Do you suffer from cold hands or cold feet while riding in the winter chill? In this article, we’ll show you hands-on hacks we’ve learned from riders who cycle even in the coldest months of the year.

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Why do we feel cold?

Firstly, we’d like to make you aware of what makes the hands and feet go cold when we ride in winter. Most of the cold feeling in external parts of your body is caused by worsened blood circulation. Another common factor is dampness in our shoes or gloves as water is much more effective conductor of coldness than air, bringing the awful outside freeze directly onto your skin. As long as we manage to keep our blood circulating and our hands and feet dry, we can enjoy a relatively comfortable ride even when the outside temperature drops below zero.

The Forks Ice Bike Race, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. © Ken Gillespie Photography / Alamy / Profimedia

Loosen the shoe cuffs

Shoes that are laced up too tightly will make your feet ice cold even if you still could have been in your comfort zone. The easiest way is to double-check before your ride that the cuffs on your shoes aren’t too tight and all the blood from your core can get to your fingers and toes.

Overshoes

Overshoes are protecting your feet from cold and wetness no matter how bad is the weather you’re about to ride in. Generally speaking, the thicker the overshoes, the better insulation they provide from the cold. Overshoes are made from waterproof fabric designed to fit snugly over your shoes, preventing your feet from getting wet or cold. Neoprene is a popular material. Its advantage is that even when it gets soaked, your feet won’t freeze as it keeps warmth close to the shoe, a principle which works so well for surfers riding the big waves in cold water.

A winter shoe in five minutes

Many cycling shoes are designed to keep your feet cold during hot days using a sophisticated system of ventilation. What helps us in the summer might turn out to be annoying or even tormenting during days when frosty winds blow against us. You can either dump the summer shoes and look for some winter ones or you can try to prevent the cold air from getting right to your feet by taping up all the vents using duct tape from both inside and outside of the shoe. This way, you can get a perfect winter shoe in just five minutes.

Rotterdam’s Marktal on a cold snowy winter’s day. © Giles W Bennett / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia

A nice thick pair of winter gloves will comfort your hands

If you plan to ride in more severe weather, classic cycling gloves won’t be enough to protect you against Mr Freeze. In temperatures below zero, you may need ski gloves or liners. You might also wear a fitted glove underneath a thicker winter glove that you can remove when the temperature increases. You can also replace them by spare liners whenever your hands get wet during the ride. Experienced winter cyclists recommend wearing latex gloves in the back pocket as a backup, just in case. When the rain starts and your gloves get soaked, put them underneath as the first layer so your hands stay dry. With no latex gloves around, you can still help yourself by making a quick stop by the nearest gas station where you can pick up a pair of disposable plastic gloves used to keep your hands clean of petrol when fuelling.

Double your socks

More socks, more insulation. A common hack is to put on light summer socks and winter thermal socks over them. Winter socks usually use wind and waterproof fabrics. Even with common summer socks, the double-layer trick should do the work and keep your feet warm as you trap the warmth between the layers. The only problem could be if your shoes are too tight to accommodate an extra sock. Tight shoes might squeeze your feet and worsen the blood circulation in them, preventing feet from self-warming. You can acquire two pairs of shoes with the winter ones being just slightly bigger.

Hacks with foils

The aluminium foil is a perfect insulator used in various places including the boiler in your cellar and the lasagne getting done in the oven. You can tear a nice piece of the foil and wrap it around your foot so all heat generated by your body would stay inside. An even more bizarre gimmick comprises using a plastic wrap from your kitchen. This hack was popular among our grandfathers when they tried to keep feet warm – only they used plastic bags instead of today’s cling wrap used for sealing food. It’s one of the simplest, cheapest and most effective things you can do. You simply wrap your entire feet dressed in socks into the cling film. As it sticks to itself, you won’t need much of it. Your feet will sweat but the shoes will stay dry, which means they’ll keep the warmth inside. The more advanced solution is called vapour barrier socks. Based on the same principles, these socks prevent water from evaporating from your feet and getting condensed in your shoes. Dry socks and shoes mean that they can still insulate. This ultimate solution is mostly used by cyclists riding in extremely cold conditions such as the Alaskan Iditarod race or similar.

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