Through the years of commuting – and just riding in general, I’ve found that one simple thing can make or break a ride when it comes to comfort: my hands. Always been a weak point for me. If my hands are cold or uncomfortable, I’m miserable. As one would imagine, I’ve tried a wide array of gloves in various situations. Though I’m no +Ben Folsom – I rarely carry more than one pair with me, I have stockpiled quite a selection for various conditions to choose from. Though I really prefer to wear no gloves at all, the time comes when the elements necessitate you wear something.
Today it was raining buckets when I left the house. It wasn’t cold (around 14ºC) but the rain was just pounding on the roof of the house and I knew it was just going to be one of those days when, regardless of what kit you put on, you’re gonna get wet. Too warm for winter waterproof gloves and just cool enough that going bare-handed would mean some possible cold on the hands once you get moving in the wind.
I’ve tried the following with various levels of success, but all fell short on days like today for one reason or another:
- Full MTB gloves – designed to ‘vent’ therefore – cool/cold, also usually some type of material(s) that absorb/held water making them uncomfortable and/or slippery, especially when padded.
- Winter Gloves – Waterproof, but too hot – hence sweaty – and unnecessarily bulky on the bars/controls unless totally needed – i.e. winter time.
- Fingerless road gloves – cold, sometimes slippery, some absorb water
Finally, some years back after posting up for recommendations, an old buddy, +Ricky deLeyos suggested paddling (kayaking) gloves had worked great for him.
I went to my local outdoor shop (which also happens to be my LBS) and checked them out. They’re basically neoprene wetsuit gloves. My particular shop had two models, the basic difference being one was a thicker/heavier neoprene than the other for more warmth. Both were under $30. I went with the thinner ones as they felt less bulky and seemed like they’d feel better on the bars/controls.
Since then (some years ago) they’ve been my go-to gloves for super wet, yet relatively cool/mild conditions. The skin tight nature of the fit allows for great feel on the grips/bars and the controls. My particular models have super tacky palms/fingers with a pattern so grippy that it can actually snag fabric a bit, but that translates to great grip on slippery bar tape or grips.
Let’s be clear, these gloves aren’t going to keep your hands dry, in fact, the point of them is to let your hands get wet. However, they work on the same principle as wetsuits in that they let the water in, hold it close to your skin and then your body heat can keep the water a bit warmer than what’s outside, and hence, keep your hands warmer than if they were wet and exposed to the wind/outside air. I’ve used them down to a few degrees above freezing with relative comfort and used them during humid summer rains as well to add better grip as well.
Since I’ve picked these up, I’ve noticed that some bike companies are actually marketing gloves now that are closer to what these actually are, maybe they’re picking up on the need for a glove of this type. I haven’t had a chance to test/use any of them. Often times ‘bike specific’ unfortunately translates to $$$. The gloves I have seem to be some sort of generic/house brand, indeed they don’t even have any tags/identifying graphics. For the $24 they cost me, they’ve been one of the best purchases value-for-use-wise I’ve ever made with regards to bike kit.