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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 09-24-12, 06:03 AM   #1
shepherdsflock
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Winter shoes?

I need some advice on winter shoe selection. I started commuting during the winter last winter and had a terrible time keeping my toes from freezing. I live in Iowa (USA) and it get down -20 F sometimes in the winter. I can drive my car when absolutely necessary, but I would really like to keep riding the bike at least down to 0 F. The only thing I have besides tennis shoes are some cross country ski boots, which I have had limited success with down to about 10 F. Even with two pairs of socks, my toes still freeze on a 30 minute commute. I've seen the Lake MXZ302 boots and the Northwave Celsius Arctic boots, and they look decent, but I'd like to hear from folks who have more experience cycling in cold weather than I do. What works for you?
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Old 09-24-12, 08:10 AM   #2
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If you want to run clipless this looks like the best winter boot I have seen http://45nrth.com/products/category/softgoods

I have the shimano winter shoes and they help but are by no means perfect.

If you are running platform pedals I would just find some nice winter boots and maybe a couple layers of wool socks and that would work fine. The ones that cover your calf help a lot because it keeps the blood running into your feet warmer as well.
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Old 09-24-12, 08:15 AM   #3
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I'm running platform pedals currently. One of the reasons I'm hesitant to purchase dedicated winter cycling shoes is that they're all geared toward the clipless crowd. I don't want to spend the extra money on clipless pedals. I've never had a problem getting around with platforms, and I'm not racing so I don't see the need to get special pedals to match my shoes.
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Old 09-24-12, 08:19 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by shepherdsflock View Post
I'm running platform pedals currently. One of the reasons I'm hesitant to purchase dedicated winter cycling shoes is that they're all geared toward the clipless crowd. I don't want to spend the extra money on clipless pedals. I've never had a problem getting around with platforms, and I'm not racing so I don't see the need to get special pedals to match my shoes.
I really like clipless for anything but commuting but that is another discussion. If you are sticking with platform pedals buying a cycling specific shoe will end up costing you a lot more money for features you do not need (like being able to mount a cleat to the bottom) Just find some quality winter boots with plenty of extra room in the toe box, calf length wool socks and you should be fine. If it gets really bad you may be able to use chemical warmers as well. That set up minus the chemical warmers has worked well for me down to about 0 but I have not ridden much colder than that.
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Old 09-24-12, 05:52 PM   #5
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I am running with the toe warmers heard good things about them and bought a package today waiting for the real cold to settle in.
http://www.rei.com/product/777597/gr...s-package-of-6
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Old 09-24-12, 06:22 PM   #6
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I am running with the toe warmers heard good things about them and bought a package today waiting for the real cold to settle in.
http://www.rei.com/product/777597/gr...s-package-of-6
+1. They make OK winter shoes into great winter shoes.
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Old 09-24-12, 06:52 PM   #7
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I've only commuted in winter once, last year in fact, and I found that boots alone were not enough. I mostly used two socks together: a thin but tightly woven wool sock on first, then a pair of those thick hunting socks that were wool on the outside with some type of fluffy liner on the inside, and for the boots a set of insulated waterproof hunting boots. I used that configuration in as low as zero degrees and never had a problem.
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Old 09-25-12, 05:45 AM   #8
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Riding on platform pedals I wear a good quality 6" work boot, and if it gets colder pull on a pair of 5 buckle overshoes over them. Seems to work for me.
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Old 09-26-12, 12:05 PM   #9
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sheperdsflock the reason why your toes start freezing is because your feet contaminate the insulation part of your cross country shoes with sweat. At -20F forget about cycling shoes because they all use the same technique which is pretty much useless at those temps.

Below 10F it is better to use the vapor barrier technique rather than add insulation layer after insulation layer which all will be contaminated with sweat one after another.
The army already knew that at early 70's. The bunny boots for instance can sustain -65F (-53.8C).

