Here's my take on the perfect winter commuter mitten glove. This doesn't exist. In my experience, the only bike-specific winter gloves I've tried have too narrow of a useful range. The PI Lobster Claws, and Novara winter cycling gloves work for dry and cold from about 20F to 35F. Lower temps, my finger tips freeze and higher, they melt.
Commuters are different than club/road riders that suit up and hammer for hours in the cold. They're different than hard-core epic Alaskan mountain bikers.
Generally speaking, commuters stop more often and sometimes need to quickly remove a glove or otherwise user their fingers to do stuff as they are stopped at a light. They typically spend shorter bursts on their bikes than the aforementioned groups for which most gloves appear to be optimized.
These gloves would be ideal for commuters in northern-US commutes where typical winter day-time lows are above 0F but below freezing. They would also work well for the edges of Fall and early Spring.
|My current hacked solution. REI convertable mittens with Smartwool liners. I sewed a little wind/water block on the front. I wish they were a bit warmer but they do OK for about an hour down to the teens F.|
- Easily exposed fingers: commuters need exposed fingers for unlocking and locking stuff, picking at face, taking pictures, answering phone, fussing with MP3, etc.
- Mitten style: true mitten style. Not lobster-claws. The lobster claws I've tried are the worse of all worlds: no warmer than cheapo mittens and still crippling in the "answer your phone" department. You can shift just about any system just fine with mittens. Some brifters are challenging, but not impossible, and I'd argue that most winter commuters are not running brifters. They're running fixed, single speed, thumbies, or bar-ends. And a handful are running brifters.
- Water-resistant: waterproof is nice if you can really get them to breath. For freezing commutes, where snow is more likely than rain, waterproof is not as important as breathable -- but they should keep from wetting out for 20 minutes or so of hard rain.
- Short cuffs (not gauntlet style): most working people wear a watch and need to check it. Gauntlets are nice for snowmobiling, but overkill for most commutes.
- Room for thin glove layer: just like everything else, you should be able to layer your hands for varying conditions.
- With liners, the mittens should be warm enough down to 0F for an hour. Without liners: they should work up to 40F and with exposable fingers, you could push that to 50F. Liners should be optional, not included. There are plenty of thin wool or plastic/poly glove options out there for people to choose from.
- No buckles, clasps, velcro closures: the mittens should be easy to pull on with your teeth and should slip off easily.
- No pockets or other silly add-ons (like goggle wipers). Who uses a pocket on their glove?
- Snot spot: they need that fleece backing on the back of the thumb of both gloves. The larger the patch the better.
- Normal looking. Black please. But bonus points for some reflective bits to highlight turn signals.
I'm still using my REI glove hack that I created a couple years ago. But I'm embarrassed to admit how many gloves and mittens I've bought and tried in the last year or so -- but I keep going back to these.
I just found a set of these gloves on sale at REI, so I'll be hacking another pair for next year. The next pair will have the water-resistant/wind-blocking piece all the way around the fingers, not just on the outside.