Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Grippy and Wooly

DeFeet Wool Cycling Gloves
Even once I had the rest of my winter attire figured out, the article of clothing that gave me the most trouble was gloves. I've probably gone through half a dozen pairs since I began cycling, and nothing worked quite the way I wanted it to. The big puffy gloves made it difficult to move my fingers and interfered with shifting and braking, even if the design was supposedly cycling-specific. Also, I do photography work outdoors in the winter, and operating a camera with those is out of the question. Thermally-lined leather gloves can be just as warm while allowing for more mobility, but the leather gets stretched out and worn when used repeatedly on a bike. Wool gloves are hit and miss as far as warmth and some can be quite slippery on the handlebars. My salvation finally came in the form of these charcoal gray wool gloves by DeFeet which I bought on a whim at a local bike shop. They may not look like much, but I love them.

DeFeet Wool Gloves
The DeFeet Duraglove is very densely knit, and warmer than any other thin wool gloves I've worn thus far. Once the temperature drops into the low 20s and I spend more than an hour outside I do begin to feel a chill in the finger tips, but above that they keep my hands perfectly warm (for comparison, I have a pair of stretchy-fleecy cross-country ski gloves rated for 20s temps that in reality give out in the low 30s). Aside from the warmth, the DeFeet gloves are form-fitting and stretchy, making it easy to operate both city bike and roadbike levers. And I can press all of my camera controls without removing them. They are not beautiful, but not horrendous looking either. They cost under $20. And the underside is covered with these silicone grippy things that ensure a firm hold on handlebars and camera equipment.

Ibex Knitty Gritty Fingerless Gloves
The Co-Habitant is also pleased with his Ibex Knitty Gritty gloves that are similarly designed. He has a pair of both the full fingered and the fingerless versions and he uses both, depending on the temperature, for cycling and photography. The wool on these is softer and a bit chunkier than the wool of the DeFeet gloves, but the idea is the same: stretchy wool for ease of movement, with silicone grips on the underside for a firm hold. The grippy bits here are in the form of little Ibex logos, which I find very cute.

Ibex Knitty Gritty Fingerless Gloves
Unfortunately the Ibex Knitty-Gritty gloves do not work for me, because even the smallest size is too big for my hands (beware, these run large), so I cannot compare them to my DeFeet gloves directly. The prices are about the same. To my eye the Ibex gloves are more attractive, but of course this says nothing about performance. The cuff on the Ibex is a tad longer, but on both gloves the length is sufficient.The softer Ibex wool is nice, but I am suspicious that the looser knit might translate into less warmth. Also, I have noticed a bit of pilling on the Co-Habitant's full-fingered gloves after a season's use, whereas the wool on my DeFeet gloves seems less prone to this.

Stitching Up Cycling Glove
Sadly, I did experience wear and tear with my DeFeet gloves: After 300+ miles of use on the bike, I wore a hole in the tip of the right index finger. While this is apparently a common problem to have with wool gloves, in my case I have to underscore that (1) I'd been wearing these on a roadbike and constantly pressing the ergo lever with my right hand, and (2) I have long fingernails, which no doubt contributed to this. Had I used them solely for transportation cycling on an upright bike, they probably would have been fine. In any case, I've now mended the hole (there is a special way to do this without destroying the articulated fingertip) and will see how long that lasts. If need be, I am willing to keep mending them and to buy a new pair every now and again, because as far as functionality and warmth go these gloves really work for me. I love the dense stretchy wool and the grippy underside; the versatility this style affords has made it my favourite winter cycling glove thus far. 

47 comments:

  1. You have a sewing box :) I would not have figured you for the sewing type.

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  2. Right index fingers are my number one point of fail on cycling gloves. Gore Cycling, Chiba, Polaris and Adidas gloves have all gone the same way. I don't have particularly long nails but "Ergo Finger" is a regular downfall

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  3. Here in Alaska gloves are an important accesory to have while riding! Sometimes I wear three pears to keep the frost bite off! I love this blog! Keep up the great work!

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  4. Ergo finger! I should have known this was a phenomenon.

    Anon - Sure. I learned to knit, sew, cook, etc. at an early age and this has helped me out in life. It's a useful practical skill.

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  5. I have had good performance from a glovel liner (loose knit polypro.) worn under a thin leather work glove. Fit has to be just so for warmth. Snow-seal the leather and they hold their shape.

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  6. I have the non wool variant of the Defeet glove and have used it since October. So far it has worked well and no holes anywhere yet. I am pretty sure the non-wool gloves are more durable, they are ok down to maybe -5 C, but lower than that and my hands really start freezing when biking.
    Even if the gloves would fail after a while buying a new pair is cheap. You should get a pair of pink ones to match your new bar tape :P

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  7. My favorite cold weather glove is one made by Performance. It has Gortex for waterproofness, Thinsulate for warmth, and leather palms for grip. While Velouria would think they're too bulky for picture taking, I find this pair keeps my hands warm down to 20F. Sadly, they are no longer sold. I'll keep these going as long as I can.

