I’ve ridden to work 7 times so far this January, the same total I had this time in 2010. In the news media, everyone has been complaining that this winter has been colder than usual. That may be true on average, but it seems like the mornings haven’t been as cold as last year’s. I haven’t had any morning rides yet where the temperature has been in the teens. Today was my coldest morning ride so far, at 21 degrees. I was out for around an hour. We got a one-inch snowfall Tuesday night, and the trails in the park are still snow covered, so I stuck to roads today (all of which have been pretty much salted into oblivion). Next winter, maybe I’ll pick up a set of studded tires for my mountain bike, so I can still hit the trails in these kinds of conditions.
I’m noticing an interesting pattern with my winter rides. During the first 20 minutes or so, my fingers get really cold. Then they warm up, and after maybe 40 minutes, my toes start getting cold. My usual footwear includes wool socks, road bike shoes with cleats, toe covers, and neoprene shoe covers. This setup works well for anything down to around 25 degrees. Any colder, and my toes get cold after the aforementioned 40 minutes. There are a couple of things at play here: first, I can’t add an extra layer of socks because it would make my shoes too tight, cutting off circulation and making my feet even colder. Second, there are giant holes in the bottom of the shoe cover soles, to accommodate the pedal cleats. I think the answer is to either go with a close-sole winter cycling boot like those manufactured by Lake, or ditch the clipless pedals when it’s really cold, and go with Power Grips and hiking boots. The latter is less expensive and better for snowy conditions where I would need to walk (no cleat), however it does necessitate switching pedals, which is inconvenient and takes time. Power Grips don’t give quite the “clipped in” feel that clipless pedals provide, which is particularly nice when riding with fixed gear. However, they’re not too bad and make for a decent compromise during the 1 or 2 months when you need them.