Technical FAQ: Cold-weather cycling boots; stationary trainer damage

Lennard offers advice on the best cycling boots for cold conditions. Plus, a carbon repair firm weighs in on the damage that can be caused by indoor trainers.

Photo: Corbis via Getty Images

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Dear Lennard,
I want to find a better solution for my feet when riding in the winter. My feet are always cold out here in the Midwest when it’s below freezing, even with shoe covers on. On wet and snowy days, the shoe covers get ice balls underneath them anyway. And it gets expensive replacing shoe covers all of the time when they get torn up due to walking in them or the zippers fail.

What do you suggest for cold-weather riding? I ride in any weather, even below zero, and the roads and bike paths out here are often wet, too.
— Jay

Dear Jay,
I love this time of year in the Rockies, and I, too, love riding all winter, including on super cold days, in the snow. Frozen fingers and toes are what cuts those rides short. To keep my toes warm, I rely on winter cycling shoes—more like winter cycling boots. I use ones with mountain-bike soles and cleats or spikes on them, to deal with slippery conditions while on foot and to be able to get in and out of the pedals after jumping off in snow, mud or wet sand.

Down to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, I wear one of two pairs of high-topped, warm cycling boots. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowy, rainy, or muddy, either of these pairs works great in it.

Lennard’s Lake MX145. Photo: Lennard Zinn

For many years, I have worn Lake MX145 cycling boots in those 10F and up temperatures. They’re roomy, comfortable, warm, and dry even when its wet. They have super long straps with super long BOA cables to open wide no matter how thick of socks I’m trying to get in with.

The Northwave Extreme XCM GTX. Photo: Lennard Zinn

For the past year, I have also used Northwave Extreme XCM GTX cycling boots under those same 10F and up temperatures. They are also roomy, comfortable, warm, and dry even when its wet. They do not open but instead require sliding the foot in through a tall, stretchy neoprene cuff. I have a very high instep, and getting in was a big problem until I sewed a second loop on the front of the cuff, like all of my Nordic ski-racing boots have on their neoprene cuffs. Now it’s a snap to pull the boots on by yanking on both loops, front and rear. The forefoot of the shoe is tightened with a BOA closure. Since the boot has no openings, it stays completely dry inside, even when running through puddles.

The Lake MXZ400 cycling boot. Photo: Lennard Zinn

When the weather is colder yet, sub-zero and up to 10F, I wear a very old version of Lake MXZ400 cycling boots. These ones are super thick and have very thick bubble-wrap-like insoles. They are made of kangaroo leather, and I have had toasty feet in them riding cyclocross even at 12 degrees below zero F. Being leather, they require smearing waterproofing wax on them periodically. They open easily and close with BOA closures covered with baffle flaps held down with Velcro. I have probably ridden with these boots for a dozen years. Before getting these boots, I had for many years used the prior version, which was identical except that it had two sets of laces instead of BOA closures. Those two sets of laces made it a real pain to put them on and off—the BOA cables made them much more usable.

Another thing I do is shim the cleats up on all of these cycling boots for snowy conditions. On my standard, warm-weather mountain bike shoes, I mount the cleats right onto the soles with only a thin steel protector plate under them to prevent cracking the carbon outsoles. On the winter boots, however, I put a plastic cleat shim underneath each cleat to raise it off of the sole enough to make it much easier to clip in when the soles are iced up. I use one shim under the cleat on the Lake MX 145s and the Northwave Extreme XCM GTXs. On the super-cold-weather Lake leather boots, I stack up two shims under each cleat. In the conditions I ride those boots in, I’m much more interested in clipping in easily than I am in any vertical slop I might have when riding in deep snow.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I had a bike fit for my new Cervelo R3 frameset which conveniently reflects the frame sizes of my other bikes. There is only one setup/frame issue I have been trying to resolve though; this is the matter of front wheel shimmy on steep/fast descents with the R3, something I have never experienced on other bikes. I have questioned whether my weight distribution and position was promoting this perhaps and was also concerned about some Zipp 303s which I thought were contributing too, however it occurs with my Campag Neutrons also.

I rode my Litespeed Siena with the Zipps the other day and experienced no ill effects descending fast and steep. So I am wondering if the fine-tuned carbon frame of the R3 is contributing through resonances or something? Clearly the Siena soaks up vibes.

I have also noted my shoulder bone width is only 36cm so 38-40cm bars as in the Siena should be best. I was running 42cm bars on the R3 which measure at +4cm outside to outside over bars on Siena. So R3 now has 40cm bars and 90mm stem (previously 100mm). Some testing is taking place.

I want to keep riding the R3 on Fondo rides like next year’s Maratona but am starting to get concerned that the Siena may be a better bet?

Any advice you can give that will get me descending with more stability on the R3 would be welcomed.
— Steve

Dear Steve,
To eliminate the shimmy, the frame needs to be stiffer in torsion, and/or the wheels need to be laterally stiffer. You can get some insight in my answer about the Lemond 853 frameset in this post. And for a more technical discussion of the causes of the phenomenon, scroll down in this post to the discussion of Hopf Bifurcation.

Realistically, that bike is not going to ever ride shimmy-free for you, since those Zipp wheels should be plenty stiff enough to prevent it if the frame were stiff enough.
― Lennard

Feedback on carbon bikes on stationary trainers:

Dear Lennard,
Thanks for your interesting columns. I would just like to chime in with the following:

While endless winter Zwifting may not damage a carbon frame, profuse sweating will do all sorts of bad things to a bike that is not adequately protected and cleaned. As many of your readers might be new to indoor riding, I think it is useful to remind them to either mount a sacrificial winter bike on the Tacx or to clean their nice bike regularly.
— James

Dear James,
This is a very good point. We have had bikes in our shop that the aluminum stem and aluminum headset spacers were so corroded from being sweated upon that they were bonded together and to the carbon fork steering tube so permanently that they could not be removed. We had to chop off the fork to get it out and had to sacrifice the fork, stem, and spacers.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I wanted to issue some information regarding trainers we have seen from our side of the carbon fiber repair world. We have seen several damage modes from trainers over the years. At Ruckus Composites, we always take a more in-depth forensics engineering approach to the damages we witness and try to understand the root causes.
There are three primary modes of damage that occur:
1. Not properly securing the bike’s rear axle in the trainer and the bike dropouts can get ‘mangled’ from the trainer interface
2. The rider overpowers their stability platform and falls over onto their bike which can damage the seat stays, chain stays, TVs, coffee tables or whatever is nearby!
3. Aluminum dropouts that are bonded into the carbon fiber chain stays see a significant bending load and can break the epoxy bonds.
The good news is that these are all preventable situations, and if these situations occur, we can repair and repaint the damaged area in only two weeks.
— Shawn Small
Owner || Engineer
Ruckus Composites

Dear Shawn,
Great information. I ought to have consulted you in the first place before posting that column!
― Lennard

Lennard Zinn, our longtime technical writer, joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a custom frame builder ( and purveyor of non-custom huge bikes (, a former U.S. national team rider, co-author of “The Haywire Heart,” and author of many bicycle books including “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” “DVD, as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”
He holds a bachelor’s in physics from Colorado College.

Follow @lennardzinn

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