To sum up, the answer to your problem is to add a plastic bag over your socks to avoid contaminating the thinsulate insulation of your cross country boots and if it's not enough insert your cross country boots inside some 30$ 7mm neoprene boots
Total cost : 30$ + 1$ = 31$
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Old 09-27-12, 08:39 AM   #10
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Erig, that makes sense, but I have a question. With the plastic bag, would the sweat that collected inside the bag freeze inside the bag instead of the insulation? Would I be trading one condition for another?
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Old 09-27-12, 11:54 AM   #11
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Nope. As long as the insulation is not contaminated with sweat everything that is inside the insulation stay warm or loose heat more or less rapidly depending on your level of activity. (You can add a layer of aluminum fold to prevent even more heat from going out).
On the contrary, at extreme cold temp, with the classical breathable layers technique, the sweat which reach the outermost layer start freezing. After a while you end up with pounds and pounds of ice on the outermost layer.

But the vapor barrier technique as few drawbacks this is why it should be used only on hands and feet.
A few of them is that a proper VB decreases the range of comfort that's why this technique is good only for cold temp below 10F.
Another drawback is that you must wear as little layers as necessary with the VB technique because the VB increases sweat when you're overheating (for instance if you have too much clothes on you vs the effort) and your body which is unable to regulate heat by sweating produce more and more extrinsic sweat (extrinsic sweat: the one to regulate body temp, intrinsic: the one to hydrate the skin)

But if you use the VB technique locally (hands and feet), it's OK because you regulate heat from where it's breathable and you keep the most sensitive area warm (hands and feet)

One advantage of the VB technique is that it's independent of the length of your commute. Because the insulation layer is not contaminated with sweat, it keeps the insulation capacity the same whatever the length of your trip. (But you're getting hotter with time)
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Old 09-27-12, 12:42 PM   #12
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I've tried a grocery bag vapor barrier between wool sock and shoe, but it only adds about 5 degrees to my comfort zone. I got some nice Showers Pass shoe covers last year, and it kept my feet comfy down to 14 degrees. That's as cold as it got here, I don't know about the Artic like some people.

Oh BTW, this is wearing normal shoes and clipless.
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Old 09-27-12, 01:05 PM   #13
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Keen Brixen boots and platform pedals has been a great combo for me, down to -20f with normal wool socks, with thicker socks or toe Warmers they'd be good to -30 or more
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Old 09-27-12, 01:05 PM   #14
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You didn't add a grocery bag between your feet and the wool sock.
For the vapor barrier technique to work you must protect the insulation layer from water and WIND which can come from outside or water from sweat so 2 plastic bags, one inside one outside. Usually the one outside is replaced with the outermost layer of the shoe if it is wind and waterproof.
If it isn't enough it's because the insulation layer is not enough big and/or you have radiative or convective heat loss which can be prevented with an aluminum foil and a plastic bag

Last edited by erig007; 09-27-12 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 09-27-12, 05:17 PM   #15
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Go with the Toe warmers, they worked great for me last winter.
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Old 09-27-12, 07:17 PM   #16
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For those who are not afraid with hard data.
Here are some

Clothing Evaporative Resistance: Its Measurements and Application in Prediction of Heat Strain (Faming Wang, 2011)
http://lup.lub.lu.se/luur/download?f...ileOId=2753629

and

Thermal conductivity of some common materials and gases
http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/th...ity-d_429.html

and the best relevant insulation materials and gas are :
1- urethane foam
2- air
3- cotton wool (when dry)
4- foamed (plastics, polystyrene, polyurethane)

Last edited by erig007; 09-27-12 at 07:25 PM.
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Old 09-27-12, 07:28 PM   #17
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This is what I wear in the rain and cold.

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Old 09-27-12, 10:24 PM   #18
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I seem to be one of those people whose feet won't stay warm while cycling without an active heat source. I tried chemical warmers a few times but they'd go cold less than half way through my commute due to oxygen starvation. Last year I used Hotronic e4 Nimh toe warmers which worked excellently.

They are quite expensive, I got mine during an end of season clearout. I recall someone posting info on similar product earlier in the year.

