Weather conditions have always been the bane of many cyclists. Hot or cold, especially cold, cyclists have the least protection from the elements among all mediums of transport.
In this article, we will be talking about how you can keep yourself, your hands in particular, warm during your commute, training, or a leisurely ride through the bitterness of winter.
➥ Check out our selection of some of the finest cycling gloves for sub-zero weather conditions
There are many ways that you can approach this:
First, and simplest, is getting yourself a pair of warm gloves. Keep in mind that there are specialized cycling gloves suited to different weather conditions. Other than that, there are other measures you can take to keep your hands warm, like warming up your gloves beforehand or keeping your hands routinely moving during your ride.
All of this and more will be broken down and discussed later on in the article.
But first, let us understand why our hands feel cold while cycling:
Heat Circulation Around the Body: Why Do Our Hands Become Cold While Cycling?
Our hands don’t become cold only during winter or chilly weather, many cyclists can experience cold hands even on a breezy, sweet summer ride down the road. Understanding why our hands become cold while riding is just as important as knowing how to prevent them from becoming cold.
Your body always prioritizes keeping your head and torso warm in case of a colder environment, this is especially true when you are riding a cycle and are exposed to the elements. This fact, combined with wind chill and the lack of useful movement of your arms (as they are held stationary on the handles), the body naturally diverts blood to the head and the torso.
The lack of warm blood circulation through your fingers turns them cold.
Types of Gloves
The best way to avoid cold hands is to, naturally, wear gloves.
But let me just stop you right there. It is not as simple as donning your favorite mitts and hitting the road.
You also have to consider the dexterity that is required while riding, for braking and shifting gears.
So, it is more of a balancing act, between dexterity and warmth, when choosing the right type of gloves for yourself. And there are many to choose from, each with its own particular strong points and situations:
- Short-Finger Cycling Gloves
- Full Cycling Gloves
- Full Gloves with Insulation Lining
- Bike Mittens
- Bar Mitts
Here is a more in-depth breakdown:
1. Short-Finger Cycling Gloves
These types of cycling gloves are made for warmer weather. The open fingers provide great aeration, preventing your hands from getting sweaty, all the while providing great coverage for your palms and the back of your hand from the elements.
➥ Have a look at our selection, in case you’re someone who cycles in warmer weather conditions and requires a pair of bike gloves for warmer weather conditions
The short-finger style also allows for greater freedom of finger movement, enabling you to go on more challenging rides as you can brake and shift with ease.
A great choice if you are looking to go mountain biking in the mild autumn weather.
➥ If you happen to be into mountain biking, in this case, do check our selection of some of the finest MTB gloves
2. Full Cycling Gloves
The temperature can sometimes be very misleading. The wind chill may factor in drastically as you are riding making your fingers freeze up deceptively fast. Even more so if it is raining.
In cases like these, it is best to have your hands covered from the wrist to the fingertips. Full cycling gloves are the best answer to this.
Made from tough fabric, similar to that of the short-fingered version, these gloves provide full coverage of your hands without fully suffocating them or restricting finger movement whatsoever.
These gloves can sometimes be designed to have special fingertips to allow you to interact with touchscreens. A great convenience to have if you are commuting in cold weather and need to interact with your phone every so often.
3. Full Gloves with Insulation Lining
The upgraded version of the full cycling glove is the one that comes with insulation.
Meant for the cold winter rides, these gloves have an outer layer of windproof fabric and the inside is lined with insulating fleece. This makes these gloves great for battling the elements all the while keeping your hands warm and cozy.
These gloves may also come with anti-slip palm engravings to prevent your hands from slipping off the bars during wet and icy conditions.
Do make sure to adjust the wristband snugly and under the cuffs of your jacket to prevent any cold air from entering.
You can also add extra layering of insulating fabric if need be (or another glove).
