Riding in the snow should be fun, not uncomfortable
Snow is flying in New Mexico, and many north-facing trails are already iced over, likely until spring. That has us thinking about snow biking and the harsh El Niño winter in the forecast. Thankfully, fat biking continues to proliferate, with almost every bike brand out there now producing a winter steed. Likewise, the range of soft goods and accessories for pedaling when it’s cold out is also on the rise. Here are some of the most interesting new products for the season.
686 x Specialized Tech Jacket ($500), Insulator ($250), and Bibs ($450)
Specialized teamed up with snowboard soft-goods manufacturer 686 to produce what has to be the first winter shell and layering system expressly made for fat biking. The jacket and bibs are burly technical pieces cut from 686’s proprietary three-layer, waterproof-breathable shell fabric, while the trim puffy is DWR-treated nylon filled with Primaloft. Both tops have fold-out spray skirts and helmet-friendly hoods, and the two shell pieces feature zip vents (upper arm and thigh) for cooling when going hard. SWAT pockets are built into the shell and back of the bibs for hauling bottles and gear. The Tech Jacket even has a Recco detector built into the sleeve to help emergency responders find you in case of an avalanche. This is extremely heavy-duty gear, probably most useful for expeditions and only the coldest days of the year, though it will make a great crossover piece for skiers and snowboarders who also fat bike.
45Nrth Wölvhammer ($325)
Hailing from Minnesota’s Twin Cities, the team at 45Nrth knows all about frigid riding. The company’s redesigned Wölvhammer boot looks like the final word in toasty feet when it’s cold. The upper is mostly full-grain leather, with heavy-gauge denier nylon at the ankle and tongue for flexibility. The whole boot is lined with a waterproof-breathable membrane and Primaloft insulation. The Velcro top strap and quick-lace system are easy to tighten and loosen with thick gloves, and the Vibram sole has chunky lugs for snow and port cleats should you choose to ride clipless. These boots might seem like overkill (though 45Nrth’s Wølfgar is even warmer), but given that feet are the first thing to go in the cold, we’re thrilled about the extra insulation.
NiteRider Lumina OLED 800 ($160) and Sentinel 40 ($50)
Lots of companies make good lights, but NiteRider’s genius OLED is the only one we’ll be using from here forward. Yes, it spits out 800 lumens and can cycle through three steady modes (full power, 400 lumens, and 200 lumens) and four blinking modes. But what really sets this headlight apart is the digital display that tells you remaining run times, down to the minute, in each of the modes. That means you’ll never conserve power when you don’t need to, and you’ll never end up in the dark again. The Sentinel 40 taillight is equally innovative, with multiple rear-facing blink patterns as well as sidelights that project laser lanes onto the pavement around you for better traffic visibility. If you buy the lights as a set, the price goes down to $200.
SealSkinz All Weather Cycle Glove ($60)
These midweight waterproof gloves aren’t the warmest you can buy, but we love the protection they afford as well as the dexterity of a thinner outer. The synthetic suede palm has insulating gel padding at the base of the fingers and on the butt of the hand, and the hexagonal rubber pattern on the fingertips and palm gets grippier when wet. They’re plenty durable—we’ve never had a failure in years of hard use—and we like sizing them up one size to fit a liner inside. For subzero days, we turn to the Highland XP Claw ($75), which offers all the same qualities and features, plus full insulation.
Superfeet merinoGREY Footbeds ($50)
We like the stability and support of Superfeet insoles, which alleviate hot spots and help with proper knee and ankle alignment. The all-season model, with a layer of merino wool on top of the standard Green footbed, keeps out the winter chill. We’ve used these in our road and mountain shoes, where they add 10 to 15 degrees of warmth. And they make a big difference even in a pair of boots like the Wölvhammer because they add structure and boost warmth even more. We own just one pair and migrate them from shoe to shoe throughout the winter.