Five of the best: Winter Cycling Mitts
We continue to enjoy a mild winter in the UK, but one can never be sure when a cold snap will send the temperature plunging towards zero. Keeping your fingers warm and functional when riding in the winter months is an absolute necessity and cold hands not only make for a miserable ride, but can impinge on your manual dexterity. Simple operations, like braking, changing gear and even steering can become far more difficult, almost impossible, if your digits are frozen to the bone.
What we have experienced this winter, however, is rain. Far too much of the stuff for many people’s liking, often accompanied by driving winds that can test the resolve of even the most hardened winter rider. Thermal protection is one thing, but a waterproof pair of gloves will provide that extra level of comfort.
Below is our guide to some of the best winter gloves currently on the market. All are designed to provide optimum protection and performance in wintery conditions. They are all well thought out examples of the winter glove, incorporating fabrics and features that will ensure protection and performance. It’s no surprise therefore that the quality of a decent pair of winter gloves is reflected in the price. Many draw on premium fabrics, often incorporating several that provide different benefits, but when sewn together perform as one. Anyone who has ever had to mend a puncture on an icy cold, wet winter ride, will testify that having a decent pair of gloves to keep your hands warm and dry is a price worth paying for.
You may encounter driving rain and cold blasts from the north, but one thing you don’t want to experience is that loss of feel that comes with inadequate protection for this very vulnerable part of your body. And if you don’t believe me, then just ask Bernard Hinault, five times winner of the Tour de France, who still suffers from frostbite in his fingers as a result of racing through blizzards in the 1980 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Gore Bike Wear Road Gloves GTX-1
The Gore-Tex logo running down the little finger of these gloves provides a constant reassurance that these gloves are going to provide a high level of water resistance. The ubiquitous Gore fabric, first developed in 1969, but now routinely used by manufacturers of premium garments intended for use in wet conditions, will keep out the worst of the rain, though if you were caught in a prolonged deluge, then even the tight fitting, velcro cuff might struggle to keep out water ingress.
Saying that, however, if you are on the hunt for an out and out waterproof glove then I would thoroughly recommend considering these. I’ve worn these on numerous rides during the latter part of autumn and early winter, when driving wind and rain have attempted to literally dampen my spirits, but they have withstood the worst I have encountered. On all these outing I paired the gloves with a waterproof (Gore-Tex) jacket with very tight, zipped cuffs. If any water did penetrate my defences, it was so little that I did not notice.
The other big bonus about these gloves is that they are not bulky. I opted for the XL size (my hands are 19cm in length from wrist to tip of forefinger) and the fit is perfect, with a nice long cuff too. The material is thin enough to ensure that you have plenty of grip and feel. Accessing rear pockets is not a problem and even peeling a banana or unwrapping an energy gel or bar is possible. The other good news is that you can still operate the touchscreen of a Garmin computer (Edge 810 in my case) but it is worth noting that they do not allow you to use a smartphone interface.
The gloves are well designed and all the features you would expect to see are there – reflective strip on outside/nose wipes – and all come with Gore’s usual combination of fabrics and sound construction, though I have noticed a bit of wear and tear on the pads, but given that these have had some serious abuse over the last few weeks, that is not overly surprising.
In short, these are a top of the range waterproof glove. Expensive, yes, but definitely an excellent addition to your winter wardrobe.
Gore Bike Wear Road Gloves GTX-1 only come in Black and in sizes ranging from Small to XXXL. They are available to buy online, including Evans. More information is available on the Gore Apparel website.
Craft Storm Gloves
Not surprisingly given their proximity to the Arctic Circle, the Swedish company, Craft, have a pretty good understanding of what is needed to protect cyclists in winter conditions. Their Storm Gloves were the lightest on test and though they boast no thermal properties – just wind and water resistance, they provide a surprising level of warmth and in temperatures around 4°C to 6°C they have done an admirable job in keeping my hands comfortably warm on longer rides, wicking away sweat effectively too. Paired with some liners (merino or synthetic) I can imagine these would offer protection a couple of degrees lower than that. Their effectiveness in combating windchill is down to the Vent-X-Air fabric used on the outer side – it’s Craft’s windstopper fabric of choice, as used in much of their autumn/winter ranges, including jackets, and it works a treat.
These gloves are certainly versatile and the fact that they are unsubstantial and made of a stretchy material, movement is not restricted, making changing of gears and accessing rear pockets whilst riding easy. It’s worth noting that despite their lightweight character, they are not touch screen compatible.
Fit is good – I have quite a wide hand (110cm from thumb joint across the palm) and the medium is a snug fit and thanks to the neoprene cuff is easy to pull on and off. The wrist is reassuringly long, without being irritating and can also slip neatly under the cuff of a jacket. The gloves tick all the necessary boxes for me, with snot rags on the thumb, silicon tabs on the fingers and logo on the palm to ensure good grip on the wet and white detailing and a reflective strip to improve your visibility, especially when signalling.
They are a little on the pricy side, but given that these gloves could see you through many months of the year, then that is a price worth paying. They appear to be robust, showing no signs of wear and tear after several washes and the combination of fabrics is well thought out and enables them to perform admirably.
Craft Storm Gloves retail at £32 and are available to buy online, including Chain Reaction and Evans Cycles. Visit the Craft website for more information on the gloves and for a list of stockists in your area.
