It's December. The good news is that it's almost Christmastime! The bad news is that London has been experiencing a colder than average winter thus far, and it isn't even officially winter yet.
Whereas last year there were three weekends in February that we didn't go riding because the temperature had been below freezing overnight and we worried about ice, nights below freezing have been the norm these last few weeks. This has introduced a new barrier to my winter cycling -- cold feet.
Alberto has an uncanny ability to never experience cold (you probably don't want to witness the debates in our house about when to put the heating on!), but I've always been particularly susceptible to it, and especially my feet. In 'average' winter conditions of 6 or 7 C (low 40s F) my feet become uncomfortably cold, but not unbearably so.
However, last weekend I headed out for some Regents Park laps at 2 C (35 F), and my feet were painfully cold from almost the moment I left home. I only cycled for an hour, but an hour was enough to convince me that I really need to find a solution as we have a long winter ahead of us, and the predictions are that we are going to continue to experience a below-average winter.
My system for keeping my feet warm on Saturday was as follows:
- Thick wool socks
- Sealskinz mid-weight waterproof socks over the wool socks
- Normal cycling shoes (MTB/touring style, mainly leather body)
- Thin plasticky overshoes on top
Now, I know this system isn't perfect. First of all, there is a school of thought that doesn't believe in layering so many socks in a normal cycling shoe as apparently it could restrict blood circulation to your feet. My shoes are on the large side so I don't think it is an issue for me.
Secondly, the overshoes aren't particularly insulating. I bought them because they were on sale and fit my abnormally large shoes (as in, the shoes are quite bulky as cycling shoes go. My feet are actually on the small size!). But I'm not sure I want to invest in a pair of good overshoes as there doesn't seem to be any consensus that they can actually keep feet dry and warm.
Despite these shortcomings, however, I was honestly surprised that my feet were so cold so quickly. I think there must be something else I'm doing wrong. Some googling helped me come up with what I think is the most probable cause: my feet are too cold to begin with.
Basically, as the internet argument goes, if your feet are borderline cold when you're getting ready for your ride, they have no hope of warming up and will basically just continue to get colder and colder for the duration of the time you're out in the cold. I have no idea if there is any basis in fact for this theory but it resonates with me, because I spend a lot of time with my feet feeling just on the okay side of cold. That's just the way my feet have always been.
So now I think I understand the cause of my problems but I don't necessarily have a solution. We don't have a fireplace or space heater that I can use to heat my feet up in advance of a ride, so as far as I can see I have a few options:
- get warmer slippers/socks to wear around the house to try and keep my feet warmer in general
- stick chemical warmers inside my cycling shoes
- Rule Number 5
I haven't yet decided what I'll try next, but in the meantime if you have any suggestions for keeping feet warm while cycling please do let me know in the comments!