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I am interested in what the best ways are to keep your face and feet warm.

I saw some shoe covers on amazon, but they all seem to require you to be riding clipless which I do not. I think if I used a shoe cover, the bottom of it would get all ripped up by the teeth of my pedals.

The face is another challenge I have. I usually like to use biking glasses, but recently I started using a balaclava which covers my nose and mouth. As soon as i started breathing my biking glasses started fogging up! Is there a balaclava solution that works with glasses?

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Most shoe covers don't have bottoms. They do wrap around the sides a bit and across the instep, but they leave enough of the toe and heel area uncovered to be able to walk and pedal. With glasses, I use Cat Crap (lens anti-fog goop) and in bad weather I wear goggles over my glasses. Balaclavas should have a hole for your nose and mouth-I've had bad luck trying to breathe through any material. –  WTHarper Nov 7 '12 at 19:08
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@WTHarper -- The neoprene "booties" I have do cover the entire shoe. (They're designed, though, so that you can easily cut a hole in the bottom to accommodate a cleat.) I used them with toe clips (vs "clipless") for several years (until I got winter biking out of my system), and had no trouble with the durability of the sole. –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 7 '12 at 19:36
    
I've never found a satisfactory face covering (especially one that works with glasses). Balaclavas and the like just don't fit my head right -- I think they're designed for people without chins. –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 7 '12 at 19:37
    
(I'm pretty sure there are a couple of other threads here about winter biking, though I'm not going looking for them.) –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 7 '12 at 19:40
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Pedal harder. :) –  GordonM Nov 7 '12 at 23:55

12 Answers 12

up vote 8 down vote accepted

keeping your face warm while winter bike commuting

I recommend ski googles and Seirus "Masque" over a balaclava. This mask only covers the bottom half of your face, and can be paired with merino wool hat worn underneath a helmet. This is more versatile, as you can remove the mask, but still wear the hat off-bike. I also use a scarf underneath my jacket to make sure there's a good seal to keep the wind out. For my kids, I still use a balaclava for simplicity on very cold days.

Googles and Facemask Hat under helmet

keeping your feet warm while winter bike commuting

For keeping your feet warm, I recommend NEOS overshoes. They go over your normal shoes, keeping your shoes and pant legs dry and clean. Even the non-insulated options add warmth due to the layering. I like the Voyager model, which is also light and packable.

Keeping your hands warm while winter bike commuting

If putting your hands someplace warm doesn't work well enough, you can try a little cayenne to improve your circulation. A small amount can go in your gloves (or socks!) It has worked for me. This worked for my son:

keeping hands warm while winter bike commuting

I have another number of other winter cycling articles on my blog if you'd like to read more about my experiences and gear.

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Good tip about the cayenne. I have to try that. I'm constantly getting cold hands in the winter no matter what kind of gloves I'm wearing. –  Kibbee Feb 8 '13 at 14:10
    
Regarding cayenne, I have another post about the effect of diet on warmth. Also Dottie has a great video on how to dress for winter bike commuting targeted more towards women. –  Mark Stosberg Feb 8 '13 at 14:17
    
Yeah, I don't bike in the winter, but I'm thinking of using it just more in general such as when we go out sledding with the kids. Winter is a little too winter-y for me to bike in, although we have a few die-hards that biked today. It's currently -23c (-9.4f) with the windchill and with the snow overnight and the snow throughout the day, it should be 20-30 cm (8-12 inches) of snow by the end of the day. And yes, some people still biked, but not me. –  Kibbee Feb 8 '13 at 14:54
    
It rarely gets below 0F where I live, I won't know how to dress for that very well either. –  Mark Stosberg Feb 8 '13 at 15:39

The balaclava is definitely the way to keep your face warm. Try spraying your glasses with some anti fog spray to solve the breath problem.

http://www.rei.com/product/797482/tyr-anti-fog-spray

http://www.rei.com/product/718017/fogtech-advanced-anti-fog-solution-bottle

If you aren't willing to give up the abrasive pedals, you should just get some actual boots.

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A pair of skiing goggles is my non-fogging option when it is really cold and/or snowing. Most models have vents that help air circulation along the glass and a coating that keeps them from fogging. The larger space between the glass and your face helps, so get big ones.

When it isn't too cold, and there is no chance of snow I just skip the eye-protection.

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Can't really recommend this if you ride on the road. Peripheral vision is pretty important. –  meagar Nov 7 '12 at 22:25
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In my experience the better skiing goggles provide more peripheral vision than most (sun)glasses. –  jilles de wit Nov 8 '12 at 8:13

You ask about a balaclava - I can highly recommend the Assos facemask. The downside of this will be the price, but as with anything Assos make, the quality is the best on the market (imo). This is my second winter with mine and last year was fine. Note from the photo in the link the loops above the ears....for your glasses. But I think if you ride with both nose and mouth covered a certain amount of fogging is inevitable. Personally I hate the feeling of having something over my nose or my mouth so always have the bottom between chin and mouth, if you see what I mean.

You also mention booties. There are lots out there offering thermal properties, but I think you are right about wear and tear. I cycle at either end of a train journey. At one end (country roads) I use clipless pedals, at the other end (big city) I use flat pedals. The flat pedals most definitely cause wear and tear. My solution? Nothing fancy I'm afraid - I stump up for a new pair every year.

