I’ve been riding through the winter for several seasons now, and each year I learn something new or acquire a new piece of gear that makes being out in the elements more enjoyable. In my experience, the hardest part to keep comfortable have been my hands and feet.
I used some old ski gloves last year on the coldest days, and they worked pretty well until they got wet. They also didn’t smell very fresh after wearing them for an hour ride. My fall wind gloves stop being warm in the low 30’s, and are miserable when exposed to rain or snow. I didn’t want to put up with cold hands again this year! Kristy has had very good luck with her Specialized Sub Zero winter gloves, and I was looking for something similar. I would have bought a pair myself, but I found these REI Switchback Gloves while out shopping this weekend.
Like the Sub Zeros, the Switchback’s are a two glove system. They have a waterproof outer shell, and a removable fleece liner glove. Each can be worn separately if the temperatures are warmer. Since my commute temperatures have been in the teens, and my lunch time rides the 30’s, I’ve worn both gloves together for maximum warmth.
Other features of the gloves include the gauntlet cuffs with adjustable drawcords to keep out the wind and snow. They also have wrist straps so you can hang them off your arms for glove free dexterity. This is helpful when messing with zippers or taking pictures. The palms are also rubberized for good grip on the handlebars.
My hands have stayed warm and dry all week. Further testing will be done in an actual snow storm soon.
I bought these Gator All-Terrain Mountain Booties last year. And while I wouldn’t necessarily say my feet are warm, I can do an hour or so winter ride in relative comfort with these booties worn over my cycling shoes. These neoprene booties slip over the front of your shoes, and zip up the back. The bottoms have cutouts for pedal cleats and the parts of the shoe that come into contact with the ground when walking.
The neoprene does a great job at keeping the wet snow and rain out, but also traps moisture inside. This seems to be what degrades the performance for extended rides. And since they’re open on the bottom, heat is lost out this direction too. I also believe that the cold pedal and crank draw the heat out the cleat of the shoe.
But like I said above, rides that last an hour or so, or for drier temperatures in the 30’s, the booties work pretty well. For more extreme conditions, a winter specific cycling shoe or winter boots with flat pedals would be more desirable. The booties are pretty affordable when compared to new shoes and pedals though!