule 5
There are limits, though. Riding with toes that are a bit chilly isn't particularly pleasant, but not particularly a problem; going out and getting fingers so numb you can't brake or getting frostnip/bite tips observance of the 5/9 Rules from hardcore to foolish. As does riding on sheet ice. It turns out.
Out of interest, how cold was it, what was the air temperature?
I'm still losing weight, so not keen to spend that kind of money just now! I have ordered some decathlon ones which are marked as winter, hopefully they will do the job. Maybe next winter I will invest in some better ones if I have stopped changing size! The bibs do look cosy, will defo keep them in mind.
I hadn't thought of doing that to warm up, will try that. Thanks
Definitely sub zero, but probably not by very much. Maybe -1 or -2 at a guess.
After frozen toes I bought a pair of North Wave Fahrenheit GTX boots, keep my feet warm enough for commuting in winter and hitting the hills
The decathlon bib tights are fine. I find that my extremities are coldest for the first 15 minutes until the blood has started to properly circulate and then things start to get more bearable. I'm probably toastie for an hour before the wind chill has an effect. The key, though, is to ride hard in order to keep warm in my experience.
I really like the idea of clean crisp packets. Foil and waterproof ! Top Tip !
I crashed (reasonably gently) this morning on sheet ice covering the width of the road I was going down. So do take care if it's been cold!
I wear baggy 5:10 trainers, and Sealskinz merino lined waterproof socks when using flat MTB pedals. When they've stopped being waterproof they still stay windproof which I guess helps thermally.
I guess one could wear over shoes/stretchy shoe covers as well as the merino lined Sealskins socks.
I went out yesterday with the winter tights that I got form Decathlon, and I think they are going to help. It wasn't as cold yesterday, but they feel like they will keep wind out pretty well.
I also found a pair of goretex trainers that u had forgotten about (not a fan generally of goretex footwear). I didn't wear the overshoes yesterday but did use the goretex and they got a bit cold but not too bad, so hopefully ok when paired up when it gets colder.
I reckon the overshoes added to goretex trainers, and winter walking socks could be cosy when it gets colder.
Merino ski socks I reckon with the goretex and the overshoes. That way the legs are a bit warmer too.
> I crashed (reasonably gently) this morning on sheet ice covering the width of the road I was going down. So do take care if it's been cold!
I've come off quite a lot on ice, but only really once when it was totally by surprise while going around a corner, surprise in the sense that I was going faster than wise around a corner given the snow around and I came off. If it's icy everywhere in the crunchy snow way, one can adapt and allow for the odd splat happening until reactions are dialed in again for winter, but now I'm not in my 20's anymore I seem less keen to risk going splat though. I don't entirely like that realisation...can't decide if I'm wimping out or becoming more sensible.
I came off last year on black ice, cracked collar bone, heamatoma on hip and torn quad. Not something I’d recommend
I'll keep wimping out then, back to the OP's topic I reckon. Blokes talking about riding on ice and falling off probably isn't what she's after (mea culpa) .
Hmm, I def don't bounce as well as I used - one of the reasons I stopped MTB'ing
For winter road / gravel rides I use merino socks inside mtb spd shoes - may mean you may have to change pedals on "good" roadbike - my winter/gravel/commuter bikes all take spd shoes for that reason though
For longer day rides I wear overshoes, for shorter rides I don't bother, grin and bear it when feet get wet and cold,
Cant offer any more advice than that I'm afraid - other than just keep going out, make yourself seen and stay safe on the ice
Do people still use the UKC/H Strava club or has it gone all quiet on that?
Not sure it’s been mentioned, but you could try a thermal footbed? Had these years ago for ski boots and they helped.
Some just contain a reflective layer to help keep heat in, others were more insulating as well. At the extreme, and expense, you can even get heated footbeds or even heated socks for that matter if your inclined to spend money!!
DIY you could add foil below your own foot beds for a trial.
Other thought, if your running flats, some mt bike shoes are more heavily padded and this could add some insulation, particularly if they are the mid ankle version. There is actually a 5.10 mt bike model that has primaloft insulation (Labelled EPS), but I think they only do it in men’s sizing. Not tried them but seems to get some good reviews.
For mt biking in cold and wet I wear 5.10 impacts mid ankle boots which are heavily padded with both thin socks and a SealSkinz winter merino waterproof socks. Still get cold toes on occasion, though as the boots can be very wet and saturated, they do make a big difference in keeping heat in.
Neoprene overshoes are the best solution because most cycling shoes have lots of little ventilation holes in them. Altura and Lusso are good brands.
Lake District-based runner Kim Collison has set a new speed record on the Bob Graham Round in winter. Kim completed the round in just 15 hours 47 minutes, knocking a big chunk from the previous fastest winter time of 18:18 set by Jim Mann in 2013.