I recently wrote about Bicycling Mittens for Five Degrees. That’s a solution for an extreme, so today I want to Back the Truck Up, and describe the gloves that I find work best for everyday bicycle commuting in cooler whether.
The qualities I find are important are:
- Wind Protection. This is the primary purpose.
- Light Insulation, to take the edge off.
- Comfort. Not too tight.
- Functional, so they don’t get in the way of braking.
- Compact. Easy to carry when not in use.
While a number of gloves or mittens could work well enough, what has worked best for me as a general purpose commuting glove marketed as “wind gloves”. The material I like is called “Power Stretch” and is made by Malden Mills. It may also have the label “WindBloc” or “Wind Pro”. A number of brands make basically the same glove from this material. I liked the ones I had from EMS, but would look for two additional qualities for a next pair. First: no fleece on the wrist. This adds a little more bulk, and makes the wrists a little hotter than the rest of the hand, without any real added value. The fleece also starts to look worn faster than the rest the glove. Second: Re-enforced finger tips. The finger tips started to wear out first on my gloves after a couple years of use. Update 2011: My current favorite is the Outdoor Research Gripper Glove, which is a little thicker, warmer and more durable than the gloves pictured here. I expect it’s slightly higher cost pays for itself with greater durability. (Unless, like me, you lose the left hand glove, replace them, and lose the left hand glove again).
I found my wind gloves were comfortable down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-3.9C). I have also used wind gloves as a replacement for traditional finger-less, padded bike gloves on warm and hot days. On a recumbent, I don’t need the padded palms, and consider the gloves sun protection. They would help in the event of accident, although I haven’t needed to seriously test gloves in that way. I was surprised that even on very hot days (over 90 degrees!), the gloves remained comfortable as sun protection despite the heat.
The Power Stretch material provides some protection and comfort in rain. For a long, hard rain in cold weather, I’d wear the waterproof overmitts instead.
I don’t like “liner gloves” for general use. These light-weight skin-tight gloves can oven feel restrictive, and have no room for a layer of air between the glove and skin, which would provide free insulation.
Since there’s nothing rigid about wind gloves, they have light weight and bulk and easily stow away in jacket pockets. This also makes them great for commuting by foot, since they are small enough that I can still put my hands in my pockets while wearing them, providing more free insulation.