Thick socks versus thin
The cold weather of the weekend happened to coincide with two reliability trial events on consecutive days, and thus gave me the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast two ways to cover the feet for the conditions.
For the Cheam and Morden CTC Hilly 50, I opted to go the obvious route and wear thick socks under windproof overshoes. The socks, by Cannondale, are indeed thick and, when pulled on, very warm. Just right for an air temperature of minus three or four, or so I thought as I pulled on my shoes. Trouble is, their very thickness proved the problem. Even with the straps snugged lightly over the feet, there was a lot less room inside the shoes for blood to circulate.
The route tackled the longish and steepish climb from Westhumble to Ranmore Common within a few hundred metres of the start, and yet by the top I had lost most of the sensation in my feet. By the time we had dropped back into Dorking they were like blocks of chilled meat beneath my ankles, and even by the finish atop Box Hill’s Zig Zag a couple of hours later, when the air had warmed up a lot, they were still pretty numb.
No way was I prepared to suffer the same fate for the Sydenham Wheelers reliability trial the next day, not least because it would take twice as long… Back to basics, then. Normal thin socks, by Ozzo as it happens, meant that my shoes were a comfortable fit and my feet uncompressed. Over the top went the same Prendas Ciclismo oversoes, but this time I added oversocks from the same source, albeit for aesthetic rather than thermal reasons.
Starting in the same sub-zero air temperature as the previous day, the Sydenham ride began with the descent of Star Hill and carried on downhill for another two or three miles. Although there was no way to get warm for the first 10 minutes of the ride, my feet never felt in danger of getting even slightly cold, demonstrating to my satisfaction at least that preventing the free circulation of warming blood to the feet is a major cause of their getting cold, and that oversocks are surprisingly effective at keeping the wind at bay.