With a cold snap in the Calder Valley over the past couple of weeks, I’ve truly made the most of the wintery conditions. My fat bike has seen more snowy action than the Rovaniemi150 training period a couple of years back. I absolutely love to ride my bike in the snow, but it does have its challenges! While most of my procycling chums hit the turbo or the velodrome, I layer up with a good knowledge from Scottish mountaineering days of how to keep warm while out and about in what most would class as awful bone-chilling conditions.
I’ve been boring instagram with fat bike snow pictures for the past wee while and a few questions have rolled in about how I do this or that, in such challenging conditions for riding your bike. Most of these come in the form of gear, and what I use, and while I’m not an Arctic expert when it comes to dealing with the cold, here are a few options below on what works for me. I’ll highlight this again, ‘what works for me.’ I’ve spent a lot of time (not as much as I would like in saying that!) in the mountains in winter conditions, predominantly in Scotland, but also America and Europe, taking part in activities like snowboarding, winter climbing, mountaineering and fat biking. Through these experiences I’ve learned about how my body reacts to different activities and what I need to keep it warm.
This, if you read on, is based on cycling in the snow, and mainly on the snow which will generally mean off-road, which for me is on my fat bike. When the temps drop to zero or below I park the road bike and head off-road for two reasons; firstly, I think its safer to be away from icy tarmac and traffic, and secondly, it’s more fun! So below is the glove and boots I use to keep my digits toasty warm while enjoying winter conditions in Yorkshire, which if I’m honest, are pretty rare these days.
Let’s start with gloves. Pictured here are the gloves that I’m using at the moment, a mix of style and thickness, shape and dexterity. I’ll point out at the start, I’m not paid by any of the companies who make these gloves, and if I got them for free, I’ll highlight this in bold. I do test some products for companies and offer feedback, however none of this is for cash, so I’m not making any money telling you to buy/use this or that.
So the six gloves in the picture are what I’m using at the moment, and each have their place. The Alpkit Floe glove is a great MTB glove and the lightest weight glove I use, however it’s pretty much a non starter below 7-10º. Middle of the bottom row are the simple woollen style glove from Dissent 133, and next to them are the neoprene Neoz from Spatzwear. These work great if it’s wet out, but I don’t find them very warm if there’s a chilly wind about. The top row are my go to when the temps drop below 5º, and the Spatzwear Thermoz are a really interesting pair of gloves but not the warmest of the lot here, a note on these below. Middle of the top row are the Dissent 133 Hydrylite Waterproof gloves. These are based around a layering system which works really well, however I do find these on their own are what I use the most. I’ll use these most of winter both on and off road and I think they work really well. Top right are the Specialized Element 3.0, a lobster claw style glove which are fantastic for the current conditions. For below-zero riding these are my go-to gloves. After looking on the Specialized website to find out what they were called, it appears they don’t have them on the site anymore, however they do still have a semi-lobster claw glove called the Element 2.0, which looks good. I have these Specialized gloves a size too big, so they are easy to pull on and off, obviously being a lobster claw style glove you lose dexterity, so I like them to be easy to whip on and off making my life easy when snapping that insta shot or opening gates etc. Anything making your life easy in cold temps is a winner as far as I’m concerned. Anything colder than -10º and I use 45North poggies and go back to a light weight glove, keeping my Specialized gloves in a frame bag as back ups.
Just on a side note, the Dissent 133 gloves as mentioned above, can be bought as a full extreme weather layering system, from silk liners to the lightweight primaloft glove pictured above. They have 4 different layers and I believe you can buy them individually, but you only need the primaloft ones I think.
Likewise the Spatzwear Thermoz are a really well thought-out glove. They are designed as a road race fit winter glove, which I feel is accurate. Extra long cuffs from the companies mentality, ‘if you want hot radiators, you need to insulate your pipes.’ A hidden zipper helps get these on and off without any issues. The most interesting feature I think is the wind cover that pulls out of a hidden pocket and covers the fingers to create a lobster claw glove. It’s a thin layer so don’t expect the same warmth as a dedicated lobster claw glove, but it does make a difference. You can also just use the ring and small finger pocket and keep the middle and index finger free, like a semi lobster claw which works well.
Each glove has their pros and cons, but I won’t go into that on this post. If you have any specific questions, then fire them in the comments below and I’ll answer them so everyone can see. Like I said, these are what I’m using, but I recommend to speak to different folks and ask them why they are wearing what they are, and work out what works for you. After all, it’s a personal thing.
Heres a quick look at what I’ve been wearing on my feet to keep my toes toasty warm. I suffered from chill blains for a long time during my climbing days, pulling on tight rock shoes during freezing cold days. So I understand how warm feet can make for a far more enjoyable experience being outside on a winter’s day. If you get cold and wet it’s generally a miserable time.
In the bottom left corner are a pair of Giro V somethings (sorry forget the name) which are a standard pair of MTB shoes. You can use these with overshoes, but I think most MTB overshoes are a hassle, so prefer to wear a winter boot. My first pair were the Specialized Defrosters which worked well. I then got the 45 North RAGNARÖK (top left) and I think its fair to say I got sucked in with the marketing. I’ve stuck with these but haven’t really got on with them. I think if you live in a country where you have dry cold winters these would be great, however in a wet West Yorkshire, I’ve found them to be average at best. On the top right we have the 45 North Red Wing Special edition WÖLVHAMMER boot. I wore these for the Rovamiemi150 race in Finland and found them to be grand - a simple draw cord closure and velcro strap, the downside is they are bulky and resemble a snowboard boot. For those who follow me on instagram, they will be aware I have just got the Lake MXZ 304 winter boots. Slimmer and lighter than its 45 North rival, this would now be my boot of choice for winter racing. The first ride out in the Lakes was 5 hours with very toasty feet, making me very happy. They even make a heavier version of this boot, the Lake MXZ 400. One thing worth mentioning about Lake shoes is they make most models in different widths so you can find the size that fits the shape of your foot best. I am new to the Lake shoe brand having started using them in summer, after being recommended the brand while having custom footbeds fitted to my race shoes. I am now in the process of replacing all my shoes with Lakes. I’m not sponsored by them, I just find they fit incredibly well for me. Below the Lake shoes are a pair of Gore-Tex gaiters. With deep snow or freezing mud, the only way for water, snow or ice to get into your boot is through that big hole in the top, the same one you put your foot in. Gaiters work really well to extend the height of your boot to just below your knee stopping unwanted snow from entering your boots when you post hole into the snow. Both the heavy winter boots have a little hook below the laces for the gaiter to clip onto, to stop it riding up the boot. They are a bit extreme, but you’ll have dry feet. If I’m wearing a waterproof shell trouser, I put the gaiter under the trousers to stop any water running down my waterproof under the gaiter and into my boot….mountaineering school boy/girl error!
If you can, I can highly recommend you get a custom foot bed in your cycling shoe, you’ll transfer more power through the shoe, it will make your experience far more pleasurable, and in turn keep you on your bike for longer! And who wouldn’t want that? I hope this helps, and if you have any questions about the gloves or boots I wear, then please fire a question in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.
For winter riding pictures check out @stevebatembe on instagram
Happy riding with warm digits.