Finding a cool weather sock with enough room in the knit structure to retain air, but dense enough to keep wind out, thick enough to feel like you're being protected, yet thin enough not to interfere with shoe fit, is harder than you think. But Assos's intermediateSocks_s7 manage to hit that balance. Here's how...
First things first, a simple sock isn't going to make you ride faster. But that's not to say that a good one (or even a pair) couldn't help improve your winter cycling, much in the same way that a badly chosen pair could ruin it. Assos's spring/autumn-specific Intermediate system has, for years, worked to deliver a balance between warmth, thermal regulation, weight and bulk.
When the mercury begins to drop, cold, especially in the extremities – feet, hands and ears – is a key reason for many autumn and winter rides being cut short. For feet, the temptation to whack on socks that are thick and warm looking is strong. It is, however, folly.
Feet need space to move, for warming oxygenated blood to flow through them. The tiny air pockets in the weave of your socks also need space to hold the air warmed by your feet. Remember, air is a good insulator and it, not the yarn per se, is what's going to keep your toes comfortable. So choosing too thick a sock means squeezing feet into a smaller space – reducing the space for warm air. The net effect is that thicker socks can make your feet colder instead of warmer. Compounding this, you get less space in the shoe, cutting blood flow, unless you've bought a size up for this purpose – though that also raises fit issues.
The intermediateSocks_S7 are longer than traditional ankle length types, with a 5in cuff. The sock fabric has a high density weave, using thin strands of polyamide yarn, but is also designed to be less compressive than normal cycling socks – to specifically reduce restriction of blood flow.
So what are they like to wear? The fine weave gives the socks a luxuriously smooth and enveloping feel, less like something knitted, more something moulded. The low profile construction means you do feel the internal structure of your shoes a little more than expected.
They don't absorb much water when wet – the weave simply doesn't have the space between the fibres to hold much moisture – and when they did get a splash they dried off pretty quickly too. Durability is good too. I've ridden 100 very dirty miles in mine with four washes and they still look box fresh. Other Assos socks in my collection are still going strong after five years, so the future for the S7s looks rosy.
But are they warm, the whole point of the socks? The answer is yes, because of smart thinking, not strict following of tradition. I think they're good down to about 8°C; below that and I suggest you look at Assos's specific winter weight Bonka sock. That, and using oversocks and overshoes, and/or specific winter shoes with fewer – if any – vents.
As technical socks go, these deliver on their marketing promise of being warm yet relatively thin
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Assos intermediateSocks_s7
Size tested: 43-46
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
These socks are aimed at riders looking for thin, yet warm sock ideal for autumn/spring rides in temperatures down to around 8°C.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The sock uses a tight weave structure to maintain shape, yet specifically not to have undue levels of compression which can lead to restricted blood flow and colder, not warmer feet.
Generally very good. The toe seam could be a little neater.
They're thin, warm and they stay up. The classic triple whammy for a sock.
I've ridden this pair for nearly 100 miles and there are no obvious signs of wear. I also caught them on brambles and that failed to pull any threads.
It's a sock, so it's not really an issue.
The socks are very comfortable. The heel and toe both fit well and the level of compression, while minimal, feels right, offering support and control without cutting the blood flow.
The asking price is ballpark for a technical sock.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The socks work as advertised, keeping my feet warm without restriction, extra thickness or bulk.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit, the cut and the height. Plus they're stripey...
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Assos trumpets the technical prowess of the socks, which through testing and comparison with other socks of the genre, I found to be pretty accurate.
About the tester
Age: 43 Height: 5ft 9in Weight:
I usually ride: My seven titanium My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, sportives, mountain biking, a bit of everything