Let it be known that I tend to have naturally cold hands even when in heated, indoor environments. I am currently seated in a fairly warm room as I type, and my hands are quite cold. Additionally, my feet seem to be on the same system and I find that even indoors (unless in the heat of summer) I prefer to keep warm, wool socks on my feet, even if I am not wearing shoes to keep my whole body from turning cold.
I find that when my feet and/or hands are cold, my whole body seems to become chilled, and I've also found that sometimes I am able to counteract the coldness in my hands and feet if I work to heat up my body. For example, if I do a round of jumping jacks, squats, or other movement my body tends to heat up and this generally spreads the heat to my hands and feet. When it comes to going outdoors in the cold though, it isn't always possible to heat up the body prior to departure in such a manner. Which is where gloves come in to hopefully help stave off cold.
Ah, gloves. I think I have experimented with just about every brand or type at one point or another, but there always seems to be a quality that isn't well suited for my needs. If gloves don't provide any wind protection, on very cold days, I might just as well not don gloves at all (or at least that is how my hands feel). Whether physically windy outside isn't the point. Any one who rides a bicycle in colder weather understands that the wind created through movement is more often than not enough to freeze hands on its own.
If a glove isn't water resistant (or proof) the instant they get wet, hands tend to go numb too in freezing or even close-to-freezing temperatures. Some gloves that are wind and water proof don't allow the hands to breathe causing hands to sweat and this can also cause freezing, numb hands.
Over the years and depending on how cold the day is, I have started to layer my hands as I would my body, thinking that it makes sense to have more than one layer of protection. The gloves used are usually liner-type gloves layered over each other, starting with a soft, next-to-skin option and adding as needed. While this does work on cold, dry days for the most part, it does little to help in rain or snow. Additionally, if I wear too many layers (which can sometimes be just two pair of gloves), my hands can begin to sweat causing numbness and freezing anyway, regardless of the thickness, quality, or number of gloves worn.
Through all of the experiments over the last several years, I have had varying success with a couple of options. First, and I cannot stress this enough, if my hands are cold prior to putting on gloves, I find it far more challenging to get them warm while out riding, walking or being outdoors. So, I have learned to warm my hands up before I even attempt to put on a glove. This may mean rubbing them together in a warm area prior to heading outside or even wearing gloves in an indoor area to heat up my hands before I put on gloves for outdoor trips. I have also used hand warmers (and some people even make their own - though I've honestly never tried it).
|Ibex Conductive Glove/Liner|
These are pretty thin, but do enough just to keep the chill out. If they get wet in freezing temperatures, they are pretty much useless.
I've also used Icebreaker models (these are generally 90-96% wool). There are several options available from lighter to heavier weight from this manufacturer, so if you prefer a thicker liner, there are options. SmartWool also makes a liner, though their option is only 46% wool. A bit disappointing when looking for a wool liner, but I have a pair of these as well and they work too in some situations. There are models from Hestra and Minus33 and others as well. It's just a matter of finding one that is appropriate for individual needs.
I like the Ibex liner because I can keep it on if I need to stop and use my cell phone and it works perfectly. It's also very lightweight, so if it's mildly cold and it's dry, sometimes I can get away with just using this glove alone. The fit is good for dexterity, and while I wish Ibex would return to manufacturing an extra small size, the small size is workable (my glove size is a women's 7, which often tend to be slightly large, but I have long palms and long thumbs making fit sometimes a challenge). There is just a bit of extra fabric at the end of my fingers, but until I find the perfect liner, these are close enough to work for my purposes.
Burton snowboard liner, I've chosen a Gore tex Windstopper glove for some wind relief, but whatever option is chosen, the temperature and conditions are the deciding factor.
Outdoor Research glove or an older version of these Marmot Randonnee gloves (mine worked great except in the very coldest conditions until one of the dogs got a hold and damaged them) have worked well as a second layer. This past year, I picked up a pair of 45NRTH Sturmfist 5 gloves on sale and off-season, and they have become my favorite second layer (and sometimes only layer), cold weather glove of choice. I also ordered the Sturmfist 4, but couldn't seem to get the interior liner to cooperate and had to send them back. I suspect these might work a bit better though, even in colder conditions, if one received a pair that were undamaged.
Lobster claw type gloves, much heavier snowboard gloves, or something along these lines is likely the best choice.
pogies/bar mitts. These can be a costly option in some cases, and I have not had an opportunity to test them enough to know which brands are more functional/effective. I will say that Sam picked up a couple pair of ATV bar mitts online for a very low price, but we have not yet had the opportunity to test these out either. I think that these along with wearing a good pair of gloves, could be an outstanding option for very cold weather rides as well.
The fit of gloves is often a major hassle itself, and how important it is to move digits independently is a factor each individual must determine him/herself. Ideally, mitten-style makes the most sense in my mind because fingers are kept together and work together to keep heated, but it is a highly impractical style when requiring at least some dexterity. Lobster claw gloves would probably be the next option, followed by a 5-finger glove style. Bar mitts potentially eliminate dexterity issues, but some find them to present their own dangers (such as having hands "trapped" inside in emergency situations).
For some reason, I have not struggled as extensively with keeping feet warm during cold weather rides. Which is not to say that it hasn't or doesn't happen, but simply that for me, my hands seem to be the more challenging body part to keep comfortable in winter conditions (assuming, of course, that my feet don't end up wet). If I wear thick wool socks - or even two pair - and shoes that don't allow moisture in, I seem to be okay for the most part when it comes to keeping warm. Wind blockers over shoes are also helpful, but I don't recall the last time I had need for these as an addition to footwear.
My biggest obstacle in regard to feet and winter riding is slipping off pedals. Because I use platform pedals, slick surface area is often the biggest challenge. All of my platforms have pins to allow for greater grip; however, when there is snow or ice accumulation on shoes, I find the risk of sliding right off the pedal much higher. It doesn't help matters that I've yet to find a shoe or boot that is more slip resistant.
The best to-date option has been to use hiking shoes that are waterproof, but those that work best for my feet still don't seem to provide much traction on slick surfaces, causing me to continue to search for the right set up. Additionally, in deeper snow, I find that my socks end up wet, which is followed by very cold/frozen feet.
As is apparent, I have not yet found the right solution for me... but the hunt continues!
I think the biggest point I would make in regard to the items I use is that I am not riding at great speed in the winter months. I think increased speed can definitely have an affect on how comfortable a person is in cold weather. My maximum tends to hover around 12-13mph/19-21kph in the winter months as I tend to take my time. More often than not, my speed is somewhere around 8-10mph/12-16kph, or even slower, so I understand that those who maintain higher speeds in very cold conditions may have entirely different experiences.
My experience has also been that if I keep the core of my body warm, I tend to have better success with gloves and footwear in regard to warmth. The challenging piece is finding the right combinations for particular scenarios, and I think it can change from day to day quite easily, making what seems perfect one day a complete disaster on another trip.
I would love to hear about items or techniques that have worked for you while riding in cold weather and/or snowy/rainy conditions in the winter. Do you have layering techniques, or do you prefer a specific brand/product? Do you choose to forego cold weather rides entirely? If you have shoe/boot suggestions for snowy/icy weather, those would be appreciated as well.