Thursday, February 21, 2013

Winter Cycling and Cold Hands - Part 1

So I ride a lot in the winter. Not that cool and fun, 90 km to a destination type riding or the all out time trial practice stuff, but I do ride a lot. I commute most days to work by bike and it is a 16-17 km ride each way through the heart of Halifax and over the bridge to Dartmouth.

I used to be able to just throw some stuff on in the morning and go, and cold hands and feet be damned. But over the last couple of years, well those cold hands and feet just weren't so much fun anymore.

Feet for me have been fairly easy to deal with. Feet can be bundled up and don't need any real dexterity. Thick wool socks and shoe covers (neoprene work best) were fine for years. But my favorite shoe covers were no longer available once the old ones wore out. So I bought fancy winter cycling boots for like $130 or so and have been very happy (they can go much higher in price than that). Still, when push comes to shove, you can just put on some nice warm hiking boots and be happy as well.

But hands and fingers, oh my. First I started with nice cross country ski gloves. Fine for a bit. Then I got some really great lobster style gloves. Nice, but for me, when the temp gets lower than -4C or so, they just weren't cutting it. My fingers were still getting cold, especially my thumb. So I got big fat gloves, then I got really expensive work gloves made of leather and stuff, then I went to mittens. Mittens were by far the best, but still, my thumb would get really cold when the temps were below -10C.

And I know that many other winter cyclists have told me all sort of stories about their gloves and how this glove works for them etc.... But for me, regular gloves just aren't cutting it anymore. My fingers get cold and stay cold for a long period of time. I mean hours after I am done riding.

Next stop, adding heat. You can buy those little chemical heating pads. They work once for a few hours and give off heat. nice idea, but really, they heat your palm or the back of your hand. And they add up cost wise pretty quick when you ride twice a day at least 4 times a week. So i bought those reusable heating pads.

These things throw a ton of heat and I would shove them in my glove or mitten and off I would go. But sadly, they turn rock hard as they cool down. This means all of a sudden you can't bend your hand anymore, and again, they really only heat everything but your fingers.

Now if my ride was a flat out 17km, I might be able to suck it up and head forth. But I have to stop at every red light and sit there in windy Halifax. And the bridge is always about 10 degrees cooler with the wind it seems. And that is assuming the bridge is open and you don't have to wait for a shuttle to ferry you across.

So after a week of insane below -20C this winter, I said enough was enough. I didn't want to drive to work, but I also hated sitting at work all day with hands that never warmed up. So my search began to find something that would warm my hands as I rode, and that I could reuse easily for the ride home.

Thus began my search for heated gloves.

I'll talk about that search in the next post.

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