Boots and gloves. Two things that really make it possible to bike commute year round. If your feet and hands are warm, then you're all good.
Last year I picked up a pair of Keen boots and they worked quite well for the most part. Then I wore them as wading boots this past summer - dumb idea, I know - and now they are all but worthless. They were never especially warm for stationary pursuits, but they worked well for the types of activities I used them for. However after immersion in the salt water, well... let's just say breathability became pretty much non-existent, making for some cold toes a lot of the time.
I'd toyed with the idea of just gutting it out for this year and then finding a bike-specific boot so that I can ride clipless year round starting next year. But I am loath to spend 200+ for a pair of boots that are purpose built. Seems silly to me.
So I started looking around at boots. Trying things on. Even purchasing a pair and then returning them. In the back of my head I kept thinking that I have boots and that they work in the general sense, so why not take that money and use it for something a bit more fun?
Then the wife found a boot for me. As with everything the wife does, she hit the nail on the head. Even after purchasing, I wasn't sure I would keep them, but after one two hour ride and a nice little snowy hike with the dogs and two day's commuting, I think I'm sold on the Merrell Norshund Alphas.
First, let me be clear that I've not worn these in deep cold conditions. It's been nearly 40 for the past few days. Not the best temps for testing boots. However, these shine in one area where the Keens failed me this winter - sweat management.
For two hours I rode yesterday in temps between 36 and 40 and my feet didn't get cold. This is significant as with the Keens lately I would have gotten cold feet after an hour or so as my feet sweated and then that sweat stayed against the skin. With the Merrells I had no damp against the skin. I never felt overly warm, either.
These boots are built like a combination Pac boot and hiking boot with enough support and stiffness that I might consider them for light snowboarding but with a removable liner that doubles as a camp booty.
They have amazing grip in loose snow conditions and I think they would work well with snowshoes.
I only have two minor complaints at this time. First, the tread pattern does make it a bit hard to get as good of connection with the pedals as what I was used to with the Keens. To get a good connection I have to move my feet out on the pedals a bit. Not uncomfortable, but will take some getting used to. The other complaint has to do with the liners. I love the idea of a removable liner. It just makes sense. I just wish that I could take off the boots a bit easier without having the liner come out. Sometimes I don't need to remove it so that it can dry, but there seems no way to simply slip the boot and liner on and off without the liner coming out.
Since we haven't had much in the way of beardcicle weather the last few days, I'll share a shot from a nice ride I did at Government Peak Rec Area over the break while my daughter was practicing with her school's ski team. I believe it was around -10 that morning.
What a beautiful place to ski, bike, walk the dogs, and generally recreate.