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How to choose winter cycling gloves

   Words by Aaron Scott

   on 29/08/2013 18:32:00

With winter approaching fast, staff rider Adam considers the benefits of a good pair of cycling gloves, and reviews some of the best cold-weather gloves on the market.

"I always find that cycling gloves are one of the first items I reach for when planning a ride. Not only because I like to keep my hands warm, but also because if I was to fall, the first thing that would hit the ground is likely to be my hands.

I’d say all weather cycling gloves are a necessity at this time of year, due to the less-than-perfect weather conditions. Anybody who has been on a bike in cold weather without a pair will understand what I mean. It’s difficult to enjoy being in the saddle when all you can think about is the lack of feeling in your fingers.

Fellow staff rider Wiggy competes on and off road in all weathers and wouldn't be without his Seal Skinz Performance gloves on a cold or wet ride.

With that in mind, I have written this blog to help people choose what gloves they need. It’s worth noting that despite all gloves essentially serving the same purpose (to protect your hands), some gloves are better designed for warmer weather and others for cold and wet.

When buying winter gloves, it’s all about keeping your hands warm, but not restricting movement. Winter in the UK is often laden with rain, wind and freezing temperatures, so your cycling gloves need to be able to combat this. Here are my tips to help you choose the best gloves for you.

Tip 1: Decide what winter riding you'll be doing.

Short, fair-weather commuting in the "balmy" South?  Or regular longer rides in all weathers?  The UK weather is notoriously fickle and winter can range from sub-zero temperatures, through wind and driving rain, to sunny and moderate (sometimes on the same day!). Think carefully about what kind of conditions you'll be riding in - you may be able to get away with lighter-weight gloves for most of the winter, but don't be like my colleague Mark and get caught out without a proper all-weather pair of gloves if you know it's going to be a cold ride. If you're doing plenty of winter riding, it may even be worth investing in a couple of pairs, so you've got all bases covered.

Tip 2: Cold blooded or warm blooded?

Along with thinking about the kind of weather you'll be riding in, you should definitely factor in your own circulation - do your hands and feet typically get cold in chilly conditions, or do they tend to stay nice and toasty, whatever the ambient temperature? Only you know the answer, but it could make a big difference in terms of choice of gloves - if you're warm blooded, you might opt for more breathability at the expense of insulation; if you're cold fingered, you'll want to choose warmth over breathability.

Tip 3: Whatever the material, make sure it's windproof.

Winter cycling gloves come in many different fabrics, both man-made and natural, including Nylon, Lycra, Polyester, Goretex, merino wool...in fact, they often use a combination of fabrics to ensure warmth, fit and performance in all weathers.

If you are cycling just a couple of miles, you may get away with just a thick warm glove, but if you plan on spending a lot of time in the saddle, you’ll want something that is fully waterproof. In any case, I'd recommend you always go for a windproof glove - after all, if it's an unseasonably warm day and your hands are overheating, you can always whip the gloves off for a few miles!

Tip 4: Look for decent padding and grip.

Your winter gloves should have a good level of padding and grip to ensure that you are comfortable whilst in the saddle. Anybody who has ridden without a pair of gloves for any length of time will know exactly what I mean. Blisters and calluses can ensure that you won’t be doing it again in a hurry. The padding acts as an absorber to stop the bumps of the road or trail running up the fork and through your body, and the grip does exactly what it says on the tin.

Tip 5: All-weather riding? Go for a long cuff!

The cuff on a winter glove is normally longer than a summer type glove or mitt. This is beneficial for more severe weather, as it should cover the arm of your jersey or jacket – this ensures the elements are kept away from your skin. The Altura Nevis is a good, reasonably-priced long-cuffed glove (see below for a picture).

Tip 5: Check sizing and movement.

Cycling gloves should be comfortable, but certainly not tight.

> Sizing tip: once you have the glove on, close your fist as if you’re holding the grip on your bike handlebar (ideally, grip your actual handlebars). Check you can comfortably operate your brakes and gears - you'll have to mime this if you haven't got a bike to hand!

Tip 5: Try women's and men's gloves for fit.

One for the ladies...there are a number of women's cycling gloves on the market that are designed specifically for female hands. Depending on the size of your hand, it's worth trying men's and women's gloves to see which fit you better. If you've petite hands, you'll need a women's fit, but some women with larger hands find men's gloves a better option. Just make sure the fit is comfortable and your fingers can move freely enough to enable you to control the brakes and gears.

Winter cycling gloves - we review the best!

Here are our top picks for this winter, whatever your budget and style of riding:

Best windproof gloves:

Seal Skinz Windproof Gloves - also highly breathable, with pressure point padding and stretch outer fabric.

Best waterproof/all-weather gloves (great for commuting):

Endura Strike Waterproof Gloves - our best-selling winter gloves. Warm, dry and comfortable, with an internal breathable waterproof membrane, fast-drying fleece inner, stretchy wind-block outer fabric, deep neoprene wrist cuff, double fleece wipe pads and hi-vis detail.

Best inners/liner gloves:

Seal Skinz Thermal Merino Wool Liner Gloves - nice close fit and good moisture control. Can be worn on their own or under any SealSkinz gloves.

Best budget gloves:

Altura Nevis Waterproof Gloves - waterproof, breathable and comfortable winter cycling gloves. Thinsulate lining, Griptex reinforced palm, good long knitted cuff.
Best all-round gloves (ask Santa for these!):
Seal Skinz All Weather Winter Gloves -  lightweight, totally waterproof and windproof. Excellent all-round  technical cycling gloves, with pre-curved box finger construction for warmth and dexterity, pressure point padding, silicone grips and extended stretch cuffs.

I hope this post has answered any questions you may have had. If you have any questions, feel free to call 01572 737 624 or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it ASAP."

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