TRAT 2010 - In search of the perfect glove

by Martin Thomas   February 28, 2010  

Glove collection

My search for the perfect winter cycling glove is on the point of driving me round the bend in numb-fingered frustration. I can’t decide whether I’m being overly fussy or just plain unlucky but I’m far from satisfied, despite now owning more pairs of gloves than Imelda Marcos had shoes.

In my MTB days life was less complicated; I made do with my old BBB Aquashields. They were a bit of an effort to get on and off, especially when my hands were wet, and the lining had a tendency to turn itself inside out, but they were warm enough and didn’t mind a bit of a soaking. But when I tried them on drop handlebars they quickly became uncomfortable – I think because they’re a tiny bit too small for my hands, so when I’m on the hoods there’s a constant strain on my thumbs in particular and eventually my hands start cramping.

So I turned to a pair of Endura Full Montys, which fit like the proverbial glove and gave me much better fine control of brakes and gears. But when the temperature dips below about 10℃ my fingers start getting really cold – I think I have pretty poor circulation to my hands and feet and once they get cold they stay that way and I get very miserable very quickly. To be fair, the Full Montys aren’t supposed to be particularly warm.

So I bought a pair of Pearl Izumi Cyclones. The labelling suggested they’d be good for anything other than the very coldest conditions and they let me retain that all-important fine control thanks to a reasonably close but very comfortable fit. When I went out for my first ride in them it was very cold – around freezing – and at first I thought I’d cracked it. They didn’t seem to be letting any cold in and my fingers were nice and comfortable. But then they started getting colder and colder, until eventually I was cycling with my hands wedged into my armpits because my fingers were in such agony. Hoping this was just because of the extreme cold I wore them again the following week when the temperature was somewhere between 5℃ and 10℃, but before long the same thing was happening. I reckon they’re spring and autumn gloves and the bloke I complained to at Pearl Izumi agreed with me – which begs the question why the labelling indicates they’d be fine for cold weather. That’s about when the Pearl Izumi bloke went quiet. Grrr.

I figured it was time to stop messing about and get some proper winter gloves that would mean a sacrifice in fine control but at least I’d have warm hands. I opted for a pair of Specialized Sub Zeroes, a double-layered glove with a light fleece inner and a tough weatherproof outer. Again I thought I’d cracked it at first – my hands were toasty and dry, despite it being below 10℃ and drizzling pretty much constantly. But then, slowly but surely, the outers got soaked through, then the inners got wet, then it was just a matter of time before my hands started getting cold and numb. It was a long ride – over five hours – and the rain didn’t stop from start to finish, but I reckon if a glove’s sold as waterproof it shouldn’t matter how long you wear them or what the weather’s like. I said as much to Specialized via their website feedback thingy but they’ve chosen that tried and tested customer service technique of keeping schtum, presumably in the hope that I’ll go away and stop bothering them. And I will – I won’t be bothering them at all any more with any of my troublesome custom.

So now I have a monstrous collection of gloves - at considerable cost too - but if it’s cold and raining outside I still don’t have any to wear. My wife has suggested using a pair of wetsuit gloves under the Specialized outers, which I might try, or covering my hands with goose fat before putting any gloves on, which I probably won’t try.

20 user comments

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I have to admit I have a similar problem with gloves. I don't know if my hands are weird proportions but generally they'll fit fine in the palm but the fingers are too short or if I go a size up the reverse is true. I've been using PRO Xpert gloves this winter and they keep you reasonably warm but the thumb in particular is uncomfortably tight.

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
28th February 2010 - 20:30

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my solution to cold hands is to get big thick 'lobster' style gloves, or mittens (or skiing gloves) and ride a single speed. hence getting rid of the need to change gear means you can use big fat warm gloves and hey presto! warm hands.

mind you thats a mean collection of gloves you got there..any chance of a hand out! Big Grin

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
28th February 2010 - 22:17

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I'm with Fringe here. I get really cold hands through Reynaud's syndrome - to the point were it is actually painful to be out on the bike. This winter I bought a pair of Marmot mittens from TK Maxx for the grand sum of £15, and wish I'd done it years ago and saved my self loads of money.

AdamML's picture

posted by AdamML [72 posts]
1st March 2010 - 9:47

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There's an idea Fringe - maybe I should do a charity auction to raise some sponsorship money... Smile

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [570 posts]
1st March 2010 - 9:48

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I've always really suffered with cold hands to the point where it becomes really painful very quickly, thinking back one of the best pairs of gloves I had was one of the first - a pair of neoprene water skiing gloves which while they didn't keep my hands dry did keep them warm - we reviewed something similar recently the dhb Rogate http://road.cc/content/review/13988-dhb-rogate-glove. I've never tried the lobster mitts, but I reckon they would work well too.

The biggie for making your hand freeze though is wind chill so I've always thought that some handlbear covers would work well (not sure how windproof those merino ones Leonie tested would be though, but there are links to others in the comments on the review http://road.cc/content/review/14056-lowie-merino-handlebar-covers).

One thing I have found is that it's not just the action of the wind on your hands but on the bars and controls that chills your hands - another reason to shield as much of them as possible from the wind, plus I've also noticed that my hands freeze slightly less on a bike with carbon levers and I suppose carbon bars would make things better still.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4143 posts]
1st March 2010 - 9:56

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Tony,

For the price of those merino bar covers - which I think are only for flat barred bikes - you're into the territory of expedition mitts which are way more versatile. Although maybe not quite so good looking...

http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/product_info.php?cat=117&products_id=91

Adam

AdamML's picture

posted by AdamML [72 posts]
1st March 2010 - 10:33

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Heh, I was thinking less about the merino covers themselves and more about the link to the Moose mitts Smile

http://www.trails-edge.com/retail/bikeparts/winterbikestuff.htm

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4143 posts]
1st March 2010 - 10:48

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I was wearing some Gore Alp X Windstopper gloves up until the cold started to bite this winter. Like your Pearl Izumis, once it got frosty outside they utterly failed to keep my hands warm, and were painful to use.