Sealskinz All Weather Cycle XP Glove
As their name suggests, this is a glove for riding in all conditions that you are likely to encounter in winter. The gloves feel quite robust with good quality stitching and attention to detail, with adequate padding in the right areas. They certainly provide a good level of comfort. The gloves felt easy to get on and have a good ergonomic fit. My first outing with these was a three and a half hour ride of around 60 miles. It was a light rainy day with temperature around 4°C -5°C. Throughout the ride they provided good level of protection and my hands never felt wet or cold. The Velcro closure strap it is a good functional feature that helps to prevent heat loss, which is obviously a major plus point when riding in cold temperatures. Overall a very good pair of robust gloves with an efficient combination of different materials which help provide a good level of protection level from the elements. For a glove that is waterproof and windproof these are quite keenly priced too and, from my experience, will provide the protection when you most need it.
The gloves also incorporate some neat features – including an anatomical design which makes them comfortable when gripping your handlebars. The inside of the gloves have an anti-slip lining, which stops the inner lining from separating from the outer shell, which makes them easy to slip on and off as and when necessary. Sealskinz have also provided plenty of grip and padding on the palms, adequate nose wipes on the thumb and, thanks to the touchscreen technology on the index finger, you can use your Garmin without having to take them off. That’s obviously a huge benefit, but I have found that this ‘touchscreen friendly’ innovation does not extend to my smartphone, which is a bit of a disappointment.
The Sealskinz All Weather Cycle XP Glove come in three colours – black, black/red and hi-viz yellow – and in sizes ranging from Small to Xl and They cost £44 but deals are to be found online, including Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles. There is also a women specific option, available in black and black/red, with sizes again ranging from Small to XL, available on Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles. More information on their entire range of cycling accessories can be found on the Sealskinz website.
The Polaris gloves from the Danish cycling accessory specialist, Gripgrab, feature the same OutDry® technology that is used by other higher end cycling garment manufacturers, including Castelli and Pearl Izumi. OutDry® offers a waterproof and windproof barrier but is relatively lightweight and flexible, meaning that it allows a certain level of dexterity. The two central fingers are both articulated at the knuckle, which makes them noticeably bendier than the others – it’s a feature I would like to see extended to the other two fingers and thumb. There is no getting away from the fact that these are a pretty bulky glove to wear but they do offer a robust defence against both cold wind and rain. (In defence, the picture below makes them look even bulkier).
Water ingress through the fabric is totally eliminated – the waterproof membrane is bonded to the outer shell, to ensure it does not permeate and the cuffs are very long on the wrist, reducing the likelihood of droplets running down into the glove. The Velcro fastening consolidates the defences, allowing you to tighten around the sleeve of your jacket. Wind and rain will struggle to make an impact if the fit is tight and snug and having worn these on several damp rides, they make winter riding bearable.
Despite their bulkiness, the Polaris gloves are touchscreen compatible with a Garmin computer, but they did not allow me to use my iPhone 5 – for that I had to briefly expose my warm digits to the elements! The OutDry membrane does allow a certain amount of breathability, but I do find that when riding at a higher tempo, they can cause your hands to sweat, but they have never felt cold, so I can live with that slight lack of breathability.
Practicality and a sense of humour combine on the finger tips!
There is also a nice meaty 4mm pad on the palm and some silicon details to aid grip in the wet (including the tips of the middle and index fingers that spell out the words ‘Never Lose Your Grip’), plus wipes on both thumbs and a reflective strip and logo on the outer shell. Gripgrab claim their Polaris glove will provide protection against temperatures fluctuating between 5°C and minus 5 °C, which is quite a ballsy claim which I have yet been able to put to the test, but having ridden with them on a day when windchill had the temperature just above freezing, I can vouch for the fact that they will deal with the worst conditions you are likely to ride in. The Danish, on this evidence, know a thing or two about keeping warm and if we do get some really cold weather in the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to pulling these on.
Gripgrab Polaris Gloves retail at £60, though you will find them cheaper online. They are only available in black and come in sizes ranging from XS to XL and are only available to buy online in the UK, including leading cycle retailers like Wiggle. More information on the glove and Gripgrab’s extensive range of winter gloves and cycling accessories can be found on the Gripgrab website,
Rapha Winter Gloves
No surprise that these were the most expensive on test, but Rapha’s Winter Glove is a beautifully constructed garment, made with a premium water resistant and windproof fabric and leather palm. Luxurious they may be, both in feel and price, but these are a stunning, beautifully conceived pair of gloves. The unsubstantial nylon-based shell (which is far more of a statement in the Autumn/Winter 2015 orange version) is neatly stitched to the leather palm and extends up the length of the thumb, index and middle finger.
The tight, elasticated cuff is tight, but not constrictive and provides an effective barrier against rain and wind chill, especially when tucked into the sleeve of a jacket. Even the nose wipe of the material has a luxurious feel to it! And then there is the cosy inner lining, which provides a warm and insulating bed for your hands. The Rapha branding is kept to a minimum, with just a discreet reflective ‘Rapha’ adorning the outer shell. Could there be room for a bit more reflective piping? Well, maybe yes, but no doubt this oversight will make these gloves even more appealing to those who like a classic, clean look to their cycling apparel.
Rapha Winter gloves retail at £85, though are currently available in the New Year sale for a bargain £50, so act quickly! For a more race/performance orientated glove, then check out Rapha’s Pro Team Sofshell Gloves, which were unveiled in 2015 and retail at £70. For more information visit the Rapha website, where you will also find far more about their extensive collection of gloves for all seasons