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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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  • 1
    Some kinds of gloves are very bad for winter cycling, some answers below elaborate that. Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 17:11
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure this question has been asked before. Perhaps someone can dig up the thread. Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 19:48
  • 2
    I use leather gloves; they work very well for keeping out the wind Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 2:26
  • Is there a gap or an overlap between your sleeve-cuff and your gloves ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 22:04

15 Answers 15

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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. Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 17:11
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    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
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 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
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 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
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 5:19
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Look for gloves made with a Windstopper material. I have some pretty thin gloves made with this and stay warmer than 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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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! Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 13:22
  • @Darren Cope, how do you roll with your arms on the handlebar? With your entire bicycle with you? Commented Feb 28, 2012 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. Commented Feb 28, 2012 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. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 21:35
  • I don't think that pogies holds someone to a bicycle anymore than a pillow holds one to a bed. You might have seen pogies where people pull the wrist cords too tightly which is not recommended. Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 3:53
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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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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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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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I use fingered gloves with electric heating. The model I use, Snowlife Heat GTX, has enough battery power for the two 40 min rides even at full power for -5 C, so I do not need to charge at work. There are also two reduced levels available. The gloves work well not just when it is really cold but also around zero. I never had courage to let them get really wet but they handle limited humidity also very well. My model also has insanely bright red LEDs to indicate they are on, these work nice when giving hand signals late evening. I also like the possibility to shut down the heater quickly without stopping when on the second part of my ride I get warm enough from myself.

I previously tried several types of other gloves types but on E-bike at 20 km/h just gloves gets not enough at +3 C or below. I understand it is quite a high end solution, and expensive, but the price of the yearly train/bus ticket that is saved may give the sufficient budget.

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I'm very fond of my Pogie lites https://bikeiowa.store/products/pogielites?variant=8136388804709

I have gone down to the low 30's/0C wearing fingerless gloves, inside slightly larger soft leather gloves, inside the pogies. No complaints, pain or fatigue.

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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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  • @VladimirFГероямслава fixed the link. Found something that should be more permanent than a product page.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 14:15
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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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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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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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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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In addition to the other answers, I find that the key to having warm hands is making sure that I keep my arms really warm - because if your arms aren't warm, then your hands have absolutely no chance of being warm.

To this end I often put on an extra pair of cycling arm-warmers underneath a long-sleeved jersey/jacket, which does the job very nicely.

There is also at least one commuter bike for sale in the UK which comes with heated grips - whilst these are very popular on motorbikes it's pretty rare to see them in the cycling world.

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I think that something the question and answers are both missing is: Which winter are you referring to? The winter in my area typically can get to -20F/-29C during the day which makes all other solutions here useless or wasteful (single-use disposable heating pads should be for emergencies). The only two solutions I've found are dependent on your handlebars. I've used US Military Surplus Air Force mittens comfortably from 30F to -30F. These things would be in airplane ejector seats in case pilot was stranded in arctic

These things would be in airplane ejector seats in case pilot was stranded in arctic. However, for massive mittens you must have a single speed bike or twist shifters, all others are too difficult to manage. I never had problems with brakes. They also have a long string that ties them together that I keep over the back of my neck, so when my hands are too warm I can easily take them off while riding.

Pogies (known by brand name Bar Mitts) are also very functional, but using odd shaped handlebars requires buying odd shaped pogies.
Standard pogies

However, if your bike is left in an unheated environment, your hands will always be fighting the coldness of the bars and levers underneath, as will the inside of the pogies be cold when your ride begins.

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  • Aside - you can also get pogs / bar mitts for drop bars.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 7:32

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