➥ We suggest you have a look at our selection of some of the top padded cycling gloves
4. Bike Mittens
As the name suggests, these are full-fledged mitts that you can wear for maximum protection. Like traditional mitts, these have a single pocket for all of your fingers. The idea is that the closer your fingers are to each other, the warmer they will be.
Not to say anything about the thick layering of fabric and insulation that you will be getting with these. They are built to keep your hands well insulated even in the case of heavy snowfalls.
The only downsides would be the lack of freedom your fingers will get while cycling which can prove to be dangerous during emergencies. For example: emergency braking or taking them off during an accident.
To somewhat remedy that, an alternative of the mitts are now available on the market: the lobster gloves. These are a hybrid of the traditional mitts with two pouches for your fingers and a slot for your thumb. This allows for enough finger movement and dexterity while also keeping your hands warm.
5. Handlebar Mitts
A very unique way to keep your hands warm is not to wear mittens yourself, but to put them on the handlebars of the bike itself.
They are usually made of neoprene, a completely windproof material. And since they cover the handlebars and brakes of the cycle, you can wear any type of glove that can keep your hands warmer but also enough freedom to be able to shift and brake with ease.
They are usually one size fits all, easy to set up, and very convenient for long commutes on a snowy or windy winter’s day.
Other Factors to Consider
Beyond gloves, there are other measures you can take to keep yourself nice and toasty on a cold ride.
- Keep moving your hands – Your hands getting cold and numb fast means not enough blood is circulating through your fingers, or effectively. This can happen because your hands are always in a static state on the handlebars. So it is imperative that you routinely stretch your fingers and wrists, especially during long rides, to ensure a continuous flow of blood through them. Chances of frostbite increase the longer your fingers stay numb in the cold.
- Insulate your handlebars – A trick that many cyclists use is to cover their handlebars with insulating materials, like neoprene. This will stop the metal of the handlebars from conducting heat from your fingers, keeping them warm.
- Warm your gloves before heading out – If you plan on heading out on your bike soon it is always a good idea to heat your gloves beforehand. You can use your radiator or just popping them on a warm kettle will do just fine.
- Do stretches – Doing some stretches before heading out to warm up your body will do wonders for your blood circulation.
- Keep yourself well-fed and hydrated – Your body needs a lot of energy to stay warm when you are out in the cold. Keeping a high-calorie count will serve you well, or just head to the nearest coffee shop for a good refill.
This video provides a good guide to keep yourself warm while cycling:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How do I stop my hands from hurting when cycling?
Ans.: While many people argue that some discomfort while riding is expected, it could be a part of a larger problem. Some of the measures you can take to reduce this are:
- Adjust your saddle and handlebars to a comfortable level.
- Make sure the shifter placement is in a comfortable position.
- The handle grips are comfortable to use.
- Move your hands routinely to get the blood circulation going.
- Keep an eye out for underlying medical issues, like carpal tunnel.
Q2. What is a cyclist’s palsy? How long does it last?
Ans.: Many cyclists who have been riding for a long time often suffer from numbness, pain, or a tingling sensation in the fingers or hands. These may be caused by:
- Excessive pressure on the nerves and blood vessels of the hands.
- Keeping the wrists extended for a longer period of time.
- Uncomfortable seating and handlebar position.
- Uneven tires.
This is also known as handlebar palsy or biker’s palsy.
These symptoms can last up to eight weeks if the hands were exposed to compression for a long period of time. Though conditions can be easily treated with proper care and therapy.
Whether it be for training, commuting, or a leisurely ride, cycling presents a versatile solution to all. The only thing that can stop you are the elements that surround you. Namely the cold.
Cold hands can be detrimental to any cycling experience and it is a very prevalent problem amongst cyclists. This can numb your hands at crucial moments leading to accidents and medical conditions, and in worst cases, frostbite.
Hope we were able to enlighten you on ways in which you can keep your hands warm when you are out there in the deep chill of winter or any cold weather for that matter. And we hope you take proper steps to keep yourself healthy and safe on the road. Cheers!