Spring still seems a long way off, but if you are determined to pack the winter miles in over the next couple of months, then ensuring you have a decent pair of gloves is essential. Once your extremities succumb to the cold and numbness sets in it can be impossible to warm them back up, so ensuring your digits are kept warm from the outset will make your ride that much more endurable and comfortable and a little safer too.
In the 1980 edition of the Spring Classic, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, only 21 of the 174 starters managed to finish the race. Bernard Hinault rode to victory, but to this day the 5 times winner of the Tour de France still suffers from frostbite in several of his fingers. Fortunately, advances in fabric technology will ensure that the well prepared winter cyclist of 2014 will not befall the same fate!
There's no denying a good pair of winter cycling gloves are must-have, but as Rhodri Lewis, who runs the specialist clothing company, Nordic Life, advised in our Top Tips for Winter Cycling the key is to keep your core warm as it will help to maintain warmth in your all-important extremities - your hands, feet and head.
"Your core and extremities are massively connected. A rule they use in the polar and high altitude mountaineering world is 'warm core warm hands!' When the body/core isn't warm enough, it draws blood from the extremities in order to conserve heat and keep the core temperature stable. This means less blood going to hands and feet, resulting in them feeling colder.
"Once cold, increasing insulation [in other words wearing bigger cycling gloves] will only help a little unless the gloves are exponentially bigger! All the glove is doing in reducing the rate of heat loss - though, in fact, that's all any clothing does! Warmth is only there if heat is being generated In the first place! So, if there's no heat to trap, your hands and feet will be cold.".
Due to the technical fabrics used in their construction, winter cycling gloves are proportionally higher in price than their fingerless summer cousins, but at the very least you will need to invest in a pair of glove that incorporates fabric that will keep your hands protected from icy winds. If you are looking for waterproof gloves then you may have to compromise on the weight of the gloves and the fact that waterproof fabrics do not provide the breathability of windstopper fabrics. For the most brutal conditions it is always worth having a decent pair of liner gloves handy too or invest in a glove that comes with its own liner - a merino pair ideally, as even if your hands get wet, this natural wool product will help to keep your hands warm.
Things to look out for in a cycling specific winter glove is the necessary level of protection you are after, combined with a good fit that allows your fingers to move freely. A good grip combined with adequate padding are essential, but the glove should not be so stiff or bulky that your touch and feel are impaired. Go for a glove that has a robust silicon tip to the thumb and index finger and doesn't look like it will peel away after a couple or rides and washes. Long and tight cuffs, a section of towelling to wipe your nose and reflective details on the back of the hand are all indicators that the glove has been designed to ensure they function perfectly for the winter cyclist.
Winter cycling gloves come in a range of guises as manufactures compete with one another to provide the necessary levels of warmth and protection. Huge advances in fabric technology, however, have allowed manufacturers to combine a high level of both function and protection. Too late, unfortunately, for the frostbitten fingers of The Badger!
If you are on the look-out for a new set of winter gloves, then check out what your fellow riders are wearing and if they rate them, especially if they have used them in the severe cold or wet. Here are five winter gloves that have caught the eye or warmed the fingers of the Wheelsuckers' team this winter, but if you swear by a glove that keeps your digits warm and dry then let other members know!
SealSkinz Winter Cycle Glove
The Norfolk based company SealSkinz manufacture a huge range of socks, gloves and hats for a range of sports and their Winter Cycle Gloves are available in both a male and female version. These waterproof and windproof gloves tick all the important boxes when it comes to features, including an elasticated, long cuff with a sturdy velcro strap, nose wipes on both thumbs and a reflective strip that runs along the outer side. Worn in temperatures just above freezing they kept my hands warm enough, but a liner would have probably made them a little more effective. Saying that, windchill was minimal and they shrugged off a short rain shower, thanks to the Ripstop waterproof fabric. With the right fit, they are certainly very comfortable - the material is not overly substantial despite it's level of protection, so finger movement is not impaired. The palms have three strategically placed pads that provide effective cushioning. The inner lining is fleece and stays in place if you are careful when taking the glove off, making it easy to put the gloves back on - which is a big plus in my book as some linings pull inside out. If, like me, you have a tendency to leave your kit randomly around the house when you return from a ride, then the clips are a welcome addition! Being waterproof, I found that the gloves do not breathe as effectively as windproof, but moisture build-up was minimal and I can live with that if these are going to stop my hands getting saturated!
Terra Nova Extremities MB Glove
Based in Derbyshire in England, Terra Nova are a company that specialise in a massive range of outdoor equipment and bring their wealth of experience and technical knowledge to bear in their well designed MB winter glove, which are part of their Extremities range of accessories. They have a lightweight, unsubstantial feel to them, but provide a surprisingly high level of warmth and protection. Tested in temperatures fluctuating between 3-4°C on a 60 mile ride, I didn't think about the warmth of my hands once - and that is exactly what I want from my gloves in those sort of temperatures! Their effectiveness is due to that most reliable of fabrics, Windstopper®, but there is more to these gloves that just technologically advanced textiles. All the winter essentials are there of course - reflective strip and logo on the uppers, snot wipes on the thumbs, padding on the palm and the robust velcro wrist strap is further enhanced by the neoprene cuff. There are a couple of nice touches too - the air holes in the palms and lower finger area provide a little more breathability and I liked the way the silicon tabs on the thumb, index and forefinger was repeated in the palm area, ensuring really good grip in wetter conditions. Lastly, don't be put off by the MB for mountain bike in the name - these gloves are equally at home on the road! They come with a mid-range price, but for overall quality and design, they are a bit of a steal compared to many in this price bracket.
