Last year we wrote a post about how we dressed for cold weather riding, and although many of the links to products that we suggested are now dead, the overall message remains the same: dress as you would for any type of outdoor activity, and you should be fine. To follow up on that idea, here are a few items that we’ve picked up recently that have made riding in cold weather better, even if half the time we’ve had to leave them at home half the time since the weather has been unseasonably warm here.
Cheap mittens ($9 at local big-box hardware store):
I don’t know what it is about “cycling specific” gear, but most of it is a) expensive and b) not *actually* made for sub-freezing temperatures. Most of it (not all, you can find Bar Mitts, for instance) seems to be much more performance-oriented, with lighter-weight insulation and focus on gloves as opposed to warmer mittens. For someone with bad circulation like me, no glove is going to be as warm as a good, well-insulated mitten, and that includes the lobster-claw-style cycling… things that are far more focused on allowing shifting a road bike than keeping a commuter warm as he/she rides a singlespeed to and from work.
So instead of spending $75 on a “cycling specific glove-mitten-hybrid” that *still* won’t keep my fingers warm, I found these for $9. Fleece-“gloves” inside of an all-encompassing Nylon “mitten”.
The Menards site claims that they’re currently $11.99, but I found them for $9 at my local store. They also blow away my pricey pair of Trek winter gloves that retailed for 6 times as much when they were sold a couple years ago. These mittens are so warm that I mistakenly overdressed one day (mid-upper 30s) and my hands were far, far too warm. Sure, there are a ton of downsides including having too much insulation in the palm area, and I can’t imagine trying to shift a road bike with them, but for a winter bike? They’re perfect. And the best part (aside from the fact that they’re toasty warm, work great at blocking wind, and were only $9) is that if you participate in *any* outdoor activity when it gets cold, chances are you already own a pair, or at least something very, very, very similar.
Merino wool socks ($4 at Costco):
Ok, this is probably due to the abnormally warm winter causing overstock in winter clothing at major retailers, but Costco recently had thick Merino wool socks for $12/3 pair. Yup, a grand total of $4/pair of toasty warm wool socks that didn’t cost $65/pair (yikes!!!). Obviously YMMV for finding a deal like that, but for keeping your feet warm inside your hiking/winter boots, you really can’t beat a deal like that. If you don’t have a Costco membership, you can find similar socks for $8+ at sites like campmor.com or Amazon.com.
Cheap “Sports” prescription glasses ($60 at Zenni Optical):
We’ve actually been riding with these since last year, but can’t help but gush about how cool this website is. I’ve had to wear glasses since the 4th grade, and it has *always* been the same story; you get one expensive (starting over $100 25 years ago, amounting to over $400 for my last pair) pair of eyeglasses that last you several years until you’ve absolutely *destroyed* them through normal use, sports, etc. For almost 15 years I wore contacts for sports, but that meant that every time I wanted to ride I’d have to put in contacts and go searching for my expensive cycling-specific glasses.
Last year we discovered Zenni Optical, which manufactures cheap prescription glasses in China and ships them directly to you here in the US. Now, instead of buying one pair every couple years and hoping that they last, we can now purchase LOTS of glasses, including ones specifically for riding.
The yellow ones on the top right are specifically for sports-oriented cycling (ie, mtn biking, road biking, etc), and the dark ones below them are for normal riding when it’s especially bright out. No more fumbling with contacts, no more reordering every 6 months, no more buying contacts *and* (non-prescription) sunglasses, and no more trying to make one pair fit multiple uses through clip-on shades or Transitions photochromatic, this has allowed us to purchase enough glasses that we can start specializing in how we want to use them. Normal riding, “hard-core” cycling, every-day commuting, etc.
Note: We opted for the super-special 1.67 high-index lenses on some of these, which were a $35 (per pair of glasses) upcharge. If your eyesight isn’t as bad, or if you can live with a slightly thicker lens, particularly on the plastic-framed models, your costs would be far, far lower, closer to the $35 range for the yellow “sport-specific” glasses. The rest would be in the $20-25 range.
So that’s what we’ve been riding with, what have you guys found that’s cheap, effective and non-dorky this winter?