Wednesday, January 20

Cool Hand Dick

Bear with me until I get to my point/ask for your advice and anecdotal information.

I've been a year-round bike commuter type guy ever since I got a sorta decent mountain bike back in the late '80s.  I rode my bike to class and work at Youngstown State University, despite having anything close to decent winter gear aside from my plastic Body Glove shorts and a baja (still have it BTW).  My only saving grace was the fact that I lived pretty close to campus.  Otherwise, I think I'd be dead right now.

Fast forward to my move to Charlotte in '96.  Winters are much more gentle here.  Sure, we see some temps in the teens, a very occasional dip into single digits, but most of the worst of it is days with low 20s topping out in the mid to high 30s.  I can get through the worst of it at/on the way to work with these:

I bought these wind blocking, insulated mittens over fifteen years ago.  They are "the shit."  Anything above 25° and my hands are sweating by the time I get to work, to the point that when my commute was fifty minutes every morning, I would do the last ten blocks or so with bare hands.  Mittens are perfect for fixed gear bike cycle riding, being that the only thing that requires any dexterity is ringing my bell.  I got a thumb that does that.  Perfect.

Here's the problem that plagues me.  I want a glove that meets the following criteria:

* Keeps my hands warm for 2-3 hours on a mountain bike at 25-35°
* Has enough dexterity (lack of bulk) to use brake levers and such
* Doesn't have ANY gel insert or padding on the palm (too bulky for good grip)
* Wind block would be nice
* Roomy enough for thin liner gloves (willing to size up for that)
* Preferably, no Velcro at wrists
* Long enough cuffs to get under the sleeve of my coat
* Reasonably priced

I've purchased so many failures over the last twenty years.  Gloves that left me disappoint, and either ended up in the pile or given away within a week of getting them.  I'm not willing to consider pogies or heated grips for a long list of reasons:

* I want a solution that will work on all my bikes
* I'm not leaving pogies on my tarck bike out in the rain all day
* I'm not buying heated grips for three bikes (not to mention the ESI grips are crucial on the rigid)

Okay.  That list wasn't very long at all.

Here's what I've been doing for the last so many years:

A pair of Answer gloves probably intended for summer but way too warm (for their intended purpose) and poochy fitting that let me run a pair of cheap knit polypro liners from... I dunno where I got them. Alone, the Answer gloves get me down to maybe the 39° mark.  At 35°, they can get me through a fair amount of time... if the sun is out... and the wind is minimal.  Any lower temps, and my fingers are thumping in anger in way less than an hour.  With the liners, 30° all the way to work with minimal pain.

I'm looking for a solution to the problem... other than HTFU.

Is there a general consensus on a glove that's out there right now that I can purchase that will NOT let me down?  Please don't ask me to wear thin rubber gloves under normal gloves, since that sounds hot and clammy, not to mention an environmental headache that a guy like me (you re-uses ziploc bags) can't handle.  Also, don't send me a link to a pair of gloves that's "rated" for use at such and such temperatures.  Lies. Lies.  Lies.  Been down that road.

Or am I looking for something that doesn't exist?  Can dexterity-friendly five finger gloves do the job at temps that low?  I've got tiny hands, so they just can't be bulky.  I can't hold on to the bars coming down Black Mountain if I can't get my hands around the grips.

Thanks in advance.  Comments and FaceFeedBackBook apreesh.


xjoex said...

I have purchased about 1000 pair of gloves trying to find the right gloves. What works the best for me is a liner with a pair of OR goretex covers. Admittedly I wear mittens mostly.

But really the only thing that works for me for long rides thiough, bar mitts. The neoprene ones work a treat in the 20-35 range, and the super duper Dogwood Designs ones work in the single digits.

About 1000 glove reviews here:


wandr said...

You should try the Pearl Izumi Elite Softshells. They are going to go against a lot of your requirements, but they are by far the most versatile glove I've tried for winter riding. I've used them from Wyoming and Colorado, all the way to New Jersey, down to about 25 degrees comfortably. They breathe well, but not so well that your hands freeze. They have gel, but after about 10 rides, that gel squished down enough that I can't even tell there is gel in there anymore. If I think temps are going to get lower, I bring a thin liner, and I'm good til about 15 degrees, depending on the wind. I've only used them fat biking, so I can't say what they would be like on a squishy bike or on long open stretches of road bike speeds, but for me they work.

