Avoiding Cold Hands

Hands are usually the first to get cold. Unlike running or cross country skiing, a cyclists hands are pretty stationary and the muscles aren’t used much which would generate heat. Cyclists also move at faster speeds and create greater wind chill. All this means cyclists need to do more to keep the hands from getting cold and cutting your ride short.

Iditasport race in Alaska

I’ve found that handlebar mitts (also called Moose Mitts or Pogies) are the best bet for hands. They are basically large windproof cloth covers for your handlebars. You ride with your hands inside these covers. You still wear gloves, but you don’t need to wear as heavy a glove.

I usually put these on my bike when temperatures start staying around freezing or below. At freezing, I would ride with fleece gloves. If your hands ever get too warm, you can ride with them outside of the mitts, but make sure you still have access to your brakes.

The coldest I’ve used them in was -15F and I was wearing Pearl Izumi’s AmFib lobster mitts. My hands were getting a little colder so I was lightly gripping the handlebar and rotating my hands as if revving a motorcycle. Between the added friction and workout, my hands didn’t freeze. Ideally I would have used chemical warmers in that situation but I had used up my supply the day before.

One other benefit of handlebar mitts is you can stash food items or even additional gloves inside of them.

I’ve heard many folks worry about getting their hands out of them when crashing. Trust me. I’ve proven this not to be a problem.

The final word of advice is your hands are not always going to be comfortable. Sometimes the best you can hope for is a steady-state of chilliness. That’s fine. If winter cycling were all about comfort, it certainly would toughen you up and build character. You just need to make sure your hands are not getting colder and colder, heading towards serious damage such as frost bite.



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