I also wear rain covers over my winter boots while riding which seems to help.
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Old 09-28-12, 02:18 PM   #19
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Insulated winter/ hiking boots, wool socks and flat pedals. Works for me.
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Old 09-30-12, 10:24 AM   #20
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I ride in extreme temps as does everyone that winter bikes in Alaska. All these suggestions are good. I personally prefer hand warmers to toe warmers. Winter boots for riding should be comfy (large) enough to fit small hand warmers. I've never found the toe warmers to be effective at all. I also agree that Keen boots are typically light. At -20F, winter boots are pretty much the requirement. You can choose very well insulated boots and wear them without any chemical packs inside or vapor barrier or anything, or you can get lighter boots and toss in chem packs. By the time you are using a winter boot it should be windproof. Vapor barrier socks or simple plastic baggies really do make a difference. So does applying Mitchums (sp?) anti perspirant on your feet the night before. It probably isn't quite as effective as a vapor barrier but it's a useful thing to do. When you look at boots be careful to check exactly what type of insulation is used. I do like Keen as they seem to make decent boots that are light and have a good weight to warmth ratio. There are also over boots like Neos (if I recall that name correctly) that are very effective. Keep in mind it is critical that your boots be large enough to fit with an appropriate set of socks inside and still be roomy enough that you don't have to have them on tightly. Any boot that is snugged down tight can reduce blood flow and that will bring on cold feet fast. I follow my own advice. As temps here begin to fall the first thing I do on my road bike is to grab my larger road shoes and wear thick socks with a plastic bag (cheap grocery store bag) that I cut the end off (put over my socks). I also have warm overboots for my road shoes but they don't come close to taking me to -20. By that time I have my Keen boots on and I toss in a hand chem warmer in my boot. They take nearly 10 min to get up to temp and for me they last for at least an hour or two. Sometimes I'll just wait till my feet are feeling chilly and pull out a chem warmer and open it, then in ten min I'll stop and put them on. Whatever works, eh?
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Old 09-30-12, 12:27 PM   #21
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Agree with you digibud all the way. For my part, I don't like big boots and warmers and try to use gears allowing me to stay as fit looking as possible (with tights and all cycling gears necessary)

Last winter I found out something new. And I think I understand why it works that way.

At -30F, before I had no choice but to had a 3rd layer with tights on my legs. This 3rd layer is a sugoi sub zero tight which is among the warmest tights we can find but it's pretty thick
Last year I went up to -36F (No time limit) with only 2 layers. The same first layer I had before plus only a new thin layer a friend gave me. It doesn't look windproof nor waterproof nor so warm so I don't think it is the tight itself.
What I think made me go at lower temp with less layers is that this new layer I put it under my old first layer which added compression.
What I think happened is that compression increases deep blood flow by stopping superficial blood flow. The blood flowing deeper into the leg it stays warmer.
Furthermore, because the blood go less into superficial vessel there is more blood flowing into deeper channels which allow more blood going to the feet and then keep the feet warmer.

To sum up, in my mind compression on legs and trunk will help during cold winter to stay warmer with less.

But I think adding compression to hands and feet will do the opposite as we empirically notice by restricting blood flow to hands and feet which lead to cold hands and feet after one hour or so of trip

Maybe someone else could try it to confirm my hypothesis.
(I'm giving up my secrets )

Last edited by erig007; 09-30-12 at 01:02 PM.
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Old 09-30-12, 01:30 PM   #22
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A vapor barrier liner is waterproof and so sweat does not wet the insulation,
retaining its R value.

just may make your sweaty feet feel funny since the perspiration has nowhere to go.
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Old 10-01-12, 02:36 PM   #23
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I have a pair of older Lake MXZ __? Can't remember model number, that I wear down to around 15 F. Below that it is platform pedals and BIG hiking boots. My hiking boots are probably a couple sizes larger than normal. I wear two pairs of thick wool socks w/ the hiking boots and still have lots of wiggle room. The absolute key to warm feet is not constricting them in extreme cold. That is why cycling specific shoes fail in low temps, they are cut to tight.
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Old 10-02-12, 04:20 AM   #24
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Found this to use as vapor barrier socks in place of plastic bags. Don't know if it will works. Will see
http://www.onguardindustries.com/con...duct&prodID=80
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Old 10-02-12, 10:13 AM   #25
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Keen Brixen boots and platform pedals has been a great combo for me, down to -20f with normal wool socks, with thicker socks or toe Warmers they'd be good to -30 or more
I have a pair of older Keen winter boots built from the Newport sandal design. I was wondering about using them for winter riding, and now I can't wait to try it! My Keens are stupid (perfect!) warm. I had Lake MX301s and I could never keep my feet warm enough, even with toe warmers.
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