Visit Terra Nova for more information on their MB Glove or to purchase a pair. Priced at £35.00 they come in sizes ranging from Small to XL.
Hestra Bike Tracker Windstopper Gloves
Swedish company Hestra have been making gloves since the 1930's and have a global reputation for making high quality gloves for winter activities. Their Bike Tracker gloves are, as the name suggests, cycling specific, but borrow much from the fundamental components and design of Hestra's renowned ski-ing gloves. First thing to note is their quality: the construction is excellent throughout - the stitching is neat and the seams are well positioned to ensure comfort and minimal wear. Using the Hestra sizing as a guide, I found the gloves fit snugly, allowing good circulation and movement - even the addition of a thin merino liner did not impact on the overall feel. I managed to access my wallet and use a cashpoint machine without having to take them off - not the most scientific of tests I admit, but an indication that the gloves allow good finger dexterity! The performance was as one would hope - the Windstopper fabric ensured warm hands in temperatures around 4 °C, though a sudden blast of freezing rain did momentarily leave my fingers cold, but they warmed up soon enough, despite the fact the gloves are not waterproof. The chamude palm, which replicates soft leather, feels robust and though the padding on the palm is minimal, it is adequate. The thumb, middle and index fingers on both hands have silicon tips that are stitched into the glove - ensuring they will not peel away or loosen. The neoprene cuff (with a handy pull on tab incorporated into them) was tight enough on my wrist, though there is a potential vulnerability here, but in light rain my hands remained perfectly dry. The gloves come in three colours - the fluro yellow (tested) is not too 'in your face' and will provide a significant improvement in visibility when signalling, especially as all three versions come with a thin, but very reflective strip that runs above the knuckles and along the back of the hand. The overall impression of these gloves is that they are very well constructed, robust, yet provide really good protection too, especially if paired with a liner. Scandinavians don't let sub-zero temperatures get in the way of winter activities, so if Hestra are a household name in Sweden, then that must be sign that they know what they are doing!
Hestra Bike Tracker Windstopper Gloves come in three colours (white/black, black/black and fluro yellow/black) and in a good range of sizes to fit both sexes.
They have a RRP of £45, but as a member of Wheelsuckers, you can save 10% if you buy via Nordic Life. Please see our Member Benefits for more details.
Gore XENON GORE-TEX® Gloves
Gore's Xenon outfit system is aimed firmly at the cyclist who is intent on cycling through the winter - whatever the conditions. Their Xenon gloves come with a hefty price tag, but if you want to hit the roads in cold, driving wind and rain then you need a glove that is going to be a match for the elements. This is possibly a contender and, compared to some so called winter gloves I have worn in my time, this pair kept my hands warm. In fact, rather over hot! The Gore-tex outer ensures these gloves are waterproof and in a light shower they shrugged of the wet - a sustained downpour will test even the very best, but the cuffs are long and have a robust and tight fitting velcro strap, so with your sleeve over the cuff water ingress should be kept to a minimum. At this price you'd expect the glove to be a good fit and well constructed and it certainly is - the fit is snug, comfortable and allows good movement. The overall design is very well thought out - the gel padding on the palm cushion the ride, the lining is soft and the silicon tips of the index and thumb are discreet but effective. The outside of the thumb has a good sized 'snot wipe' and there are some highly reflective logos and detailing which shine very bright in headlights. Quality comes at a price, but Gore's reputation for combining high performance fabrics and well thought out design is worth paying for, especially if it's going to keep you in relative comfort on winter rides.
Sizes available from S to XXXL and RRP £69.99. Available to buy online from Wiggle or visit Gore Bike Apparel for more information on these gloves and Gore's extensive cycling collection and stockist information.
Prendas Air-Tunnel Winter Gloves.
With a name for quality retro gear, you can easily forget that the Dorset based online retailer Prendas Ciclismo does a neat line in affordable bike accessories too. These winter gloves compliment their winter overshoes and are made of the same 'Air tunnel' fabric. Experienced cyclist and Wheelsuckers' member James Piggot recently reviewed his pair of Prendas gloves and rated them highly, commenting on the warmth (in temperatures around 5°C), their robustness and the quality of the manufacture. You can read James' full review here. And they are Made in Italy, and there's no mistaking that Italian sartorial flair too in the silicon design on the palm!
The Air Tunnel Winter Gloves are available exclusively from Prendas Ciclismo and are priced at £29.95. Sizes range from XS (18cm) to XXL (26cm).
Reviews by Nick Williamson, Danny Wright, Helen Ashford, James Piggot and Dave Nash.
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