Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Product Review: Smartwool Socks

Socks often end up an afterthought for cyclists looking to get fully equipped with all the necessary gear for the long haul. The clothing world in general relegates the lowly sock to the bottom spot on the totem pole. Not even underwear is subject to such a lack of attention.

But any encounter with a really well made sock will prove this lack of attention to be quite unfair. Ask any bike fitter and they will tell you that the foot pedal interface is arguably the most important part of a bike fit. This is where the vast majority of the power generated by your body is transmitted to the bike, but if things down there are out of kilter, then in the words of Walter in the Big Lebowski, "You are about to enter a world of pain."

Thankfully, Smartwool socks are about the opposite of pain. Their use of all-natural merino wool has a number of benefits over the traditional synthetic fabric socks that (I think, unjustly) dominate the cycling market. They wick moisture away from your feet in a way that synthetics all claim to, but don't. Because they keep your feet drier, they are better able to allow your feet to regulate their own temperature, so they keep your feet warmer when it's cold out, and cooler when it's hot. This, and the fact that the merino is naturally antimicrobial makes them less prone to stinkiness. Even socks that are specifically designed to reduce odor (think x-static) don't live up to the hype the way Smartwools do. Last but not least, Smartwools are obscenely comfortable- so obscenely comfortable, in fact, that I can't even repeat what a friend of mine remarked upon trying their hiking sock for the first time.

Smartwool has been making a concerted effort of late to grow their cycling specific line-up, including not only socks, but baselayers, jerseys, helmet liners, and more. I'm confident that once people try out their socks, like the PhD cycling models, they will feel comfortable opening the wallet for any of these other products. All of their stuff is nice, but the socks?... The best, most exalted socks on the face of the planet. How's that for a ringing endorsement? ~RC

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