So I got some dhb Amberley's on a recommendation. They are a lot warmer, but still struggle on sub-zero days. Don't seem to be waterproof at all, but luckily its been quite dry up here. Still, not expensive and getting the job done so far; I expect I'll be looking for something else once the rainy season starts.

posted by bazzargh [144 posts]
1st March 2010 - 12:03

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for the really cold/wet days seal skinz waterproof gloves are brilliant with pearl izumi liners. I've just tested the rogate and amberley for Wiggle and was impressed with both but agree they're only for +0 deg days if you use them without liners.

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stuke's picture

posted by stuke [313 posts]
1st March 2010 - 12:17

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Stuke - I use a pair of the SealSkinz in the Autumn and Spring, but as soon as the temperature dropped they just weren't enough, even with liners.

To those who've been complaining of painful hands in the cold, I really would recommend some mittens. Also, it's important to keep the wrist as warm as possible, in fact I've asked my wife to knit me some mitt liners than stop short of the fingers but provide a lot of forearm coverage Smile

AdamML's picture

posted by AdamML [72 posts]
1st March 2010 - 12:53

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yeah i'll second that, keeping the wrists warm makes a real difference. Big Grin

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
1st March 2010 - 12:57

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when i was cycling out in chile i had a normal set of full finger gloves and a set of gore-tex overgloves, not dissimilar to these:

http://www.surplusandoutdoors.com/shop/army-surplus-uk/soldier-95-clothi...

they were a fantastic buy: completely windproof and waterproof and toasty with gloves underneath - because you don't need the gloves to be wind/waterproof you can just get some cheap fleece ones. plus when you warm up a bit you can take them off – they pack down to next to nothing – and keep your other gloves on.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7385 posts]
1st March 2010 - 13:34

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Thought I'd check the 'Up in Alaska' blog to see if Jill says what she wears in arctic conditions:

http://arcticglass.blogspot.com/2009/11/dressing-for-cold-and-crappy.html

Layer up or use pogies, apparently. The blog's worth a read if you haven't seen it: she rides in some fairly brutal conditions, including the Iditarod invitational a couple of years ago. Great photos of the frozen north.

posted by bazzargh [144 posts]
1st March 2010 - 15:03

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Excellent suggestions and links - thanks! Suddenly the wetsuit gloves under the Specialized outers doesn't seem so daft.

I actually went for a ride this morning - temp was about 7℃ or 8℃ - and I risked using the Pearl Izumis. They were just about perfect. My fingers got a bit cold for a while but quickly recovered and felt comfortable for most of the ride. So I guess I've found their ideal temperature.

One other thing I should have mentioned earlier was that the guy in a LBS I spoke to about this used to work in a sports nutrition shop and suggested taking fish oil (not cod liver...fish body oil, whatever that is) and/or gingko biloba to reduce the viscosity of the blood and thereby improve circulation to hands and feet. He reckons that would make a big difference. I've no idea if it really would but I thought I'd pass it on...

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [570 posts]
1st March 2010 - 16:16

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I have a similarly large collection of gloves, and similar problems getting a good fit: a good fit around the palm and the fingers are too short.

When it is really cold my fingers really hurt and I loose feeling at around 2 km into my commute, but a few km later and I've warmed up and my fingers are fine. Towards the end of my commute (20 km) and my feet start to feel cold!

I've found that I sweat into gloves which are too warm, which eventually chills my hands. My current favourites are SealSkinz Waterproof Ultra Grip Gloves, but they aren't cycling specific, and I've tried, in vain, to find cycling gloves which could replace them.

(Oh, and I don't believe that any dietary supplements will have an effect on the viscosity of the blood. EPO does, but that increases it!)

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1345 posts]
1st March 2010 - 16:45

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If you are doing a 5 hour ride in rain and cold conditions then you wear a pair of gloves that is warm enough until it gets soaked so that they start to get cold

Then you change the gloves for a warm dry pair

Usually when I do long rides with dubious weather I will take at least 3 pairs of gloves

If the temperature is high enough then sealskinz caving gloves are still warm even when wet. But they aren't so great below 5 C

Trat is in the summer, you don't ride at night and you have a support vehicle

vorsprung's picture

posted by vorsprung [291 posts]
1st March 2010 - 17:29

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I don't expect any of this to be an issue for TRAT (to which you could reasonably reply "well why put it on a TRAT blog then?" - and I would have no answer, except that I've only been riding so much in the crappy weather we've been having because I'm training for it).

I'd like to find a solution that doesn't involve carrying several pairs of gloves though. I prefer to travel light... Hopefully it'll be a moot point until around December because spring arrived today!

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [570 posts]
1st March 2010 - 17:37

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On the diet front - the Reynauds Society suggest cutting out caffeine. I think we all know that's not going to happen...

AdamML's picture

posted by AdamML [72 posts]
2nd March 2010 - 9:27

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Maybe my thinking has not been sufficiently lateral: http://www.guardianoffers.co.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/GuardianOffers/_272...

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [570 posts]
2nd March 2010 - 13:58

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Martin Thomas wrote:
Maybe my thinking has not been sufficiently lateral: http://www.guardianoffers.co.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/GuardianOffers/_2729/-/Heated-gloves

a couple of years ago I tried something very similar, eacj glove used 3xAA baterries. to be fair they worked pretty well but hammered a set of batteries in about 3 hours!! Surprise

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posted by stuke [313 posts]
2nd March 2010 - 14:06

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