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What is a good way to not have my hands/fingers freeze on bike rides in the cold/wind? I have a pair of gloves, but it doesn't fix the issue. Is there a better way than just to get a really thick pair of gloves that will be unwieldy.

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Some kinds of gloves are very bad for winter cycling, some answers below elaborate that. –  heltonbiker Feb 27 '12 at 17:11
    
I'm pretty sure this question has been asked before. Perhaps someone can dig up the thread. –  Daniel R Hicks Feb 27 '12 at 19:48
    
+1 just for "Cold hands due to cold" in the title –  Adam Lynch Feb 28 '12 at 0:26
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I use leather gloves; they work very well for keeping out the wind –  Nate Koppenhaver Mar 5 '12 at 2:26

11 Answers 11

up vote 20 down vote accepted

The most important thing is to make sure your core temperature is high enough. As your body begins to chill, it pulls blood away from the extremities, to maintain its core temp. Often times cyclists will think "my core temperature feels fine, but my hands are cold" so they think they need warmer gloves, when in reality they need another jacket/vest/jersey/base layer.

Also, remember body heat is generated in your torso, and has to be piped to your hands. If, for example, you were riding with bare arms, and giant oven-mitt gloves, your hands would still get cold, because the blood would have lost too much of its heat before ever reaching your hands. Again, long-sleeved jacket/jerseys, base layers, and arm warmers can all help significantly with keeping hands warm.

Good gloves are important to keeping your hands warm, but they're just one part of the chain, and if any of the pieces are missing, not even the thickest, warmest gloves in the world will stop your hands from getting cold.

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Hands and feet are the natural choice from our thermoregulator system to fine-control temperature, and are the first ones to suffer when the body needs to prevent heat loss on cold days. For that reason, after they get cold, it is very difficult to get them warm "from within" after vasoconstriction ensues, even if you have warm core as @prototoast said, because the warm blood doesn't get to the skin easily. Worse even on bikes, where the fingers are so exposed to cold wind. –  heltonbiker Feb 27 '12 at 17:11
    
If your circulation in extremities cuts off very quickly and takes a long time to come back, you should speak to your doctor and ask them about Raynaud's phenomenon - it's a problem that a lot of people suffer with, including me. There are a lot ways to deal with it without requiring medication, including dietary changes, and it can really help when cycling or walking in the cold. –  Polynomial Feb 27 '12 at 18:47
    
I have Raynaud's too. I do not know what changes to make though to help keep my fingers from freezing –  anton2g Feb 27 '12 at 19:51
    
I usually cycle with bare arms and warm gloves: if I need to cool myself then it's easier to push my sleeves up than to take my gloves off. Also my arm is bigger than my fingers, so it stays warm more easily. –  ChrisW Feb 28 '12 at 5:19

Cold hands?

The ski patrol guys around here get cheap, thick, leather, insulated gloves at Target. (Or some other commodity department store.)

They're cheap and work for the winter. Of course, you can go for the nice cycling gloves. Several years back, Pearl Izumi had these wonderful winter cycling gloves. I wore out 2 pairs and when I went to buy a third pair, the model had been discontinued. So, I settled for another brand at the time. Cold hands for $50!

Anyway later on, I was chatting with a fellow cyclist in the bike locker room at work and complaining about cold hands. He was using these insulated, leather, utility work gloves. He got the idea from the local ski patrollers. $15 later, I quit having cold hands on the commute. The key is to pick ones that offer adequate dexterity.

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One option I don't yet see between the excellent answers above is this:

If you have fixed the wind issue you still lose a lot of heat in your hands through your handlebars. The rubber grip usually provides some insulation, but the metal of your handlebars is highly heat-conductive and constantly getting cooled by the entire bike. So in cold weather you are constantly holding on to a frozen stick that is very good at conducting heat away from your hands. Some additional padding on the handlebar side of things can greatly reduce that. Cork, or cork-like materials are very good at it. Unfortunately most options a know of are not very durable, so they'll only last a winter or so.

Windstopper gloves and better handlebar insulation keep my hands warm in subzero temperatures where just the gloves were not enough.

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If you have flat bars, tearing a hole in the corner of a ziplog bag to place over the handlebar grip gives you a mighty cheap pogie.

I find that fleece gloves, especially fleece flip-mits with polypro liners below them, can warm up very well.

Hand and foot warmth is highly dependent upon good circulation. Elastic around the wrists can make your hands colder by constricting your circulation. Also, increasing your core temperature is a good way to keep you limbs warm as well...so adding a fleece vest under your windbreaker can also be rather effective.

