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It would be fair to say that I’ve tried more winter glove options than I’ve had hot-coffee-and-fresh-baked-muffin stops on bike rides. I hate cold hands (and I live in chilly Scotland) so my winter glove wearing is a year-round thing. In the ‘balmy’ summer months I might be on a thick pair of long-fingered gloves. But, at the first sign of the leaves changing color, I’m working my way up through the gloves until I eventually arrive at my extreme weather pogies.
Pogies have been a game-changer for me in cold weather and I’ll talk more about these in a moment. I’ll also look at the different types of cold weather cycling gloves that are available and pass on tips for a few of my recommended gloves along the way. You might also find another of my articles useful – a round-up of what to wear when you’re cycling in chillier temperatures.
So, before the mercury drops any lower, let’s dive straight in and take a look at the best ways of keeping our digits warm and toasty.
How to choose cycling gloves for winter riding
There are plenty of options available for keeping your hands warm when you’re on the bike. I’ve run through the pros and cons of each of these below, including a description of what they are and how they work. Let’s take a look.
Pros – maintain all the dexterity in your hands and fingers
Cons – ok, I’ll admit they look a little unusual
A common sight on courier’s motorbikes and farmer’s quad bikes, pogies are a thing of genius. They’re essentially a neoprene (i.e. wetsuit material) gauntlet that sits on your handlebars. Slide your hand inside and you can do everything that you need to do: hold the bar, pull the brakes, and change gears. With the neoprene protection though it’s like having your hand in a warm cocoon.
The really clever thing about pogies is that, because you’ve got that warm outer layer, it means you can wear a much thinner pair of gloves and still have toasty fingers on the coldest of days. Thinner gloves means that you have more dexterity and are able to operate the brakes and gears easier.
Before I bought a pair of these I was very skeptical about how good they’d be. After cycling around throughout last winter using them, I’m a total convert.
They’re available in either a flat bar style, suitable for mountain bikes, hybrids, commuter bikes, etc. And also in a road bike drop bar style.
Grab a pair before the weather gets too cold.
Heated cycling gloves
Pros – central heating in glove form – Wow!
Cons – you need to remember to charge the batteries
Lithium-ion battery tech has come on in leaps and bounds over recent years and we’ve reached the point where they can now be installed in so many devices. Here we have them tucked away in a pair of winter cycling gloves. For me, this is mind-blowing.
The batteries on these heated gloves charge up in around 2-3 hours. Once you’ve got them on your hands, turn the power on and you’ll start feeling the warmth in under a minute. Generally the gloves will stay heated for around 2 hours so are great for early morning commutes, for example.
Lobster cycling gloves
Pros – fingers stay toasty when they stay together
Cons – lack of dexterity and trickier to use touchscreens
When I’m out for a cycle wearing too-thin gloves for the weather I often find that I start pulling my fingers into the palm area from time to time to get a little ‘shared warmth’ from having my fingers together. This is great for warding off frostbite, but not great for pulling the brakes in an emergency.
But, it’s true that keeping your fingers next to each other allows them to share their heat and stay warmer. If only there was a way to do that and not lose finger dexterity….
Lobster gloves are the happy compromise you’ve been looking for. These have three digit compartments rather than the five you’ll see on standard gloves. One for your thumb, one for your index and middle fingers, and one for ring and little finger.
2 in 1 mitten bike gloves
Pros – great for days when it’s hot then cold, then hot then cold…
Cons – mitten cover can flap in the wind
These are perfect for those days when the weather just doesn’t know what it’s doing. Freezing cold one minute, then warmer and toasty the next. I think I last had a pair of gloves like this when I was about 5 years old, so I was intrigued to see what they’d be like now that I’m (slightly) older. The answer? They’re fantastic! Perfect for bike rides when the weather just doesn’t know what it’s up to. Hot one minute, cold the next, repeat, repeat. When it’s warmer you can keep you fingers out. But when it turns a little colder flip the mitten covers over your fingers and seal in the warmth.
I also found that they were really useful when you’ve got a hilly route to cycle. Going uphills generates plenty of body heat, so zips get undone, hats come off, etc. Going downhills though is a different matter. You’re not doing so much work on the descents and you’re also affected by windchill. Both of these combine to make your fingers (which take the lead on a descent, obviously!) much colder. So, get to the top of the hills, flip on the mittens, and coast down the other side in comfort.
Thermal cycling gloves
Pros – good dexterity and excellent for touchscreen use
Cons – only good for the warmer cold weather (unless teamed up with pogies)
With all-year-round chilly hands like I have, thermal gloves like these are what I wear even in the summertime. If you don’t feel the cold as much as I do, then these could be perfect for your wintertime riding.
They’re good because lots of them now have special finger pads that will work with touchscreens such as your phone or GPS. They also mean that you keep the dexterity in your hands even whilst keeping you warm. If you find that you need a little extra warmth in the coldest of months, but still like this style of glove, then I’d recommend teaming them up with the pogies I mentioned above. I think it’s a great combo of warmth and dexterity.
Is there anything worse than cold fingers when you’re riding a bike? Well, probably, but I bet it’s all you can think about when the ice is seeping into your digits and you feel like you’re going to lose your fingertips to frostbite at any moment.
Luckily there are some great ways to fight back against Jack Frost and I hope that this list has given you the ammo you need.
Keep warm! Safe riding.
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