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).

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