Wool long underwear is easily as effective as polypro long underwear and doesn't get a sweat funk as quickly, and I would suggest this as well.

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First off, get some "glove liners". These are thin polypro gloves that go under other gloves, either regular cycling gloves or heaver winter gloves.

They provide an extra layer of insulation, and, in addition, you can remove the outer gloves and leave on the glove liners while working on the bike -- they're thin enough that they don't interfere with dexterity.

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There is no one pair of gloves that will solve this problem for all temperature ranges for all types/durations of riding.

It is very important to block the wind and provide insulation, but if you do that "too well" your hands will sweat and the moisture will subsequently increase heat transfer to the outside and your hands will get cold in short order.

Here's what I do...

  • For cool temps (well above freezing): long finger "track" gloves, Giro Monaco
  • For cold temps (near freezing): Gore-tex gloves
  • For very cold temps (well below freezing): I don't, but those that do use some combination of glove liner, insulating layer, wind shell, and neoprene "handlebar cozy"

I had once thought that "lobster-style" ski gloves would be the ultimate gloves for cycling at all cold temps, but I was bitterly proven wrong. Gloves like that work great the first half hour or so, but the moisture build-up eventually made my hands unbearably cold.

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There have been excellent answers already, and I agree with most of them, specially the physiology of Prototoast, the pros/cons pointed by Macias, and the windstopping need pointed by Glenn (+1 for them).

I have used some gloves which were terrible, although thick, because they don't stop the wind. Thick knitted gloves are the perfect example.

Currently, in winter, I use a glove bought in a motorcycle store, which is quite similar to ski gloves: a nylon-like external layer, and a fleece-like internal layer. They are not so thick as ski ones, though.

You have to get used to the reduced motricity and sensibility, and most probably you will drop your keys when getting home, but with time even taking money bills from the wallet becomes relatively easy. But now my fingers get HOT while going fast to work in order to make the body warm. When I take the gloves off at the destination, no way I suffer from "hard fingers".

I like the idea of mitts/pogies, I used them with motorcycle and they work very fine specially in rain, but since the handlebars on commuter bikes are already cluttered most times, and unlike motorcycle the hands get some warm blood from the body, I think these gloves are already fine on a bicycle.

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You might want to try to get some Pogies. These cover your hands and the bars, and can help a lot in keeping your hands warm.

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Probably you are looking for bar mitts (pogies).

HOWEVER -- until recently I wanted to buy them, 4 months ago I had a nasty accident in comfortable conditions, just pure bad luck, that's all. From that point on I said "no" to any device that attaches me to the bicycle -- the reason is, in case of accident it is a split of the second, when you can fall on the ground and roll away, if you are attached you hit with entire force, and such static hit is too dangerous.

Getting back to gloves, since I have the same problem, I ended up with two gloves -- thin one, internal, and second one, lobster type.

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Macias; that's interesting, because I've always understood the best thing to do in most cases during a crash is to keep your hands ON the bars--this prevents the natural reaction of reaching an arm out, which is what leads to so many broken collarbones. That, and allows you to 'tuck and roll' much better! –  Darren Cope Feb 28 '12 at 13:22
    
@Darren Cope, how do you roll with your arms on the handlebar? With your entire bicycle with you? –  greenoldman Feb 28 '12 at 13:43
    
Macias; Well, essentially it's not really a 'roll' so much as a 'tuck' - the main idea being to avoid sticking your arms out and breaking a collar bone. –  Darren Cope Feb 28 '12 at 16:57
    
@Darren Cope, I didn't say anything about sticking your arms out -- my point is in case of the crash your bike works like debris and at the same time stopper. The sooner you are free, the better. So having anything which ties you to bike (SPDs, pogies) is dangerous. –  greenoldman Feb 28 '12 at 21:35

Look for gloves made with a Windstopper material. I have some pretty thin gloves made with this and stay warmer then my thicker gloves because they stop the wind so well. You may want to look at lighter weight running gloves made with this as I find them a little more pliable. Most I have seen are not waterproof though.

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If you check any local outdoor retailer(basspro shop,cabellas,ems,dicks sporting goods) etc.They sell chemical hand warmers.They are basically a pouch filled with iron filings that heats as the pouch is exposed to the air.They will last about 10 hours(ride to work and ride home time for most of us).They cost about one dollar US. Place the pouch on the back of your hand as that is where the blood vessels are.If you are commuting and the ride is fairly short try preheating your gloves on a heater before you leave.Another suggestion from a skier buddy of mine is to apply muscle rub to your hands. I would use the odorless variety,it stimulates the circulation increases blood flow and keeps your hands or feet warm.

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