Staying warm on a cold-weather ride can often feel like an uphill battle, balancing warmth, resistance to the elements and breathability.
The best winter cycling gloves can transform your ride, with your hands taking the brunt of the cold wind, rain, snow and whatever else your blustery ride throws at you, it's crucial to find the right level of insulation and wind and waterproofing.
What's worse is even when your hands do get cold, beyond just being uncomfortable, it can also impede grip and dexterity for braking and shifting. Read on for a roundup of the best winter cycling gloves the Cyclingnews team reaches for when the temperatures begin to drop.
What to look for in winter cycling gloves?
What is the weather like where you ride?
If you live in Florida a set of lobster claw gloves will probably never leave the drawer, and a pair of liners will probably suffice for keeping your hands happy on a winter ride; on the other hand (pun intended) if you're a roadie who lives in Iceland, a full-fledged set of bar mitts probably won't keep your hands warm enough.
Same goes for wind and waterproofing, for our UK readers, wet weather riding is a given and a glove with a waterproof membrane is likely to leave you happier than one that doesn't, while if you live on the Gold Coast in Australia, you can probably get away with just a windproof membrane.
Finding the right level of insulation and breathability is key as if your hands overheat and saturate your gloves with sweat, you're still going to end up with cold fingers.
DWR vs windproof vs waterproof
There is a significant difference between windproof fabrics, waterproof fabrics and DWR or Durable Water Repellent treated materials though quite often they all get lumped in as one.
Wind and waterproof fabrics are laminated and feature a perforated internal membrane which is what ultimately keeps the elements at bay. Windproof fabrics are rated according to the volume of air that can pass through one square meter of the fabric in one second; a membrane is considered windproof with air permeability rating less than 5 l/m²/s.
Waterproof fabrics are rated using the water column test, a 1-inch-diameter column of water is placed over the fabric for 24 hours, and the millimetre rating is the height of the column before the fabric begins to leak. a true waterproof fabric needs to have a 15k rating or higher.
DWR is a surface treatment that sheds moisture and prevents the fabric from wetting through for a period of time without inhibiting breathability. When a DWR treatment binds to a textile, it creates microspikes that protrude from the fibres and force water droplets to maintain their surface tension, creating beads which roll-off. DWR treatments are not a substitute for waterproofing and will wear away after a period of time.
Fingers or mitts
Mittens will often be warmer than gloves because there's less wind-catching surface area surrounding the fingers, and the heat from each finger is shared. However, this added warmth comes at the cost of dexterity.
If gloves simply don't keep your hands toasty, there are three-finger or lobster claw options that pair a few of your fingers together while still offering some dexterity.
The cuff is arguably the most overlooked aspect of a glove, providing a major opening for cold to sneak inside. A good winter cycling glove will have some way to close up this wrist-opening using velcro or a drawstring. For deep-winter cycling gloves, also look for an extended cuff that will overlap with the sleeve of your jacket.
Giro Blaze 2.0 gloves
Waterproof: No | Palm: AX Suede
For riding in shoulder-season or areas with mild winters, the Giro Blaze II is the ideal mid-weight glove to keep your hands happy as temperatures begin to fall. With light insulation and a soft fleece lining, the back of the hand sees Polartec's Windbloc fabric, and the stretchy cuff neoprene is long enough to keep your wrist covered.
The AX Suede palm has light padding on the heel of the hand and is smartphone friendly. Available in black or neon yellow, both have reflective stripes for added after dark visibility.
DeFeet E Touch Dura gloves
Waterproof: No | Palm: Knit
Limited protection in the rain
DeFeet's Dura Gloves have been around for years, and the classic knit design has proven to be surprisingly versatile. Sometimes simple is best, and the knit fabric - made from Coolmax, Cordura and Lycra - finds a balance between warmth and breathability. They're also available in wool for the same price if natural fibres are more your speed.
Available in colours to match any kit, for the latest version of the Dura glove, DeFeet has added touch screen compatibility to the fingertips, and reflective detailing on the knuckles for added low light visibility.
100% Hydromatic Brisker gloves
Waterproof: No | Palm: Clarino
100%'s Hydromatic Brisker glove places all the insulation on the back of the hand to directly block the cold, while the standard single layer Clarino palm makes for excellent dexterity and bar feel as if you're wearing summer weight gloves. Better still, 100% has also laminated a waterproof membrane into the face fabric to keep the driving rain on the outside of the glove.
The gloves feature a close fit and touch screen friendly fingertips, and the extended cuff is made from neoprene to create a cold and waterproof seal.
Castelli Estremo gloves
Waterproof: No | Palm: Silicon print
Not every winter ride includes a thorough drenching, sometimes you just need a glove to stop the piercing cold wind, and that's where the Castelli Estremo excels. Made from Gore’s Windstopper X-Fast fabric on the back of the hand, the interior is lined with plush fleece.
Designed for sub-freezing temps, the Estremo palm is silicon printed, and there is gel padding on the heel of the hand for added comfort. The neoprene wrist makes its way well up your arm and sees a wide velcro closure to batten down the hatches.
Gore Windstopper Thermo gloves
Waterproof: No | Palm: Synthetic leather
As you can gather from the name, these gloves are made using Gore's Windstopper fabric which features a laminated membrane to protect your hands from the cutting cold wind. Beyond just blocking the breeze, the gloves also feature synthetic insulation that stays warm, even when wet, and a brushed 'thermo lining' for next to skin comfort.
The synthetic leather palm sees silicon details on the forehand for added grip and light padding to keep your hands happy after a few hours on the road. The thumb sees a terry cloth nose wipe, and the elastic wrist is close-fitting.
Pearl Izumi AmFib Lobster mitts
Waterproof: Yes | Palm: Clarino synthetic leather
These Lobster-style mitts feature Primaloft Gold insulation which maintains its loft even when wet and are made with the brand’s P.R.O. Waterproof Softshell fabric.
Inside the gloves are lined with soft fleece, a tall hook and loop closure seals the cold out, and the cuff length fits nicely under your sleeve. The Clarino leather palm helps with dexterity, and a soft fleece nose wipe prevents discomfort when wiping your face clean.
Bar Mitts Drop Bar Mitts
Waterproof: Yes | Palm: N/A
Gold standard of warmth
Bar mitts or pogies, look ridiculous when attached to your bars, but there is nothing better for keeping your hands warm in the frigid cold. Based around what Kayakers use to keep their hands happy while cold water paddling, bike pogies wrap your bars in a sheath of neoprene keeping your hands and wrist wholly protected from the wind and rain.
They are completely waterproof, wind-resistant and don't cause any loss of dexterity or cut off circulation.