05
Nov 2006
by mark

Bicycling Mittens for Five Degrees

photo of gloves and mittensI eased out the alley and navigated through Fairview neighborhood and onto the greenway. Accelerating as fast as I could down the light grade, the computer reported speeds accelerating to 20 miles per hour, with a air temperature of 32 degrees.

My new overmitts were being put to the test. According to a parka website, I had just generated an effective temperature of about 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

This hadn’t fully clicked for me before: moving through space on a bike in cold weather generates significant wind chill.


This was my fifth pair of gloves or mittens bought to keep my hands warm for cold weather bicycling. The others failed miserably. The “lobster claw” design put two figures on each side, supposedly combining the benefits of gloves and mittens. That didn’t work. That didn’t stop me trying another brand of lobster claw gloves that “surely must work better”. The second pair didn’t work either. The “Back Country” gloves I tried next seemed extra thick, but worked no better.

Next was the wool mittens, which flipped up to reveal fingerless gloves. The wind ripped right through them, chilling my hands in a 10 minute commute to work.

But today was different. Cruising along with an effective temperature of 5 degrees, I was comfortable, and holding steady.

What I had on my hands was not particularly fancy– it was learning what the real issues were to sustain warmth the made all the difference.

Switching to mittens, not just lobster claws was warmer because keeping the fingers together preserves warmth, since the heat from one finger transfers directly to another.

The wool mittens trapped air to keep me warm in lots of tiny crinkles in the fibers.

Still, something more was needed to keep the wind out of the wool. This is the purpose the overmitts served. Simply slightly larger mittens, they primarily added a wind and waterproof barrier around the wool mittens. As an extra bonus, the space the between the two pairs of mittens provided additional warmth.

The difference was dramatic. Before I would arrive with red fingers, with a numb feeling that was beginning to be unpleasant. Today I could only feel the very tips of my figures beginning to get colder.

Already, my idea of a “nice day for a bike ride” has expanded. Now that I have a better understanding of how warmth works, and some proper clothing, I’m prepared. I was as comfortable today as I could hope for in any season.

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