Winter cycling gloves are possibly the most contentious of all cycling clothing because customers often judge a glove on the extreme rather than the norm. While winter cycling gloves are often manufactured to perform in a multitude of weather conditions it is improbable that a single glove will ever cover every base requirement. So, as we explain what we deem as a winter cycling glove, there are a few factors to take in to account:
The British Winter: December, January and February are usually the coldest months, even in these colder months it’s fairly rare for daytime temperatures to drop below freezing. We normally find the warmer temperatures in the south and as you gain attitude the temperature will drop by around 1 degree Celsius per 200 metres of ascent. Generally we don’t endure sustained periods of Arctic temperatures in the UK.
Your resistance to the cold: How warm your body feels can depend upon how much fat you carry and how fast you heart is pumping the blood around your body. We assume that when cycling your heart will be pumping your blood faster and therefore heating up your entire body. During exercise excess body heat will escape as moisture from your torso, head, hand and feet, regardless of your body mass, blood pressure or circulation.
The weather conditions: Wind and rain are the two major factors that change how the temperature actually feels. While rain can just make a ride miserable a wind chill can provide the greatest temperature decline especially to the face and hands. The Met Office often state the temperature is 4 degrees Celsius but with added wind chill it actually feels a few degrees less.
Winter Mornings and Evenings: With shorter days the evening temperature will drop fairly quickly and early mornings can be bitterly cold.
How do you ride? Before you buy a winter cycling glove you should take all of the aforementioned into account. But also think about the style of cycling your do and how much energy you are likely to burn; are you a commuter, a serious road cyclist, a mountain biker or a causal cyclist? What time of day do you cycle? For example a commuter will often cycle at a moderate rate in early morning and late early evening when it’s quite chilly, whereas a serious road cyclist is more likely to ride long distances during warmer daylight hours, building up serious body heat. A mountain biker will likely ride days building extreme body heat climbing to higher colder altitudes and a casual cyclist may ride a couple of miles not even braking into a sweat.
The Winter Cycling Glove: Winter isn’t just a few bitterly cold days, it is a season that spans a quarter of a year, it’s nigh on impossible for a single glove to accommodate all of the extremes. First and foremost a cycling glove is a sports glove and safety should always be the first consideration. A cycling specific glove should have enough freedom of finger movement to facilitate easy use of brakes and gears. It should feel comfortable and able to allow excess moisture to escape and of course it should also look aesthetically pleasing. Many of the features incorporated into a winter glove are there for practical reasons. For example longer elasticised cuff with no fastener are designed to hug the wrist to keep it warmer, in theory the build up of heat will transfer to the fingers. Windproof materials will protect the backhand and knuckles from a cold cutting wind. Striking the balance so your glove isn’t too warm, too sweaty or not warm enough means the glove is likely to have some form of ventilation for air flow, because this can cool down your hands in very cold weather you may also require an under glove (base or liner glove). These lightweight gloves, usually a Spandex type material, act as an extra layer in much the same way as you would wear layers on your torso.
Before you ride: Putting a cold glove onto cold hands won’t give an immediate benefit! I was recently talking to a mountain biker who was doing some winter night riding; he was complaining that he started his ride and his fingers were freezing. Upon further investigation it turned out that he had taken his bike on the back of his car to a forest, unfastened and prepped the bike (put on the lights etc) with bare hands. His hands are starting off cold because they have been direct contact with the icy cold metal on the bike. Furthermore his gloves were stored in his backpack in the cold car boot and they were the last things he put on before he set off on his ride.
I pointed out that warming the hands and the glove before taking to the saddle would have given some benefit. Simply storing the gloves inside the cockpit of the car, sitting on them during the journey or sticking them down his pants will retain some level of insulation. Warm up your hands with your gloves on while moving your fingers to increase circulation. Simply make sure that your hands and your gloves are as warm as you can reasonably make them before the ride, then when you get on the move eight times out of ten the increase in blood circulation should do the rest.
Conclusion: All in all there is no one remedy for the dilemma of the winter cycling glove, but with common sense and a little perseverance you will find gloves that generally suits your needs.