Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rebooted

I started riding on snow and ice during the winter of 1996-97, my first in Alaska. That first year, I went riding one afternoon at -5F, and froze my toes so badly that I spent 20 minutes face-down on the carpet of a crappy little apartment, groaning and sweating from the pain as warm blood returned to my feet. I was afraid to pull off my socks and look at my toes for another half-hour.

I've been trying—and usually failing—to keep my toes warm ever since. It was only in recent years that I started thinking of myself as a winter rider, after having marginal success at keeping my toes from freezing. I've tried neoprene shoe covers, chemical warmers, multiple sock combinations, riding in pac boots rated to -93, and wrapping my toes in everything from aluminum foil to plastic bags.

But I think I've found my Holy Grail—the one piece of footwear that can keep my toes happy. The Neos Navigator 5. Holy shitballs, do these things feel good.

I first heard about Neos overboots about three winters ago, but was reluctant to blow the cash on something that didn't look substantial enough to overcome my poor circulation. Meanwhile, I threw away three times as much money on various failures.

I finally broke down and bought a pair a couple of weeks ago and, from what I can tell so far, I have finally found the solution. They're insulated, waterproof, lightweight, rated to -20, and they'll work with my snowshoes on those rare occasions when I venture outside without a bike. I don't even have to put on cold shoes when I get back to my car: I wear regular shoes inside the Neos, so when I kick off the boots, I'm already in walking shoes.

I’m almost looking forward to a sub-zero ride so I can see how they do in real cold instead of this relatively balmy 15-degree stuff.

7 comments:

Derryl Cocks said...

Hi Tim

Thanks for your comments on the NEOS overboots. At the end of my cross country trip on the Northern Tier which ended Nov 6th, 2007 I had problems keeping my feet warm. I ended up staying in motels for the last few nights. I want to get outside on my bike again and now I feel I can ride knowing my feet will be warm if I buy a pair of these.

Warm Regards

Derryl
lowflyingchair.blogspot.com

Luke said...

You venture outside without your bike? Yeah, right.

D A N O said...

Do they have clips? Or work with clip shoes?

While they look warn as hell, would be bit of overkill here in Wisco. I use the Lake Hi top winter shoe with no complaints.

A toe warmer for riding under 10 degrees works well.

Tim said...

I hope they work for you, too, Derryl.

On rare occasions, Luke, I do venture out without a bike. But only when my wife makes me go snowshoeing instead.

Dano, these boots are made for general use, not cycling, so they aren't designed for cleats. I know of one guy here in Anchorage who modified his pair to accept cleats, but most of us just ride flats in the winter.

My wife bought me the Lakes for Christmas but I returned them and bought these for a lot less money. I need a shitload of insulation. The Lakes don't have nearly as much, and the metal plate in the sole (the plate to which you bolt your cleats) is a big heat sink. That's part of the reason so many riders up here abandon clipless pedals for winter riding.

That said, I do know some people who swear by the Lakes and use them all year. I just don't believe they'd work for me.

Joshua said...

I've always had bad circulation in my hands and feet (as does my father) and rather unsucessfully fought to keep them warm in temperatures below about 20F. The system I finally developed for my 6-mile one way commute when I was living in Omaha was 2 pairs of thick socks inside a large pair of work boots with some thinsulate in them. This worked okay, but my toes were still cold upon arrival and the one time I attemped a longer 50 mile ride on a cold and very windy day I had to stop at a restaurant and warm up halfway through, despite the chemical warmers I had put in the boots.

These overboots sound intriguing though and I may have to give them a try.

What do you use for gloves? I just ordered a pair of Outdoor Research Latitude mitts for $35 from www.steepandcheap.com. I'll be interested to see if these with 2 or 3 layers underneath will be able to keep my hands warm when the temps dip below 15F.

Tim said...

Joshua, I use various gloves, depending on the temperature, but nothing fancier than the $15 Head ski gloves I bought at Costco.

The real trick to keeping hands warm is to use pogies, or handlebar covers. They block the wind and create a warm pocket of air around your hands. You can get fancy ones for $100 per pair, but I get mine from snowmobile shops for about $30.

You can order them from Cabela's and similar suppliers. They sell them for use on ATVs. These cheaper versions work fine for me as a day rider who generally doesn't ride when it's colder than -20. For longer trips in really cold weather, you'd probably want to go for the larger, more expensive models.

Michelle said...

Carlos told me about the Neo's last year at the Frozen Moose Drewl ride. I think I am going to get some. Maybe the studded ones, cuz....never mind....

For Pogies, I use CliMitts. They run about $40 to $50. I use only a light glove underneath, sometimes nothing at all (oh my!) because my hands get too hot at 15 to 20 degrees.