There comes a time every fall when even the best winter cycling gloves just can’t keep your hands warm anymore. Fortunately, there are mittens that attach to the handlebars on your bike that allow you to wear lightweight gloves in even the coldest of weather while your hands stay toasty warm. The three best-known brands of these handlebar mittens are Bar Mitts, Moose Mitts and Bike Poagies. I a couple of pairs of each of these brands and use all of them (but not at the same time). I usually start using these mitts when the temperature is around 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Products like Bar Mitts, Moose Mitts and Bike Poagies not only allow you to wear thinner gloves (and thus increase hand dexterity), but they also block the wind better than any glove can. Sometimes people underestimate how much their hands perspire in the winter—after a couple hours of riding the inside of your gloves become saturated with moisture and the slightest bit of wind can turn your hands into blocks of ice.
One of the biggest mistakes people new to winter cycling make is wearing clothing that is too tight—it impedes blood circulation and ends up making your colder. Layered, loose clothing allows warm pockets of air to form around you and give an additional insulating layer (it works on the same principle as a sleeping bag). All three of these products allow for a layer of warm air to form around your gloves. If you ride in temperatures below freezing you need to buy one (or more) of these products—there is no reason to have cold fingers on winter rides!
I do have two suggestions if you use any of these mitts. First, if you store your bike in an unheated garage (like most of us do) you can quickly warm up the inside of the mitts with a handheld hair dryer before you go on your ride (it just takes about 30 seconds per mitt). I bought a cheap hair dryer for a drug store for under $10.00. Second, if it is really cold outside (under ten degrees) you can toss disposable chemical hand warmers into any of these mitts and they will do an even better job of keeping you warm.
All three of these brands of mitts are well made and I highly recommend all of them to you. I hope this article will hope you choose the one best suited for your needs.
Bar Mitts attach to your handle bars with a simple Velcro cinch and can stay on all winter long without any problem. Once installed you can put your gloved hands into the mitts and ride in some of the worst weather possible without worrying about frostbite. I ride with my “fall gloves” (gloves I use when the temperature is between 40 and 50 degrees) even when the temperature is in the teens. Bar Mitts give you much more control over your bike since you are wearing thinner gloves (plus you can actually find your energy bars and gels by touch). Getting out of the mitts while riding is no problem.
Bar Mitts are made of 5.5mm thick neoprene (a synthetic rubber used in wetsuits) and has nylon laminated on each side. Bar Mitts are available for both road and mountain bikes and retail for $65 a pair (with free shipping within the contiguous United States). The folks at Bar Mitts ship their products out very quickly—I’ve ordered twice from them and both times the items arrived within five days after ordering.
The mitts for flat bars fit most mountain bikes, commuter bikes, and Townies. They also have a style available for road bikes with drop bars—one style is for the older Shimano style (externally routed cables), and another is for Campy, SRAM, the newer Shimano style (internally routed cables). The drop bar version of Bar Mitts only protects your hands when you are riding with them on the hoods (you have no protection when you hands are on the drops or flats).
Moose Mitts are made of thick 1000 denier Cordura, a sturdy and abrasion resistant material, and are lined on the inside with heavy fleece. The outside is coated with a windproof and waterproof membrane—it also has a decent amount of reflective material so cars can see you better at night. On the inside of the Moose Mitts there is a small internal pocket where you can put chemical hand warmers or use them as a storage area for your energy bars. One nice feature of Moose Mitts is the Velcro closure on the bottom of the mitts that allow you to close the mitts and keep the heat in if you stop to take a photograph or “nature break.”
Moose Mitts for mountain bikes are available in either standard black or with an incredibly bright fluorescent Hunter Orange Cordura that has twice as much reflective material as standard Moose Mitts. Some Fat Bike riders are fortunate enough to be able to ride on groomed snowmobile trails. The downside of groomed trails is that a snowmobile running along at 30 MPH can easily overlook a cyclist, and in a snowmobile versus bicycle crash the snowmobile will always win. These HiVis mitts can be seen a long way off, even at night, and could possible save your life.
Moose Mitts also come in a road bike version for drop bars and, like the MTB version, are made of thick 1000 Denier Cordura and lined on the inside with heavy fleece. They are both windproof and waterproof. These mitts are attached to your handlebars by an elastic ring that goes over the bottom of your drops, a strip of Velcro on the top, and another strip of Velcro around your cables. There is also a strip of 3M reflective tape on the top of the mitts. The drop bar version of Moose Mitts allow you to ride your road bike with you hands in any of the three standard positions (on the drops, hoods, or flats).
At first glance Moose Mitts look about as aerodynamic as a bookcase. However, I’ve ridden with them into 30 MPH headwinds without any trouble. In fact, and this is a very subjective opinion, I think the Moose Mitts create less drag than you would have with a pair of lobster gloves on.
Moose Mitts are hand-made in the U.S.A., but they are only manufactured during the winter months, so if you want a pair you need to order them soon—shipping can be a little slow if everyone decides to wait until the first snowfall to order. The mountain bike Super HiVis version of Moose Mitts sells for $90, while the standard black sells for $65. The drop bar version of Moose Mitts sells for $75. They offer free shipping in the United States (Canadian orders are $22 extra for shipping).
Bike Poagies are manufactured and sold by Dogwood Designs, a small business in Fairbanks, Alaska (and those folks know what cold weather is really like). Bike Poagies fit over standard straight bicycle handlebars and allow you to slip your gloved hands in and ride in warmth and comfort. They have a durable nylon shell on the outside, polyester insulation in the middle, and a nylon taffeta lining. There is also a lightweight internal skeleton to make sure the Poagies hold their shape.
To attach Poagies to your bike you just slide them over your handlebar and then cinch them down around the bar with the attached elastic strap. There is also a gusset where you put your hands into the Poagies that you can close to keep the cold air out. However, I leave mine open most of the time because my hands get too warm when the Poagies are sealed up too tightly. If your bike has bar ends (like the Ergon GC3 Handlebar Grips) these Poagies will fit over them perfectly and allow you to still use several different hand positions. Bike Poagies are roomy enough that you can store a couple of energy bars or gels in them to keep them warm (or a chemical hand warmer if needed).
Standard Bike Poagies are good down to around -15 Fahrenheit. Dogwood Designs also offers Poagies Plus which are supposed to be good down to around -40 (I’ve never had a chance to try these out for myself). Both versions of Poagies are available with an optional reflective trim if you have to share your route with either cars or snowmobiles.
Bike Poagies sell for $98, and the Poagies Plus for $150. The optional reflective trim is an additional $12. Both versions of Poagies are available in an unbelievable seventeen different colors: Red, Royal Blue, Yellow, Neon Green, Hot Pink, Safety Orange, Electric Watermelon, Purple, Gold, Forest Green, Charcoal, Light Gray, Navy, Kelly Green, Chocolate Brown, Olive Green, and All Black. The cost for shipping to U.S. addresses is around $12 ($25 to Canadian addresses).
The folks at Dogwood Designs do not have a Website. However, you can email them at email@example.com for a current brochure (they will send it to you as a PDF file).