When the weather turns nasty, much like it is doing outside the office window as I sit here typing this article, it is your extremities – toes, fingers, nose, ears – that get cold first. But when your fingers feel the chill you’ll really notice it, and there’s no greater discomfort than frozen hands.
Winter gloves stop that happening. While you can make do with summer gloves while the temperature is still reasonably mild, there’s just no beating the extra warmth that proper winter gloves can offer. They keep the wind chill at bay, keep your hands dry, while still allowing you to use your hands to grasp the handlebars and operate the shifter and brake levers with minimum of hindrance.
Where to start?
Gloves come in hundreds of shapes and styles designed for different environmental conditions. Some are designed for keeping you warm, some for when it’s raining, and some attempt to do both. Generally, the colder the likely conditions are that you’ll be venturing out into, the more insulation they’ll need to offer. Some boast clever materials that cut out the wind and can mean for a thinner glove, while some manage to be 100% waterproof.
With increased insulation comes extra bulkiness, and this can make holding the handlebars and operating brake and gear levers a tad more difficult than normal. And some gloves provide so much insulation that you can find your hands quickly become horribly hot and sweaty, so the glove needs to be able to quickly wick away any moisture.
They do have their place though. For the most extreme conditions, and we’re talking 0degC or thereabouts, ‘lobster’ style gloves are the daddies. You can be safe in the knowledge that your digits will be warm as freshly cooked fish fingers but, they can make handling the bike reasonably tricky and due care needs to be instigated when wearing them. Unless it’s extremely cold, and for most UK cyclists that’ll be the case, normal fingered gloves with a good amount of insulation and either windproof or waterproofing treatment will fit the bill and see you through to spring.
Layering your gloves
As with layers for your upper body, so you can use the layering principle for hands too. Liner gloves can be used in colder climes to boost the insulation of your standard gloves and will prove more flexible should the weather change. You can also use the same shell glove with a choice of different liners for different conditions, making your setup more adaptable to the weather.
Waterproofing your hands
Some winter gloves come with a waterproof membrane or liner that works wonders when the rain won’t stop pouring. However in the effort to keep the rain out breathability suffers and you’re likely to get damp hands from your own sweat alone.
Gloves made from Neoprene are good at keeping the damp out and some combine sections of the material commonly found in wet suits with synthetic leather palms to increase the freedom of movement and grip on the bars.
Padded palms can reduce trail vibrations seeping through, which is a blessed relief on those longer winter rides. Padding can come in the form of foam or, on the pricier versions, gel, which forms better to the bars and your hands and dissipates shocks well.
With the increased bulk of a winter glove your feel for the bars and controls will be compromised, and when everything is wet and muddy grip can suffer. So look for a palm covered in a generous amount of silicone for extra grip, it’ll really pay off on the trail.
Large areas of towelling around the thumb and other parts of the glove are handy for mopping up the runny nose you’ll experience on cold days, and silicone-type tabs on the fingers can provide a little more grip on the brake levers making up for the lack of feel that the extra padding brings.
A glove with a large, adjustable cuff can ensure that no cold air sneaks through a gap between where the gloves and jacket sleeves stop. A long cuff wants to wrap over, or under, the jackets sleeve and Velcro or other fasteners can wrap the cuff snugly around your wrist.
How much to spend?
The old adage, ‘the more you pay the better glove you’ll get’ is generally true here. More money will buy more advanced materials which will cope better for the more demanding riders, and remove sweat away better. One pair of gloves may be all you need, but for the high mileage riders several pairs of gloves suited to different temperatures and conditions might be a good option – it also means while one pair is in the wash you’ve got another pair to wear.
Hopefully you’ll be better informed when it comes to buying some winter gloves.