When you’re cycling, your hands get cold easily for the same reasons that your feet do. It’s a combination of windchill, lack of useful movement, and the fact that the body diverts blood to keep your head and torso warm when they’re cold. If you’re not losing heat rapidly elsewhere, your hands will stay warmer too. Put a hat on!
Your hands do warm up as your ride, particularly if you ride energetically, as the blood gets pumped around your body better. Some cyclists can tolerate thin gloves in winter for that reason. Cycling warms up your hands more effectively if your gloves, whatever their thickness, are warm and dry to begin with. Let them live on top of a radiator.
Any gloves are better than none. That pound-shop pair might actually be okay for drier days when it’s closer to 10ºC than zero. If you forget your gloves and need something, anything, for the journey home, a couple of pairs of plastic gloves from a petrol station forecourt will help.
If you haven’t got around to buying winter cycling gloves and there’s a sudden cold spell, wear a sufficiently large pair of washing-up gloves over the top of a cheap pair of woollen or polyester gloves. You now have waterproof, windproof, insulated gloves… albeit ones that will get damp and smelly with sweat.
Winter cycling gloves are unsurprisingly better. There’s a trade-off between dexterity and warmth. The bulkier the glove and the fewer fingers it has, the warmer it will be. Mittens are warmest but make gear shifting difficult, so ‘lobster’ gloves are a more useful compromise on a bike.
It’s worth having more than one pair of gloves so you don’t have to sweat in your gauntlets when it’s 6ºC or suffer in your uninsulated pair when it’s sub-zero. Liner gloves like these from Sealskinz and Polaris can be worn by themselves on milder days and inside your other gloves when the temperature plummets.
Chemical handwarmers can be stuffed in your gloves for occasional spells of really cold weather. But if you regularly find that your hands are cold, regardless of what gloves you wear, you want pogies. These ‘over-gloves’ fasten over the bike’s grips, brakes and gear levers, shielding your gloved hands like motorcycle handlebar muffs (which also work). As they’re primarily designed for cycling in countries that have snow on the ground for half the year, you don’t see them much in the UK. You can buy them online from, for example, Hotpog or Bar Mitts.
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