Today’s QT comes to us from Sheri Rosenbaum, who also wrote the Weatherneck System review in today’s issue. A Chicago resident, Sheri is our RBR Crew expert in handling cold weather. She rides on occasion in temps as low as 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Here’s what Sheri wrote:
Consider Alpaca Instead of Merino Wool in Your Socks
My feet get cold even when I’m wearing purpose-built winter cycling boots. It’s an issue, I know, for many riders. Some of us get cold hands, others cold feet.
Blood simply does not flow as well to the extremities in cold weather, as our bodies are designed to, in effect, pull blood toward our core to help maintain our core temperature. Thus, the hands and feet suffer – and need extra help staying warm.
This year I upgraded to Alpaca socks. They are better than merino wool – 4 times warmer, wick moisture better, last for years, and are soft, to boot. You can slip them on and feel your feet getting toasty warm almost immediately. I found mine at https://alpacasofmontana.com/. You’ll likely pay a little more for a pair of Alpaca socks than for merino, but the quality and performance is worth it.
I first learned about Alpaca on a trip to Peru. At a local market, I bought a sweater and hat to take on my four-day trek to Machu Picchu. Warm, light weight and wicking was the perfect combination then, and it remains perfect for me now.
It’s been over 10 years since I discovered this great material, and still wear that sweater and hat. Now I don Alpaca socks when I ride in cold temps.
If you have an idea for a QT, fire away. We’re always looking for good info we can share with fellow roadies. We would love to hear from you with any suggestions you have. Contact us by clicking Quick Tips Ideas.
—John Marsh & The RBR Team
Bill Beck says
Sheri, the https://alpacasofmontana.com/ place has a lot of different socks! The “Maximum Warmth” ones look very thick. Which ones have you found to be good for cold-weather cycling?
“They are better than merino wool – 4 times warmer, wick moisture better”. Is there any objective evidence to back that claim up?
Bill, we actually bought several of their socks varying in thickness. It all depends on how much room you have in your shoes or boots. Remember you need air to circulate to keep feet warm. If your feet are crammed in there nothing will keep you warm. Also depends on how high on your leg you want to wear your socks.
I wear the thicker ones in my 45NRTH Wolvhammers since they are fairly big on me.
Todd, if you Google Alpaca Wool vs Merino Wool you’ll get dozens of articles that talk about the advantages of Alpaca. For the record, I bought the socks…not company sample…so I have no skin in the game, just in search of keeping my feet warmer in the winter. I have dozens of wool and manmade material socks. So far the Alpaca has been the warmest and the best for wicking. They were recommended to me by someone locally who rides in below zero temps (no thank you). So this year I tried it and wanted to share my positive experience. Anything to be able to ride outside longer and more comfortable. 😉
Sheri, indeed there is lots of articles with anecdotal comparisons, but are there actually any studies showing that an equal weight of alpaca vs. merino wool is 4X warmer and wicks better? I can’t find anything to back-up those claims.
Kerry Irons says
I had the same initial response to that comment. If you compare various insulators (foam vs. fiberglass home insulation) you can see the reason why the insulation factor would be different. Much harder to see why one wool would be 4X better insulator than another.
Found this, but for exact figures and verification, maybe reach out to the company.
Is alpaca fleece warmer than sheep’s wool?
Yes, alpaca tends to be warmer than sheep’s wool. Alpaca fibers are completely hollow, whereas sheep’s wool only contains pockets of air. Much like polar bear fur, both fibers allow air to permeate the surface and become trapped inside for a warm wearing experience. Alpacas have an advantage over wool though because of the extra hollow space in the fiber. This additional space creates a greater thermal capacity and allows for more warm air to fillthe textile and provide extra warmth over its sheep’s wool counterpart.
Joseph Nikstenas says
Just bought a pair! Starting my winter commuting. Though it has been too extremely cold in Cleveland the first two weeks. Will post a review…
Joseph, please do share your thoughts after you try them. Here’s hoping you have warm feet on your commutes.
Sheri, could you bemore specific. Are the thinnest of the socks they sell enough to keep your feet warm? Down to 32? Less? not at all? I would have thought the 45NRTHs would be pretty warm on their own and you’d want something thinner or medium weight rather than thicker.
Again, I need to reiterate that you need to have room for a thinker sock in your shoe/boot or air can’t circulate and your feet will be cold. I have a narrow foot so I have plenty of room in my 45NRTHs which allowed me to use a thick sock. I bought Maximum warmth sock https://alpacasofmontana.com/collections/alpaca-socks/products/maximum-warm-alpaca-socks I also have have the Alpaca striped over the calf sock that I’veused hiking in the snow. The striped sock is much thinner so it fit in my hiking boot. The Maximum warmth was too thick.
If you are still unsure and want to avoid returns, suggest contacting the company directly. They are very responsive on Facebook. I had a hard time getting a response using their online form. There’s also a telephone number on the site.
Hope that helps.
Bike Sandals are the way to go. Always room for more thermal. Plastic bags for wind proofing.
I ride with Sheri and at times ride in the single digits. My Wolvhammer s have enough room to get the thick socks in comfortably. Big improvement over my wool socks. Funny the alpacca socks are wet when I pull them out of the boot after a ride but my foot stays warm. I have bought the mid calf and high calf and like the tall one. The other big improvement I have made this year is a pair of snow pants over my bibs. If it’s sunny and not windy it’s amazing the conditions we can ride our fat bikes. Fresh snow in the woods is the bomb !
Another option is Amazon. A search on “alpaca socks” results in 8500+ products. Plenty of reviews too.
Minnesota John says
I LOVE alpaca socks. The only problem I found was durability. The manufacturer reminded me that because these are wool, they do not need to be washed after every use (duh!). Now, I enjoy my soft, warm alpaca socks, wash them after every 5 rides or so (they don’t get stinky), and they hold up as well as other socks I use.
I’ve got a pair of bison down/yak wool socks and they are as good as alpaca if not better. See buffalogold.net