Travis Butler said...

I had the same issue. What works for me is I use my regular summer riding gloves, then went to CVS/Walmart or wherever, and bought the $5 cotton/wool/acrylic (I don't know what it's made from) gloves in the fat person size. No Velcro, not bulky, has a higher cuff and I can ride normal. I replace them after the season. Cheap and works way better than fancy gloves and if my hands get hot, I pull off the outer glove. Or you can just throw money at the problem because, America.

Moe said...

First off, I had some pretty bad frostbite on a couple fingers and my thumbs a few years ago from a snake creek gap creek incident at 27 degrees and was too dumb to quit the race, so stayed out for 4 more hours with frozen hands and toes..... So, I have trouble keeping my thumbs and a couple fingertips warm in cold temps.
I too have enough money tied up in gloves that I don't wear because they don't perform, that I could buy another set of NOX hoops. To me, there is a huge difference in what can be used on the road/gravel with the temps in the mid 20s and what can be used in the woods on a MTB. The wind is the biggest factor for me. Which is why so many people love the Bar Mitts, but I just can't bring myself to want to put something that looks that stupid on my bike. I have a couple of the Pearl Izumi gloves that work well. I think the model that falls between the two pairs that I have is probably the perfect glove, but I don't have them yet. I have the Pearl Izumi Elite Softshells as wandr has, and use them for CX rides on the backroads. I personally think they are a bit bulky and lack bar feel / control for technical MTB rides with ESI chunky grips. My description of this is that the inner lining seems to "float" a little inside of the glove. Leaving you with a little lateral slip feel on the bars. Almost like I would feel more secure with bar ends or something. BUT, they work great down to the mid 20s for me on gravel rides. For MTB rides, I use the Pearl Izumi Cyclone Gel gloves. They seem to work well down into the mid 20s for an hour or two for me. After a few hours, my fingers start to get cold. The dexterity is great, the gel is very minimal and sewn in with leather so doesn't seem to have any lateral motion on the bars. (I use handup gloves for warm weather, so like good bar feel). The next set of gloves that I am buying is the Pearl Izumi Select Softshells. They look like they fit right between the two that I have. They don't have gel, don't have velcro, and look a bit warmer than the cyclones. Sorry for not having a good answer, but in this comment I have decided what I'm buying next. Good luck!

sperho said...

I use the previous version of these:

I bought them 1 size up than I normally do, but it turns out to be only about a half size bigger, which means they fit reasonably well even without the thin silk liners that I use with them to make them useful down to at least 30F, which is the coldest I've ridden with them. They performed admirably.

Give them a look.

T Schmidt said...

I will third the pearl izumi gloves, although i ride with the select model. Really happy with the range on these, breath enough to be good from 25-45 or so, and enough room to slip a liner or a summer glove underneath. Without a second glove they move a little bit but no real padding in them.'s/Essentials/gloves/Men's%20SELECT%20Softshell%20Glove/p/14141209

dicky said...

I've tried on the Specialized gloves. Way too bulky for me with the inserts, and I don't trust Spec temp recommendos. They burned me twice already on that.

I am reading all the comments here and on FB and making a list to research later.


Dwayne said... Used em' when I still lived in North Cackalacky - did just fine down to 18 or so (....the two times I did that). Still have em' with me in AZ....kinda overkill, but enh.

Dan Peters said...

Try the Castelli ESTREMO GLOVE with a thin merino layer on the really cold days. I use this for cold fall rides to fat biking down to -10C in winter.

Anonymous said...

gloves are a challenge, esp in our climate up here ... we go from +10oC one day then -20oC the next. We've seen this weather in Dec. Thus, a whole slew of mitts and gloves is required. For the dead of winter at -40oC, yah gotta be a die hard for that... I use mitts with a thin glove. I don't buy expensive because the sludge and salt eats sht. Then above -10oC I go mitts. Anything around 0oC and its a glove with a thin glove inside. All inexpensive because gloves get ripped and salt deteriorates them. You guys probably don't have that problem down there...

winter is expensive...

