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Winter Riding: How to Keep Your Head, Face, Hands & Feet Warm

Three Essentials to Keep Warm: Fitzy Beanie, Mont-Bell Headband, Buff

Cold temperatures and high pressure systems often bring the best in fat biking:  fast, firm trails with little fresh snow.   But it can be hard to motivate to go riding when the temperatures won’t rise above 10 degrees.  Keeping your hands and feet warm when on a bike is, let’s face it, a challenge.  Today we’re going to talk about how to keep your head, face, hands and feet warm when riding.   Don’t worry, we’ll talk about what to wear on your body in a later blog.

You can watch Brandon and Jay P talk about how to keep your head, face, hands and feet warm in our most recent episode of our continuing Bar Side Chat Series by clicking the link below:

Bar Side Chat Season 2, Ep. 2: Keeping your Extremities Warm for Winter Riding

Let’s talk first about our heads and faces.

  • Be prepared with a couple different hat options.  I regularly wear two different hats:  A thin fleece beanie for riding when the temperature is above 20 degrees and a beanie made of windbloc fleece that covers my ears for whenever the temperature is colder.   I like the fleece beanies because they are easy to wash (in and out of the washer and dryer without fuss) and dry quickly.   But that doesn’t mean that a wool beanie isn’t also a great choice.   In fact our IBEX Skimmer (with the fancy Fitzy logo) is Brandon’s favorite riding hat.
    • Keep in mind when picking a hat that you want something warm, but not so warm that you overheat.
  • The Buff is an essential piece of gear.    You can wear a buff in so many different ways - click here for just some of the ways - that I never go riding without one.   Wear it as a neck gaiter, balaclava, nose cover or hat.   I particularly like the buff when I think the temperature may change during the day.  I can wear it as a neck gaiter when it is milder out and then pull it up over the back of my head to cover neck and back of hat while also covering my mouth and nose.    I also know several people who cut 2″ segment of their buff to wear as a nose cover – this not only keeps your nose warm (without covering your mouth and fogging your glasses) but also helps keeps your nose from getting sunburned.    Buffs are made of an easy wash and dry micro fiber and are available in lots of colors.   Try the half fleece polar buff on really cold days or if you are into natural fibers they also make them in merino wool.
  • Some other pieces to try:  consider the Lung Cookie, a new balaclava from 45NRTH that is non-itchy merino wool and covers your head (with a brim to keep out the sun), face and drapes down over your neck both in the front and back.
  • Don’t forget to ride with your cycling glasses – they will help protect your eyes from the cold too.

Turning now to our Hands:

  • Hands can be difficult to keep warm for many people.    Poor circulation may be to blame, but that shouldn’t keep us from getting outside.
  • Pogies are essentially mittens for your handlebars.   They attach to the bars and you put your hands inside them to grip the bars.  Pogies should be large enough inside to allow you to shift and brake.   They may also be large enough to stash extra stuff you don’t want to freeze – like an energy bar, candy, your camera or phone.   Brandon sometimes carries his water in several gel flasks inside his pogies.   I wear either my summer time mountain bike full fingered gloves under the pogies or a lightweight fleece glove, like the Trail Action Glove from Mont-Bell.
    Dogwood Designs Pogies
    Dogwood Designs Pogies


    • Dogwood Designs makes some of the warmest pogies around.  They are huge with lots of insulation and come up very high on your arm.   Sometimes I find them too warm (for those days when the temperature is above 20 degrees or so) and I pull my hands out and ride with them on top of the pogies.
    • Bar Mitts are a lighter weight pogie which is great for milder temperatures.
  • I wear a light weight glove under my pogies, but there are some glove options for riding without pogies.   The Giro Pivot Glove is a waterproof and windproof insulated glove that is great for mild days.   You can also wear those funny looking, but effective Lobster style gloves that work like mittens but still give you the ability to two finger brake.
  • Don’t forget chemical handwarmers for those really cold days or if you have very cold hands!

What about your feet?

45NRTH Wolvhammer Boots

45NRTH Wolvhammer Boots

  • Key to any boot selection is to make sure you get a large enough boot.   You’ll want to have room for several pairs of socks and perhaps a vapor barrier without any of the layers getting squished and having room to wiggle your toes.  Sometimes that means going up a size or two from what you would normally wear.
    • A vapor barrier can help keep your foot warm.   Wear a pair of liner socks against your skin, put on the vapor barrier sock and then pull on some thicker warm socks over top of the vapor barrier.   Your feet will sweat, but the vapor barrier will keep the moisture next to your skin (and the liner sock will be wet), but your insulating sock will stay dry and warm.
    • Don’t be afraid to experiment with your socks.  For most of my riding I wear a pair of Smartwool lightweight ski socks.  But that sock might not work for you.  Consider liner socks, different materials (like a wool or a synthetic sock), thick socks, thin socks, just one sock or perhaps layering.
    • 45NRTH created what looks like the ultimate winter riding boot with the Wolvhammer Boot.  It’s built like a mountaineering boot with an insulted inner boot, a thick sole and heavy welt around the front.   This will be a great choice for many people, especially if you want to ride with clipless pedals.
    • An insulated boot with a thick sole works really well if you are going to ride flat platform pedals.   I ride in a pair of Keen Insulated boots.  The sole is firm enough that my feet don’t get sore and the boots are roomy enough that I can wear many different sock combinations for varying temperatures.
  • Sometimes your feet might just get really cold while riding.  Getting off your bike and walking with a swinging stride for 10 or so minutes can help restore circulation back to your feet and warm you back up.
  • Start riding with warm feet.   Consider standing barefoot in a tub of hot water before you leave the house.  Put on warm socks right from the dryer.  Keep your boots inside the house where they will be warm when you put them on.   Make sure you have the heat in the car directed at your feet on the drive to the trailhead.  Use chemical warmers to bring your boots up to temperature or keep them there while you ride.

Have fun, stay warm and ride regardless of the weather!

2 Responses to “Winter Riding: How to Keep Your Head, Face, Hands & Feet Warm”

  1. [...] out our previous video and blog about keeping your extremities [...]

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