By August 31, 2009

Bridgedale knee high ski sock review – from a motorcycle perspective

One of the problems with motorcycle boots — particularly if you ride year ’round and have waterproof boots like my Sidi OnRoads — is that your feet get hot in a hurry. Even if it is cold while riding, walking around generates a lot of heat. And then you hop back on the bike and your feet get supercooled thanks to your foot perspiration. Summertime is a bit of the opposite problem: I don’t have to worry about getting cold, but regulating my foot temperature goes a long way in my overall comfort. I don’t even need to mention what a drag sopping wet cotton socks are when you’re caught in the rain.

My sock research pushed me to wool socks. They regulate heat and moisture better than cotton socks, but I was concerned about itching. When you’re riding mid-distance like I do, little things like an itch deep in a boot can really wear on you. I found a pair of midweight, calf-height socks by SmartWool, which features a blend of soft merino wool and other synthetic fibers. I wound up buying six of their snowboard socks at $6.95 each from Sierra Trading Post, and love them to pieces. Almost literally.

I’ve worn my SmartWool socks every day to work from February of 2009 until about July. I had worn them a lot before then, so by the time July rolled around, the socks were pretty tired. They sagged by the end of the day, and my frequent laundering had turned them slightly coarse. Even though they did a great job at keeping my feet cool in the early Virginia summer heat, temperatures were pushing 100°F with humidity. I needed something else.

Unfortunately Sierra Trading Post has had a hard time keeping SmartWool socks in stock. They very rarely have my size, and when they do, the socks are much more expensive than when I got my snowboard socks. As of this writing, they only have one set of socks in my size, for $10 a pair. That’s not a terrible price these days; I saw snowboard socks from them on “closeout” at around $12.95 a pair.

Despite my love for SmartWool as a brand, I needed new socks, and I needed to get a lot of them without breaking the bank. I turned to Bridgedale (also sold by STP) and tried out their ski socks. They are 38% polypropylene, 37% merino wool, 24% nylon, and 1% Lycra®. I bought them for $6.95 each before shipping (they are back up to about $10 now).

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/7475-2/IMG_0123.JPG
Bridgedale ski socks on your left, SmartWool snowboard socks on your right.

I noticed two things as soon as I tried them on: they are very soft and very high. They are a lighter weight than my SmartWool snowboard socks — probably half as thick if I had to estimate. I realize more goes into thermal retention than just material thickness, but the “loft” is my thinner on the Bridgedales. I have worn them to work every day since July 13th. Temperatures have been over 100°F a few days, and as low as 72°F.

The socks have done a good job keeping my feet temperature regulated. I wish the socks were a little less “warm,” but I am asking a lot of them especially astride Apollo, my 2009 Yamaha FJR1300A. That bike pumps hot air from the engine at right about foot level. Still, they are cooler than wearing my SmartWools.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/7480-2/IMG_0125.JPG
Bridgedale knee high socks on your right, SmartWool midweight snowboard socks on your left.

I am glad the socks are so high, as the elastic isn’t strong enough to hold them up all day. As I have laundered them a few times, the elastic has gotten even weaker. My socks bunch down at about calf-height (probably due to my ankle-high work boots). It’s not a big deal to pull them up and I really don’t notice, but it’s an indication of the higher-quality SmartWool socks.

The product literature says there are “side vents” on the socks, but if that’s true I’ve never felt them work. Then again, my Sidi OnRoad boots are a little taller than calf-height. I guess every little bit helps when keeping your foot cool with tall-ass wool socks on.

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/7478-2/IMG_0124.JPG
Bridgedale socks in the foreground, SmartWool socks in the background. You can sort of see the “vents” on the Bridgedales.

I’ve had the Bridgedale knee high ski socks for a little over a month now. I tentatively recommend them. I would buy a set of SmartWool lightweight socks of equivalent height in a heartbeat if all things were equal. Unfortunately, the price and availability of SmartWool through Sierra Trading Post and similar outlets leaves a lot to be desired. Retail price for both the Bridgedale and the SmartWool socks is about $20, which is a ridiculous amount to pay for either of them. Hell, I feel a little sketched out about recommending these Bridgedales at $10 each.

If you are patient, sign up for STP’s email list. They’ll send you 20% off coupons with regularity, and if your timing is right you can get some SmartWool or Bridgedale socks in your size for a little bit less.

The Bridgedale knee high ski socks are acceptable for motorcycling, and so I consider them:

Recommended.

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