Anonymous said...

Easy answer for me... Until this winter I've had the same problems with winter gloves. I'm 44yo and ride 1800 vertical feet of single track every morning in the pacific northwest. I typically leave my garage at 5am for a 75min ride and the temp at my front door is usually 25F-37F in the middle of winter. The Element 3.0 from Specialized has solves all of my cold/sweaty hand issues.
On weekends I extend the ride to 135min + another 1400 feet of climbing and these glove are still perfect. I see they have a three finger version which would help a little bit with dexterity, but I haven't tried them. Good luck with your search.

sperho said...

Yeah, Specialized changed the design on the Deflect glove. They do look a bit more bulky than my older version... That's too bad.

MTBike Jockey said...

Pflug wears insulated leather work gloves. J/S

Sierra said...

What you need is the magic Norwegian gloves called Roeckls. I have never had success wearing gloves below -15C, but these gloves can be worn on a bike until about -25C and yet are still thin and light. Not sure how the Norwegians do it, I think they might be build from the hair of young socialist fairies or something. Problem is that they are impossible to find in Canada now - maybe easier in the US, I'd start my search in Minnesota, that place is full of Norwegian shit. I ordered my last pairs direct from Norway for about 45 Kronor a paid (that's 200 Canadian dollars and 100 USD).

I don't know what 25 F is, but it sounds like it's a nice summer day for the Yukon. These gloves don't overheat you even when it's balmy.

Vertigo Cycles said...

I'm probably just giving you bad advice, because like your mittens, my gloves are 15ish years old. Specialized used to make a cold weather glove that has a summer weight palm and Thinsulate Flex on the back. The only padding on the palm is a little triangle on the hand heel area. Good down to about 20F for me, mid 30's if it's raining

I have an old version of these too: I can wear them in slightly colder temps than the Spcialized gloves, but they're no good if they get wet. The palm on mine isn't really padded but there are a couple layers of fabric which feels squirmy.

Mike said...

Rich- I endorse the PI elite soft shell too. It's a pretty solid performer and can fit a liner glove when it gets colder. No padding other than insulation.

I've also had great luck- ready for this?- buying gloves made by a glove company. Manzella, to be specific. I used one of their shell gloves in a large size for about a decade before it started to fall apart. Again, liners fit for the colder trips.

Mike B.

Anonymous said...

warm weather snowboarding gloves. They are thin, no padding and block the wind good. Give them a whirl and be pleasantly surprised by the performance.

PaulS said...

Military sniper mittens. Trigger finger works perfect for braking finger. Has an insert and main shell works great for ~30deg temps and maybe below.

Anonymous said...

Kinco has a bunch of models with winter applications. I picked up a pair for under $30 including shipping. Their 2051 model found here:

max said...

my basic three layer system to be fine at any temp.

1. wool liner gloves

2. cheap fleece gloves (or some riding gloves that are too big)

3. fleece mittens

cooler temps: either 1 or 2 (bring em both maybe, if one gets wet you switch over).

cold temps: 1 under 2 then remove 1 or 2 as you warm up.

brutally cold: 1 under 3 maybe removing 1 later??? i find when it is really cold sometimes you just need mittens even though they sacrifice some dexterity.

Ben said...

I ride in these conditions a lot being around the Pittsburgh, PA area. Planetbike Borealis gloves for the outer shells (about $40 or less). Don't use the fleece liners, they suck and get soaked quickly and never dry and become cold. Replace the liner gloves that come with it with cheap rothco wool blend liner gloves ($10 or less on amazon/ebay). This combo works great and lasts a long time in that temp range. You can always pick up some extra liner gloves in case your hands get too wet. You might fare better with fancier wool inner gloves, but the rothco ones tend to have a lot of bulk but keep some of the moisture off your hands when you sweat, which I appreciate.

It works well on all my bikes, I can use drop bars or MTB bars and work all the shifty bits properly. These work well for shorter rides under 25, but work great around the freezing mark and slightly above. You can always drop the liner when it gets warmer. said...

We've made great business selling these at my work. Seam pretty close to what you're after?

Don't know about US availability tho. said...

We've made pretty good business selling these at my work;

Not sure about US availability though.