To continue from the prior post, this is the conclusion to my winter riding gear overview.
There are many options when it comes to keeping you head warm, depending on how much of your face you also want to protect. If you are looking around in your closet for something, keep in mind whatever you choose needs to fit comfortably under your helmet. My primary concern when out in the cold, in addition to keeping my head warm, is keeping my ears from freezing. For this, I found the Sugoi SubZero Skull Cap to be an excellent choice. It is very thin and barely noticeable on your head, yet holds the heat in as well as most thick winter toques. If you are looking for additional protection, a balaclava would be a fine choice to increase coverage to your cheeks, chin and neck. There are many other head and face protection options available and they seem to be universal for many winter activities that use helmets including skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. For those guys looking for an excuse not to shave, keeping your face warm is the perfect reason to grow a beard.
I saved the most important for last. You can use your shoes that you use all season, but your feet will be cold, more accurately, frozen by the time your ride comes to an end. Even with a couple layers of socks, you will need some cold weather assistance in the footwear department. There are a couple options available, one of which is winter booties, which slip on over your existing cycling shoes. My friend Sheldon over at Bikeridr.com did a great review of the Sugoi winter riding bootie. These booties definitely help keep the snow and cold off your feet but they are a hassle. Booties are difficult to get on and the toes tend to come up if you encounter a hike-a-bike section allowing snow to get in your shoe vents. Finally, they are not very durable as I have wore out the pair I purchased last season in about 15 rides. That being said, this is definitely the way to go if you are only going to ride a few times over the winter or if you just want to see if winter riding is for you.
If you have already made the decision that you will be riding in the winter on a regular basis, the only option is a winter specific cycling shoe or boot. A few of us had a good discussion about winter footwear prior to our ride last Sunday. There are plenty of good options available but brand that seemed to be getting the most support was Lake, specifically the MXZ302 model. The opinions were that warmth of the Lake was similar to some other premium boots on the market, but what makes these stand out for users is the Vibram soul which provides superior traction on icy surfaces compared to any other MTB shoe available. If you find you aren't doing much walking, other less expensive options are available including popular cycling shoe brands such as Sidi and Shimano.
If you are riding in the winter months, make sure you take a look at the forecast prior to heading out and keep an eye on the time as it gets dark early. If you are going out by yourself, tell someone where you are going and when they can expect you back in case you are injured. It wouldn't take long to suffer hypothermia if you are laying in the snow unconscious or with a broken leg. Take a cell phone in case you experience mechanical troubles beyond your trail side ability to fix. There are fewer people out and about in the winter months so there is less of a chance someone will find you if you are in trouble.