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rode this morning with mouth covered but nose not. (Funny but I've never really paid attention to it before!) no fogging of glasses. I wear Bolle safety glasses - the same quality as their cycling glasses but a fraction of the price. They wrap quite tightly around my eyes too. –  PeteH Nov 9 '12 at 15:41
    
Go for the NinjaClava. (altrec.com/outdoor-research/ninjaclava) It has more coverage and can easily be pulled down to not cover your mouth. Also interestingly it has small supports around the mouth to prevent it from caving in when you breath in. –  Chris Belsole Nov 13 '12 at 20:07
    
I think I'd have a problem with the visibility out of the Ninja –  PeteH Feb 12 '13 at 15:50
    
From what I can see, pun intended, the only problem with the njnjaclava is that if you are wearing glasses it could be a problem because it directs the airflow up fogging up your glasses. This is negated by either wearing contacts or pulling the mouth piece down under your chin. –  Chris Belsole Feb 13 '13 at 22:11

I've worn Scott skiing goggles and never had peripheral vision problems, just be sure not to wear tinted in the dark. Really helped with wet sloggy winter commutes to Seattle. Wool sweaters and socks work when wet, which can be either rain or sweat. Also have a nice gore-tex helmet cover. Remember the old adage: if your feet are cold, put on a hat. Keep your head warm, and you will have less trouble with your feet.

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I do not know whether this was intended, but all mentioned only passive systems to keep your feet warm.

Going like 25 kms one way, I use electrical soles and for longer trips, heating pads that generate heat from a carbon-metal powder. If you do not exert pressure, another active system are heating pads filled with some acetic acid(?). Obviously, you should not use these between your feet and the pedals. Here, a phase transition from liquid to solid generates heat. You can reuse those by reheating in a water bath until the solid becomes liquid again.

Of course, all of these measures are improved by good insulation. I've never had peripheral vision problems with good skiing googles.

Another tip that works for me is to do everything to be able to go fast and become warm from the exercise, e.g. using spike tires.

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When it gets really cold (or it is cold AND wet) I wear a pair of neoprene socks designed to keep kayaker's feet warm. I wear these over a pair of thin wool or acrylic socks, UNDER my shoes. I am primarily a mountain biker, and this seems much more reliable to me than the shoe covers that slip over, because of the chance of tearing the cover on something.

I think the socks I have are something like these: http://www.rei.com/product/722203/nrs-hydroskin-socks. There are thicker models available but I prefer wearing the thin ones over the wool because it allows me to wear the neoprene ones many times before they need a wash. The coldest I've ridden with this combination was probably about 20 degrees with a few inches of snow on the ground and a couple of stream crossings, and while my shoes were soaked my feet felt great.

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For feet:

  • there are winter-specific shoes like Shimano MW80, Northwave Celsius etc.
  • keeping feet dry is extra-important. Even if slightly wet, they get cold so much quicker. There are weatherproof overshoes, there are waterproof socks--people say good things about SealSkinz
  • you need all of the body to be insulated and warm. In cold, body prioritizes bloodflow to vital internal organs over extremities. So if your core is losing warmth, body will work on that, and feet will get cold sooner.
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Ski goggles with double paned lenses with a wide field of vision are best for winter if fog is an issue. The double panes help avoid condensation due to the air barrier between the lenses (and the fact that most double pane goggles also have anti-fog treatment helps as well). Additionally, they are more enclosed, which keep your eyes from tearing up due to the chilling air at very low temperatures. Some ski goggles have really terrible peripheral vision though, so shop around.

For warmer days, I tend to use MSA Safety Works safety goggles with anti fog coating that work well and have good peripheral coverage without obscuring my vision. They sit far enough off my face that they prevent fog when I'm stopped.

Wool balaclavas are good to protect your ears and neck, while being breathable enough to stop you from sweating too much. You have to see what works for you for setup of the balaclava, sometimes it can direct your breath from your nose up in to your glasses or goggles. Some people leave their nose exposed. Some people prefer a neoprene mask for face protection instead.

Bern helmets or other less vented commuter helmets such as nutcase or giro reverb tend to work well in winter time since they don't have as much extreme airflow. For regular helmets, you can tape over vents or get helmet rain covers to reduce the chilling effect. I prefer to use a bern watts helmet with a smartwool balaclava.

As far as shoes, If you prefer not to wear cycling shoes, then boots with wool socks (no synthetic or cotton in really cold weather) and platform pedals are the best option. You can add supplemental heat with chemical toe warmers or insoles (I prefer the insoles). You can also add windproof overboots to your current setup if you're still too cold.

Ski Gloves or Lobster Mitts (looks like 2 double wide fingers and thumb) are good for drop bar setups, but if you have flat bars you might even be able to get away with full mittens. Gloves with a breathable, but windproof shell is preferred. I often use ski gloves with hand warmer pockets, so that I can use chemical hand warmers on really cold days.

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Seal Skins makes a thermal, waterproof sock that I've used for years. Sure my shoes get wet, but my feet and regular socks stary warm and dry, plus there's no problem clicking into my pedals or sliding into toeclips.

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Most of the question has already answered, but I would like to look at something else - how to keep the body and arms warm.

Obviously, putting aside arm warmers, the best way to keep warm is not to bother with the expensive cycling jackets, good though they are. These will never totally keep out the cold particularly if your ride a road bike and go somewhat faster.

Therefore, get a cheap cycling rain mac and wear it UNDERNEATH your main cycling jacket. This means it will hug the body and keep the warmth in. However, if you are REALLY fast and the sun comes out, it won't let your body breath. But try it in really cold weather.

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Something I learnt the hard way about gloves in winter/rain

  • When rainy, wear the gloves such that the jacket sleeve(cuff) covers the end of the glove near your wrist, think of it as tucking your glove inside of your cuff. I realized this as my hands and gloves are wet and cold as rain trickled down into my gloves from my shoulders; 60 miles into my first century ride.
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