Night & Day
I received a pair of “electric socks” for Christmas, complete with a key fob that goes along with it. It appears the solution to the age-old mystery of how to keep my feet warm for winter cycling has been solved. By my wife.
Cycling with warm feet is a night and day difference from what I endured last year, freezing in winter boots that just were not up to the task.
I don’t wear cycling shoes when I ride. I can’t bear having my feet bound to the pedals. Yes, I understand it’s more efficient. Yes, I understand it will most likely increase my speed. And yes, I understand that shoe coverings were made to go over cycling shoes and those would keep my feet warm.
While on my longest ride to date, in July (217 km), I wore cycling shoes and had a couple of falls. The first was utter comedy, occurring around 7:30 in the morning, alone in a Leamington park. I intended to come to a rolling stop, and have a rest on a bench while eating my protein bar. I forgot, however, that my feet were bound, and as my momentum petered out, I simply tipped over on my side. No injury, but it jarred me, and I did feel like an utter idiot.
Later, the same day, when fatigue had set in and the sun was slapping me silly, I approached a busy intersection in the town of Essex. I moved to release my right foot from its pedal, so I could balance myself when I came to a stop at the traffic light, ahead. Tired and punchy, I couldn’t get my foot loose. Panic set in as I rolled toward traffic. I didn’t feel like being killed in traffic, and I didn’t feel like falling over on my side, again. I ended up ripping my right shoe from its pedal. No damage, but I endured an unpleasant adrenaline rush, and squeezed out some sweat I could not afford. When I finally made it home, safely, I switched back to flat pedals. I gotta be free when I ride!
I cycle in all weather, all year round. I’d be lying if I said there were not days when I balked simply because the idea of going into the frozen dark psyched me out. More often than not, I go. After getting most of my winter gear sorted out — thermal gloves, base layer, thermal high visibility balaclava — the winter ride became much more pleasant. The coldest day I cycled was 17° Fahrenheit. No matter how many pairs of socks I wear, however, my feet freeze, even in 40° weather. I battle the petrifaction of my feet by stopping, occasionally, and walking around to get the blood flowing, again.
Today I rode 112 km and my feet were fine. The solution was two-fold.
The first part of the equation were slip-on shoe covers. These alone were not the answer, but they fit over top of my running shoes and there’s no question they shielded me from the cold, to a certain degree.
The second, and most important, part of the equation are the electric socks my wife gave to me for Christmas.
Back when I was distracted by cold feet, I had no idea just how freeing it would be, and how much my ride would be improved. Comfort is paramount, but I get it that cycling in the winter bring its share of discomfort. Riding without the distraction of frozen feet was amazing. When the good weather ended, I gave up the idea of having fast rides. It seemed more important to just get outside and get my kilometers. Today’s ride was like a summer ride.