Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Finite heat source in an infinite heat sink

The quest for more information and the best pricing for winter boots continues.
The "standard" in these is the Lake particularly popular are the MXZ 300 but all the Lake winter models seem to have lacing issues.

I found a very comprehensive reviews site "Mountain Bike Reviews" with a lengthy list of shoes/boots. What it gains in breadth it often seems to lack in depth with only 2 or 3 users comments but if one considers how many folks have these products and of those who will bother to comment, I consider 4-5 comments a very broad base.

From my readings on MTBR and on some other forums, it looks like Answer Kashmir's are a very good option. They're $150 (I saw them for $140 on ebay but then you pay $13 shipping so you're about back to amazon.com $150 with free shipping). Tomorrow I'll try to get to call a couple of the bike shops which offer a 10% 5BBC discount, see the prices. The Northwave Celsius MTB winter boots are usually expensive but I stumbled on a shop in UK shipping worldwide that sells them for $102. On MTBR the Northwave Celsius gets a 4.0 with 2 reviews recommending them and the Answer Kashmir 4.5 with 4 reviews.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cold toes

New York City area weather in the winter varies quite a lot. While today's high was 66 degrees F and overcast to partly-cloudy, it also drops well below freezing. I want to keep riding throughout the winter in the absence of actual rain/snow/sleet -- or at least in temperatures above the low end of the twenty-degree range. I ride both of my bikes with clipless pedals using the SPD 2-bolt cleats and I have Shimano MTB shoes. In cold weather, my toes get cold.

Last year I bought a pair of Performance Bike's house-brand neoprene toe covers. That didn't work very well at all: Not only did they nearly disintegrate with one day of riding, they kept popping off because there's no heel strap. They didn't keep my toes warm either.

For this winter, I spent the extra money and bought a pair of Perl Izumi AmFIB® MTB shoe covers. When I tried them on in the store, they felt quite warm. I wore them immediately and headed off on my touring bike for a ride on that late November Sunday across town, over the Queensboro Bridge and eastward to try out a route through Queens to the LIE that I got from a fellow 5BBC leader. The weather was cool and somewhat windy with a high of 37 deg. F.

About 90 minutes out, my toes and forefoot started to feel cold (the cleat transmits the cold right into the shoe) and I decided that it was not prudent to try to ride all the way to my Mom in Dix Hills (which I've done with various sub-optimal routes through Queens on several occasions in warm weather -- the 50-odd mile ride is no problem in terms of distance) and headed for Jamaica LIRR station to take a nice warm train to Wyandanch and bike the 3-odd miles from there to Mom's house.
When I arrived I found out that a few minutes before I arrived the LIRR had had the worst derailment in its recent history. I waited around in the nice warm waiting room, out of the drafts from the doors, for over an hour waiting for a train east. My toes never really warmed up completely.

Eventually, I decided that it was unwise to risk getting stranded out in LI with no train west. I called Mom and rescheduled, then headed for Pita Hot on Main Street in Kew Garden Hills for lunch.

Not only did the AmFib shoe covers fail to keep my feet warm, and I wore medium weight wool socks, they didn't hold too well. The toe on the left has a worn/ripped spot (remember, I only did about 20 miles of urban cycling) and the heel on the left got worn/ripped some. I purchased them at Bicycle Renaissance, but in a telephone inquiry they stated that they don't warranty such items themselves -- they can only send it back to Perl Izumi for replacement.

Shoe covers alone don't seem to suffice. It seems the alternative is winter cycling boots, of which the Lake CZ series seems the most highly recommended from folks in places with serious winter like Iowa. The best price I've seen is $200+shipping.
Answer makes the Kashmir for $90 or so but some research on the web indicates they don't hold up very well: they pull apart when you pull them on. That does seems like a very low price for bike shoes much less insulated winter boots. OTOH, I don't know if I want to dump $230 on Lake boots instead of $300 on a trainer and just ride indoors to keep in shape (and for my 3 scheduled winter bike rides just wear 2 pairs of socks, maybe get a pair of heavy wool socks, and foot warming pads for $6 a pair for a day's use).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Polar Pancakes are go!

I've plotted a route through to brunch that should get us there by 10:30 am. We really ought to arrive at Coney Island shortly after 12 pm for the festivities preceeding the swim. The whole event down at Coney Island is a charity fundraiser they call "Freezin' for a reason", to raise money for Camp Sunshine.

The festivites at Coney Island start at 12pm. We can arrive a few minutes late if we take too long at brunch. Assuming we get moving by 9:45 AM, the pace on this ride needs to keep up 8 MPH overall average to reach brunch (7.5 miles) by 10:45 AM. A half hour break is an aggressive schedule, 45 minutes is more reasonable. Its only another 5 miles to the boardwalk, so we should just about make it without puhing almost anyone faster than they're comfortable. We should get back to City Hall Park by 3 PM, 3:30 PM latest, so that folks are able to get home by sunset at 4:38.

Since the festivites at Coney Island are pretty much over by 1:15 PM, we have two hours to cover some 12 miles to get back (including a pit stop somewhere around the 10 mile mark...Prospect Park or the Parade Grounds).

Looking at the route home, folks from Queens aren't going to want to recross the Brooklyn Bridge they'll want to take Willoughby to Myrtle and home. So presumably they'll break off either before we enter Prospect Park, staying on Bedford, or make their way out from Grand Army Plaza. They'll manage. Winter riders are a hardy bunch.

Advance notice helps for a good turnout, and that's missing on this since the newsletter for January isn't out yet and the ride isn't on the 5BBC site yet. Oh well. I spoke to a few folks at the holiday party saturday night, talked up the Dec. 25th ride and this one. We shall see.