A little while ago, Smartwool sent me a couple pairs of cycling socks to try out. I've had a chance to try them and thought I'd do a little writeup. Before I do, though, I want to mention this morning's ride. Another guy named Mark, who lives in Utah, started tracking times up the Clark's trail in Draper. I've wanted to try it to see how I measured up but haven't gotten around to it yet. So I started my own Boise version: the Sidewinder TT.
It's pretty simple, just start your watch where the Sidewinder spur comes off of Crestline, and stop it at the intersection with Trail 4. There's a sign at each of these locations in case you want to be that precise about it. When you're done, send me an email with your name, date of your attempt, and your time. If you want me to note that you were on a single speed, or a cross bike, or a recumbent, or whatever, I'll do that. Actually, I won't do that if you're on a recumbent, but if you do want to do it on a recumbent, let me know before your attempt so I can come watch. If you improve on a previous attempt, I'll move you up in the standings. I'd like to get as many local riders as possible doing this and see where it goes. I'll even work on getting some sponsors to throw in a prize or two so that the best time at the end of the season has more than just bragging rights. Oh, and if you're a club rider and want me to mention your affiliation, I can do that, too. Who knows, it may help with the whole sponsorship/prizes thing.
Troy and I gave it a go this morning, with Troy on his cross bike and me on the 29er. I did it in 9:10 and Troy came in at 10:30. Brad and Steve were also riding with us, but didn't time trial it. I think had Brad ridden his XC bike, he would have smoked me. Which is why I didn't tell him when I invited him on the ride that we were going to TT sidewinder--I wanted to have a chance to be in first place for at least a day.
Now back to the socks. As I mentioned in my first post about socks, my favorite socks were a pair of Smartwools that have since been discontinued. Well the new socks they sent me, the PhD Cycling Ultralight Mini, as well as a similar pair that's yet to be released but is basically the same sock just a bit longer, I like every bit as much, but for different reasons. The old socks are great because they fit my feet without bunching, are thin enough to fit in my cycling shoes, and breathe nicely without getting soggy or even too stinky.
The PhD's have many of the same qualities. They are thicker, but not uniformly so. The tops are quite thin, with a little more material under the balls of the feet and at the heels. While initially I was concerned about the added thickness, I think this is the secret to their best trait: they prevent hot spots. I have not been particularly happy with my Sidi MTB shoes because they have no padding in the insole and, relative to my road shoes, cause more hotspots and sore feet. These problems are virtually eliminated when I wear my new Smartwool socks.
There's an X-shaped pattern over the instep that also seems to provide some relief from instep pressure. You can see the parallel blue stripes that are woven into this X-shaped pattern in the photo above--I have no idea if these stripes are ornamental or functional, but either way the socks are comfortable with no instep soreness, even after long rides.
The prototype socks in the photo are a longer length, which for some reason I quite like. I've got other socks this length, and I'll probably buy more in the future.
Are these socks perfect? Nearly. But if I'm picking at nits, here's a couple. First, the added thickness, while great for preventing hot spots, could eventually lead to numbness on really long rides when my feet tend to swell up (update: I wore these socks on a 120 mile ride with no numbness problems from swelling). If you don't have Fred Flintstone feet like me, this may be a non-issue. My only other gripe is the retail price: $13.95/pair. A little more than I want to pay for socks, but if it means comfortable feet on a long ride like RAWROD or Lotoja, then it's money well spent.