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RBR Newsletter

An Ode to Wool Socks

I hope you’re having a terrific fall riding season (and an equally great early spring in the Southern Hemisphere)! Many of us tend to think of the two “shoulder seasons” as the best time of year to ride.

It has felt more like spring than fall here in Atlanta so far, with lingering warm daytime temps, but cooler overnights and early mornings. Those cool mornings, especially, are the perfect time for me to start wearing one of my favorite cycling products – wool socks.

It’s kind of funny to think that wool socks, of all things, are among my favorite cycling gear! But my toes have always been my “Achilles’ heel” when it comes to weather. They are the first things to get cold on my body, so I’ve always had to pay them special attention. Wool is the perfect material to keep them happy.

I know some riders who wear wool socks year-round – and they’re certainly well-suited for that. They breathe and wick moisture pretty well. I like to save them for fall, though, because their special ability to keep your tootsies warm even when wet is ideal for this time of year, and into the winter.

And the fact that they come in various thicknesses allows you to “build up” (in thickness and warmth) as the temps drop and the days get shorter.

In fact, I’ve been wearing a few different makers’ woolies lately, all of which have their merits. Instead of individual reviews, I thought I’d just sing the praises of wool, in general, and let you know about the ones I’ve been wearing, because you really can’t go wrong with just about any wool socks. Interestingly, all three of these makers have a little different twist on their approach.

Sock Guy

Sock Guy is a California-based company long known as a quality maker of cycling socks (it also produces socks for running, skiing, etc., as well as a bit of additional gear, like arm warmers and such). The company has fun with it, putting different brand’s logos and catchy designs on their socks. The pairs I’ve been wearing feature an IPA (India Pale Ale) tag, and a Sasquatch rendering (see photo), which immediately drew the attention of the cycling buddy I was riding with on the unveiling.

The woolies I’ve been trying out this fall are 6-inch “crew cuff” sized, and fairly thin. They’re made from what Sock Guy calls TurboWOOL, a blend of 50% Merino wool and 50% polypropylene. The company claims this blend is 5 times the strength and durability of Merino wool alone.

What I like most about these socks is that they are effectively the same thickness as regular cycling socks, so they feel exactly the same in your shoes. Yet, they deliver on the warmth and dryness/wicking that wool socks promise, so they’re especially good to reach for when those cool morning temps start out below your “comfort zone” but are likely to increase throughout the ride.

Sock Guy woolies come in a variety of cuff heights and designs. $12.95 - $13.95. http://www.sockguy.com.

FITS

This company, based in Tennessee, has been primarily an outdoors-sock maker, producing socks for hiking, hunting, skiing and the like for more than 100 years, in the oldest operating hosiery mill in the U.S. FITS realized a couple of years ago that their merino-blend wool socks were perfect for cycling, too.

Because of this, what they market as “biking” socks on their site are called Light Trail Quarter (see photo)  and Pro Trail Performance Quarter. (They also provided a pair of Medium Hiker Crew socks, which I have not yet worn. They’re a bit too thick for the weather so far this fall but will surely come into play later on.)

The quarter cuff socks are a merino-nylon-polyester-spandex blend, with the Pro Trail model offering cushioning in the footbed, which makes them a little thicker. Both are already somewhat thicker than the Sock Guy woolies, which makes them ideal for somewhat cooler temps. (And they work great for hiking, too.)

FITS are available online at http://fitssock.com. $16.99 - $17.99.

SealSkinz

This U.K. company produces an array of socks, gloves, hats and related items for various outdoor activities, including road cycling, nearly all of which are claimed to be 100% waterproof and windproof. The company website boasts that all its products are designed in Great Britain, 50% are “hand built” in Great Britain, and every single piece it makes is hand-tested to ensure it is completely waterproof!

I’ve been wearing the Thin Mid Length Sock (see photo), which covers at least the lower calf. The socks feature two layers, including an inner layer of merino, polyester, acrylic, elastodiene and elastane. The outer layer is nylon and elastane. Between these layers is a “hydrophilic” membrane that you can feel and see. Still, the socks are claimed to be breathable, and I have not noticed any undue sweating or retained moisture when wearing them.

Because of the double layers, they are somewhat thicker than the other “thin” woolies I’ve been wearing. I haven’t had the occasion yet to wear them in the rain, but if there’s a real threat of rain on a cold ride this fall or winter, I’m reaching for these socks (they also come in two thicker weights), or the Cycle Over Socks (boot covers) from SealSkinz, also 100% waterproof.

SealSkinz products are available online at http://www.sealskinz.com (choose your country of origin when visiting the site). $38.00 - $58.00.

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