On my first winter bike ride in the early 2000s, I made a critical mistake: I wore the only cycling shoes I had and thought with a warmer sock, I’d be fine. That ride lasted less than an hour and a half and by the end of the ride, my toes were in severe pain. As my toes thawed, the pain actually got worse before it got better…
In the years since that ride, I’ve slowly learned what I need to ride in the winter. First, I bought merino wool socks. Then booties that kept the moisture out. A few years ago, I bought some Diadora winter cycling shoes that are waterproof. I went up two sizes (from 42 to 44) to allow for two pairs of warm socks plus toe warmers on the really cold days, I’d even put on insulated goretex booties for added warmth.
This technique worked for me for a few years, but I still had a limit for how long I could be out in the cold. If I was on trails, away from the wind, I could ride at -20C for 1-2 hours. Out in the open, the wind chill would cause my extremeties to get cold a lot faster.
Last month, I finally decided to invest in one of the more well-known winter fatbiking boot: 45NRTH’s Wolvhammer. I’ve known a few people with these boots, and they rave about them. Here’s what their webpage says about them:
The Wölvhammer transcends traditional cycling footwear, drawing conceptual inspiration from mountaineering boots.
- Lace-up design with gusseted tongue
- Full grain leather and ballistic nylon shell
- Aerogel in foot bed
I don’t know what a “ballistic nylon shell” is, so I decided to do more research: “The full grain leather and ballistic nylon shell provides a durable barrier while the waterproof membrane protects your feet from the elements.”
That sounded good enough for me!
My toes are one of the first body parts that goes cold on winter rides. I have heavy-duty gloves (Costco, less than $30!) that keep my hands warm (unless there’s a strong, cold headwind), and I cover almost all exposed skin on my head with: a headband, two buffs (one around my head and cheeks, and a second around my neck and chin), plus my helmet has a helmet cover. So I’m eager to test these Wolvhammer’s at colder temperatures. I know other people who suffer from Raynaud’s disease, which “causes some areas of your body — such as your fingers and toes — to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress” (from the interweb).
After checking a local bike shop, King Street Cycles, I found they didn’t have my size, and their online inventory didn’t either. So I started an online search and found a website in Quebec called PrimeauVelo, who shipped for free and offered a 10% discount for first-time buyers.
Upon opening the box a few days later, I was surprised at how light these boots were. They’re bulky, as needed for warmth, but once I got on the bike, they didn’t feel as heavy as they looked.
My first ride was only in temperatures of -1C, so I didn’t really test the thermal properties (45NRTH claims they’re good to -18C). My feet were warm (two pairs of socks), and dry (with the “mild” temperatures, there was a lot of splach from slush and snow).
I’ll write more when I take them out in colder temperatures!