First impression was that they looked more like sacks than socks, not that aesthetics were my top priority, then I was disappointed to see the heating element didn’t even go beyond the ankle.
I’d done this journey two years before and have a preserved and frozen memory of icy discomfort. Knowing a tropical Mexican beach is a two weeks ride away gave motivation but not insulation to leave a frozen December Colorado.
The amount of wiring with the socks had me You Tubing hints and tips on where to run the excessive cable, surprisingly there was nothing on the subject, a gap in the You Tube market.
It’s never easy to test out your layers of winter warmth before you leave, either sweat in the house or face the monotony of a dress rehearsal outside. See if you can swing a leg over the bike and go back in the warm again. So with all the enthusiasm of a teenager with a broken phone, I went through the motions and half heartedly plugged in the cable, felt warmth then went back to my other pre trip planning.
On the day of departure there were a few inches of snow on the ground, the temperature a few degrees below freezing. I had run the cables up the inside of my linings and was relived to discover that I couldn’t feel them where my boots were fastened or where my knees were bent. A more satisfying connection would have been useful, a bayonet fit or a satisfying snap and click of some sort, the male to female connection felt insipid, I gathered lengths of excess flex out the top of my waistband, conscious that a tug to hard would pull the leads apart.
There is nothing graceful about the multilayered biker, prepared for a subzero ride, my form is fat and my gloves are cumbersome. Even the overland high kick to avoid the luggage as I mounted the steed would be a recognised move by the ministry of silly walks. Once on, I fasten leads to battery outlets and pressed the button, then stuffed the excess cable in my hip pocket.
I had imagined the formless bag of a sock would gather and bunch at the bottom of my boot, it didn’t, and as soon as I was moving and my confidence on the compact snow had my feet on the pegs, the effect of the socks were felt in full. There was no discomfort, only a glow that was not physiological hope but a genuine hug of heat. My feet were well and truly taken care of.
The body’s extremities are always the first to report back with stories of extreme discomfort but the feet were mute and content. The downside was I could give my full attension to my inadequate heated grips and numb fingers. If only I had got the gloves too, I’m not sure what I would have had to moan about if my fingers were not screaming ice blue murder. After 150 miles I stopped for some breakfast, with my gloves off, the dexterity did not improve, fingers pulled connections apart, before I slid off and dismounted the bike.
Walking in to the restaurant with trailing leads, looking like I’d unplugged myself from a life support machine (which in a way I had) I felt smug from the knee down, my old boots have just had central heating installed. In the toilet, cables and flies got tangled and like a fat man looking down, my upper body layers blocked the view and I could only feel my way round my waist band.
That night I undressed leaving the socks dangling from my trousers still connected; looking like a guy that needed stuffing, my lower half lay on the motel floor.
In the morning I wriggled in to the pre prepared clothing with no increased ease. My left foot got really cold on my 100 mile -3C pre breakfast ride. The left connection from sock to harness had come adrift and I think that stopped the right one working so well. It was more a case of are they on or not? It was only my second day, I know now they are so efficient that if they are working they leave you in no doubt. It’s real and a totally new experience, much like the time I wore a helmet intercom and for the first time discovering the voice in my head was genuine. What they lack in looks and fit they make up for in comfort and performance. There has to be a more efficient way of dealing with the excessive cable, and securing the connections but ultimately the new experience of sub zero temperatures and happy feet was a pleasure that makes winter a few degrees more bearable.
As a bonus when I reached the tropical pacific coast they stashed away at the bottom of a pannier without reducing the ever decreasing capacity as my luggage that was filled with discarded thermal layers.
Two months later they were retrieved from the bottom of a pannier and in a Mexican petrol station toilet I rewired myself up. I cannot emphasise enough how instant, constant, and efficient the heat is and how annoying, inadequate and badly designed the connections are. They kept coming disconnected on the 3 day ride up to the frozen Midwest. And when you have that many layers on, pulling down your trousers at the side of the road is not only unsightly but a slow, awkward and unwanted delay when you are destination driven to the warmth of a hotel or home. The heating effect is spectacular…when the connections cooperate. The yet-to-be released new model has a whole new, even less intrusive, system apparently. I’m keen to try the gloves because the conditions were beyond the capabilities of my heated grips.