Gene Butcher is a fire fighter who lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. He is not a bike racer. He began riding again earlier this year in order to reclaim his health and reach his goal of losing 100 pounds. He rides in the early morning Michigan cold, and is therefore uniquely qualified to write about cold weather cycling accessories.
You can read Gene's blog here.
Just as Spartan boys were sent to the Agoge to prove their resolve in Ancient Greece, a set of Bar Mitts where sent to Michigan to test their worth. Only instead of a few million angry Persians who wished to enslave the Spartans, the Bar Mitts would be tested against the brutal and unforgiving Michigan winter—truthfully, millions of angry Persians are comparable to a Michigan winter. I knew in advance that the Bar Mitts were on their way, I agreed to test them out before I even knew what they were. A quick Google search landed me on their site, which I perused for a few minutes. They arrived in the mail and I immediately put them on my handlebars. They are simple to install, one zipper and a few Velcro closures and you are all set, I set the timer on my watch it took just over 3 minutes to mount. The day I chose to test them the air temperature was 6 degrees with winds at 15 mph; which gives me an adjusted temperature of -10 if we factor in the wind chill. In Michigan we always factor in the wind chill. I chose a familiar route for me—an 8 mile loop that snakes its way in and out of wooded areas, across open fields and has some small, rolling hills with a large climb at the end. I chose the loop counting on having to face the wind at different angles throughout the ride. I rode the loop 3 times bringing the total miles for the ride to 24.
One of my biggest pet peeves concerning winter riding is the fact I have to wear bulky gloves, there is no way around it. It's either that or you lose your fingers to amputation due to frostbite. I decided I was going to try 3 different types of gloves on this test: full-fingered summer riding gloves, medium weight (what I will refer to as “autumn” riding gloves), and heavily insulated winter riding gloves. I was going to start with the summer gloves and adjust accordingly on the ride if comfort required it. I was able to ride just over 2 miles before the cold got to my hands and even then it was not really all that bad—just mildly uncomfortable. I decided to switch to the autumn gloves and continued to ride. I finished the ride in the autumn gloves—never having to reach back and retrieve the winter gloves. The Bar Mitts did a great job of protecting my hands from the cold, snow and wind of the day's ride. I also found one unforeseen great feature of the Bar Mitts, I have pretty long arms—long enough that even long sleeve jerseys designed for cycling positions with longer sleeves tend to ride up. This leaves my wrists exposed to the cold, and I've had to come up with inventive ways to keep my wrists warm. The Bar Mitts are just long enough to cover the parts of my wrists that usually take the worst beating. Additionally, riding with the thinner gloves were a welcome change for me since I have not been able to ride with a lighter pair of gloves since before Thanksgiving.
I did notice a drawback to the Bar Mitts, they prevented my hands from obtaining my usual hand position—or the position I prefer to have my hands when riding and when climbing out of the saddle. There also seemed to be little room on the underside of the bar to get my fingers “just so.” Upon further inspection of the Bar Mitts, I found I was sent a pair of mediums, I couldn’t help but wonder if a pair of larges would have allowed me to place my hands in my preferred position. The Bar Mitts are comfortable to ride with, and if you first suspect that they will chain your hands to your bars; you can rest assured I did not feel this at all. I could easily remove my hands from the Bar Mitts and place them back in with no difficulty whatsoever. I had no problem shifting or braking with the Bar Mitts on my bars, you can even still adequately brake if your hands are on the drops outside of the mitts by simply squeezing on the outside of the mitts as you would if the mitts were not there.
If you are insane enough to ride in the brutality of the winter months, then you should definitely add some Bar Mitts to your cold fighting arsenal. I am not taking mine off until spring. I would say you'd have to pry them from my cold dead fingers—but the Bar Mitts prevent cold fingers.