Sunday, February 28, 2010

Some "cold" weather reviews

As promised, here are a few of my go-to items for cold weather bike commuting. Cold is relative, so make of it what you will.

SmartWool PhD Cycling Mini-Crew socks I used to be very anti-wool - dude, it itches! But then I discovered some incredibly soft and cushy wool socks at REI one winter - cute with flowers on them. They kept my feet warm! (My toes are always cold. They're cold right now actually, though cozy in UGGS boots, indoors...) So I picked up a pair of wool cycling socks once and loved them. They keep my toes mostly warm, but they're still thin like my other athletic socks, so they fit in my bike shoes and running shoes just fit. Now I have about 5 pairs and they are my go-to socks all winter. I brought them to Ironman Florida in case it was cold at all, but I didn't need them. In theory wool is good at regulating temperature, so my feet shouldn't get too hot in these. But I have on rare occasion felt like my feet were overheated when wearing these socks. Those occasions have been either while running more than 40 minutes or so (this morning I wore them and didn't have hot toes after 40 minutes, so that's why I picked that number. Very unscientific of me..) OR while riding home from work when it's over 90 degrees or so or on a reeeally long ride when it's just relatively warm out. These have been a great purchase for me and I love using them when it's cold. I've worn thick socks (wool and not) to cycle in, but cycling shoes just don't work with a wide variety of sock thicknesses. I used these today - it was in the mid to high 40s - my toes were cold, but not achingly numb. But I also only had a 30 minute ride.

Next up are my Pearl Izumi Therma Fleece Leg Warmers. I bought these at REI two years ago in the spring when I first started bike commuting. The sizes seem to vary only by length (as opposed to diameter). I went with large and they stretch from the very top of my leg to my ankle. (Usually I have a slight gap between the leg warmers and the mini-crew wool socks.) I pull them up as far as they go and I put the legs of my bike shorts over the leg warmers. (This is not a flattering look, but it works for me.) The top of the leg warmers have a rubber-like band to help prevent them from slipping down. I've never had a problem with slippage while riding. However, after walking around in them, or crouching down, I have to readjust them. (i.e. these do not let you turn running shorts into running pants) These leg warmers are super soft - they are fleece lined after all. They keep my legs warm in the early morning. There is a 6" (or so) zipper near the ankle. On warmer mornings I find myself unzipping it about a mile away from work, just to help cool off so I'm not quite so sweaty when I arrive. I did try PI's full fleece-lined bike tights but they made my butt too hot! On the other hand, on extremely cold mornings when I'm wearing regular shorts with fleece lined leg warmers, I have on occasion briefly wondered if I forgot to put my shorts on because my butt is freezing and it feels like it's fully exposed to the cold air. These leg warmers have been a great investment because I'm a layering person. I hate committing to pants when it might get hot, just like I can't stand layering long sleeve tops unless the bottom layer is sleeveless or short sleeved. It must come from growing up in Phoenix. I just know it's going to get hot eventually. I can honestly say if I hadn't purchased these, I would've skipped a lot more morning rides. I've been known to shove these into my saddle bag on daylong rides that end in the hot afternoon. They're a bit bulky for a jersey pocket, but they fit there too. In a pinch they might even fit on aerobars? For bike commuting, these are a dream because most afternoons bike shorts are just fine for the ride home and these leg warmers just go in my backpack. Price is about $45 - often on sale in the spring.

The Halo Anti-Freeze headband! My ears are pretty much always cold because they stick out like I'm Charlie Brown. The yellow stripe supposedly prevents sweat from dripping down your forehead into your face. I've never worn the headband when it was warm enough to make me sweat, so I can't vouch for that. The headband is pretty thin, but it keeps my ears pretty warm. Last year I realized it's also great at blocking the wind noise (when the wind is really loud I think it creates a bit of a psychological barrier to speed....) Because the headband is pretty thin, it's light weight which means it's easy to shove into your jersey pocket if the day heats up. It also means you can mostly get by without having to adjust your helmet. Very helpful for commuting since I don't usually need the headband in the afternoon. This headband is great for running too, and it's small enough that if you get hot and take it off, you can carry it and it's not annoying. For wearing this under a running cap, I do usually adjust the running cap to be more snug when I take the ear warmer off, but it's not necessary. I just have a fear of my hat blowing off and then having to backtrack! This is a one size fits all thing. It's got some elastic stretch. I've had this headband for four years - it was a spur of the moment purchase at a race expo. $15. Worth every penny and has held up well.


  1. Great recommendations - thanks!

    I bought a Headsweats Mdot beanie at IMFL that I wear to run in the cold and under my bike helmet and it has kept me warm all winter! Best purchase there. I have been looking for new socks, so I will check those out.

  2. I got one of those beanies too! I think it would be too hot for under a helmet here though. I may try it though. I love being warm!