Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cold-weather cycling gloves

Gloves. In order of warmth.
It's officially not summer. I was wishing I had some light gloves for this morning commute to keep the chill off.

With the exception of the rare CX race, I don't wear "proper" cycling gloves. Especially for commuting. They're just another thing to lose that don't offer me much benefit. I have plenty of high-benefiting stuff to lose (e.g. keys, phone, headphones, knife, money, wallet).

So I have a lot of cold-weather gloves. For two reasons: I loose them temporarily a lot. And they get wet, so it's nice to have a back up. Actually three reasons: And one pair of gloves does not work in this climate, where a given week in the winter can offer super dry cold, lame wet slushy rainy gunk, freezing rain/snow, and warmish cold in the 40's. There are gloves that get close, but the super cold (under zero in these parts) and death zone (wet and near freezing) really test the boundaries of gloves. I offered my functional design services for gloves last year. I'm not seeing any royalty checks yet.

Sorry. There's four reasons: since most of the gloves I like are not cycling-specific, they tend to fail prematurely in the palm. So when I find one I like, I watch for them to go on sale and I buy them. Summer is a great time to buy gloves.

So without further ado. Here's some notes on the different gloves. In no particular order.
Smartwool cheapies. Sold as "liner" gloves. About $12 on sale.
Good: light, super porous. Easy to stuff into a pocket. Wish I had these this morning when it was about 46F on the way to work.
Bad: The palms will blow out after about 20 commutes.

Modified REI gloves. Modification story here.
Good: probably my most used glove the last couple years. Since the fingers part pops off, it has a great temp range, and it allows me to easily fuss with phone, get keys, etc. The thick fleece has held up in the palm over 2 years. Impressive.
Bad: requires modification. The wind-blocker modification is essential for sub-freezing. The pair on the left are awaiting modification. I'll wrap the wind/rain shield all the way around the finger part this year. Not just on the outside.

PI Lobsters.
Good: not much.
Bad: expensive, not warm under freezing, not warm when wet. Not water proof at all.

OR shells.
Good: great in theory. If they were water proof, I'd love these to death. They're not, but they're great with some liner mittens for snowy rides where snow doesn't wet out and cold/windy rides. I wish someone would make a non-gauntlet-style of these in gortex.
Bad: not water proof. Not made anymore.

Dakine Super Fancies.
These were on close out at the end of the season last year. So I'm gambling on these this for super cold weather.
Good: even if the shells suck, the liners are the bomb. I've been looking for simple poly/fleece liner mittens since REI discontinued theirs about 4 years ago. I'll use these a lot this year. I hope the liners hold up better than the REI ones did, cause a super light-weight, simple fleece mitten is a great thing.
Bad: The one time I tried these at the end of the season my hands sweated to death from all the layers of poly. I think you can get away with a layer or two of plastic, but to breath you gotta have gortex or wool somewhere in there.

OR Flurry Gloves
Another close-out bet. I like these. They're wool with poly/fleece lining.
Good: Warmer than they look and they hold up to wet surprisingly well. Good enough for a wettish 30 minute ride. Wool exterior appears to be holding up well in the palm area.
Bad: Nothing yet.

Ibex liners (L) and Ibex gloves (R)
I love Ibex stuff but these liners are always a huge disappointment in how fast the palms blow up. It's a shame they don't do something to reinforce them to make them useful as stand alone cool-weather gloves, cause they're wonderful to wear. I try to save these only for liner duty, but I'm not great at that.
The red ones are just good solid wool gloves. Same functionally as the Smartwools at the top, but these guys have the glue-y little bits on the palm, so they last much longer. My memory is that they cost about $20 on sale? Good buy those.

Cheap rag wool fingerless convertible gloves.
Good: super cheap. Worth having around just in case. Pretty sure I got these when I needed gloves on a shit ride home from Kettle Falls.
Bad: run that wicked piece velcro over your cold dripping nose for a brutal reminder of why velcro should never go there.


Travis N said...

John, we really need to bring you past 2010 in glove technology. I know you are really into your cheap glove thing but sometimes quality comes with a price tag and it works really well. I emplore you to steup up your glove choice a bit and try some newer designs.

Rachel said...

Travis, any recommendations?

Jonathan Eberly said...

I agree with most points you make. The PI lobster mitts suck for me. Too hot for most conditions, and then bam, freezing. I feel like their comfortable operating range in only a few degrees.

Last winter I had good success with a cheapo pair of polartec liners from cabelas. They blew out in the palm but only after a solid winter of commuting.

I'm also a fan of cheap wool liners in those rag wool convertible mitts. That seems to get me through a much greater temp range.

REI has some taped seam shell mitts that I have always wanted to try for layering options. Maybe I will try them out this year.

S. McCune said...

I use this combination:

Army Surplus Wool Gloves
( )

Neoprene Cold/Wet Protection Gloves
( )

When it's nice out the wool liner gloves work great and are rugged. Not quite as soft and comfy as the Smartwool gloves but way more durable.

In cold/wet conditions, down to say 15º F. the neoprene gloves work amazingly. The wool liners wick sweat away but the neoprene keeps out the cold and wet.

After a full season of winter commuting the neoprene wears way around the fingertips but my wool liners are going strong.

In NYC, this combination has been perfection through two winters of daily commuting. and only cost a total $65.00 for two winters.

gillsans said...

The Fox River rag wool gloves with the rubbery nub grips work great for me. I've gone through 2 pairs in 4 years. The palms hold up great due to the rubbery grips. They failed in the spot between the thumb and first finger where there are no nubs.

They're warm down to 32 and breathe great. I prefer them to any "cycling" glove I've used.

Mark said...

I've found that gloves last a lot longer if you don't twist the grips and say vrrooom vrroom vrroom all the way to work.

Michael said...

Endura makes some really nice bike gloves. So nice that I stopped wearing non-biking gloves and just use my bike gloves for everything.

I also have a pair of goretex bike gloves from Gore Bike that I really like, but it rarely gets cold enough in western WA to wear them.

Rachel said...

I have a pair of Garneau Super Prestige Convertible Gloves that I got last winter.
(About halfway down this page:

My hands get cold really easily. If the room is 65 degrees, my hands will be ice. When riding, I have to start using gloves at 60 degrees or lower. I pull these out when it's below 50 degrees, and I can wear them as gloves down to about 40. From there I can convert them to lobster claws down to about 30. The conversion bit is just fabric with a plastic lining on the outside to block the wind. So mostly what it does is block the wind and reduce heat loss between my fingers (since it seems to vent heat a little bit between the fingers).

I'm still trying to find a good solution for below 30 degrees. Two winters ago I had a pair of cheap mittens from walmart or somesuch that worked great. They were padded enough that no wind or moisture got inside. But, those were toast by the end of the year.

I'm going to try knitting up a sort of wool insert for the lobster claw part of my current gloves and see if that extends their range. Otherwise I'll be doing some shopping.... probably the walmart mittens again.

Anyhow, the Garneau gloves are holding up great. I'm only one year in, but I expect I'll get at least 3 years out of them before they wear out - if not more.

RJ said...

How 'bout these?:

Waterproof shell, with some loft, removable fleece inner (could replace with wool).

lucy said...

I very much agree with the views of the bloggers, I chose to buy green half finger bicycle gloves.