    Once I owned a pair of purple synthetic gloves with lime green grippy spots - talk about flashy fashion. I wore those to their death.

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  8. How do you like the Supernova Airstream light? I did a quick search, but couldn't find any posts on it yet. I would be curious to know how you find it compared to the dyno-powered E3.

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  9. Would love to wear gloves that let me work a camera, but I haven't found gloves that keep my fingers warm enough. A few years ago I bought a pair of Marmot Winter Work Gloves at 1/2 off, and was stunned at how good they were. After several years the insulation in some of the fingertips compressed and worked less well, but I also wore that first pair until the leather was torn at some finger tips (for cycling, and for general cold-weather use -- in particular, working with a snow rake).

    What matters for me is blocking the wind. Very thick, however. For less extreme cold, I tend to use thinner wind-blocking gloves.

    A word-of-warning -- there are some leather-containing winter gloves (PearlIzumi among them) that misbehave, badly, when they come in contact with concentrated snowmelter. The leather contracts into a shrunken inflexible knot.

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  10. I have a pair of Specialized winter gloves that I like, the inside is a thin glove good to about 30 degrees, and then they have an articulated mitten cover that keeps you warm when it's even colder but, as you noted, they're hard to use depending on the bike. My other current choice is a pair of Swix cross-country skiing gloves, which are very rugged and will not wear through easily, and are very easy to work the bike with.

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  11. I find that my fingers stay warmer if the gloves are a bit loose, because air serves as an insulation. Another hint: put your gloves on ten minutes before going out to create warm pockets for the fingers.

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  12. I use Haglofs Regulus gloves (they have a grippy suede palm and fingers and windproof fleece and polartec stretchiness elsewhere) with merino wool liner gloves for extra warmth when necessary. (Another item from my hiking gear that doubles well for cycling.) Don't know how it would stack up for dexterity with a camera though - they might be too bulky for you.

    I've experimented with wool alone, and with the exception of bulky (but toasty) sheepskin and shearling, don't find your average wool gloves windproof enough, so I freeze the barnacles off my hands!

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  13. Velouria, what temperatures these gloves appropriate for? From the look of them, I would guess they wouldn't keep hands warm on this morning's commute (12 deg F)! Even my chunky lobster gloves were barely up to the task this morning.

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  14. Sadly, I just lost one of my winter cycling mittens (large double layer fleece). Would you recommend anything for less than 20F temp? I imagine neither the DeFeet nor the Ibex would perform well for today's 10F.

    Also, have you considered the value of some sort of reflecting fabric on the left glove for winter turn signals, when night time riding is more common. My lost mitten had a great black patch that reflected with direct light from a following vehicle.

    Lastly, knitting, sewing, cooking, etc are fabulous skills. I came to them rather late, and quite happy that I finally learned. I only wish I had learned as a child.

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  15. I love the DeFeat wool gloves. They're perfect for riding in my winters. I seem to loose them after every winter and have replaced them every time.

    Here's a tip, you can use them with touch screens if you lick your finger tip just slightly (read: don't soak your glove). I guess the wool has some capacitance that is just below detectable levels that the moisture increases.

    Another tip, keep a pair of disposable latex gloves in your bag and on extra cold days slip them on to wind proof the wool gloves. You won't need two sets of gloves if you do this and they serve double duty of keeping your hands clean if you need to service your bike.

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  16. somervillain - For me it depends not only on the temperature but on duration of time spent outside. For a short commute I've worn them in sub-20deg temps, but not sure how low exactly. For a long ride, for me they work for temps as low as the mid-20s. I could probably wear them in 12deg F for a 15 min commute.

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  17. I imagine these are good for at most a minute per deg F, while riding. So half-hour below freezing, 20 minutes at 20F, 10 minutes at 10F.

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  18. I am somewhat bad at operating anything, let alone camera with gloves on, so I use the fingerless ones for as long as I can. I toyed with the idea of wearing left fingered and right fingerless, and sometimes I pull the glove off slightly to get more finger coverage and the long elastic sleeve really helps with that.

    There are slightly bulkier gloves with individual fingers exposed. For camera work, I probably could have the pinky and ring fingers covered on both hands, and have the finger sleeves be slightly longer on the remaining fingers, although I admit the resultant gloves would look somewhat strange.

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  19. kodiakbiker - I never thought of trying pears. What other types of fruit work for a chilly commute. :)

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  20. DeFeets are DeFacto standard road kit for a long time. Can't find mine and haven't worn them since last winter, it's been so nice.

    Going to try to get through the entire season w/o them.

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  21. Patrick - I don't have a review of the Supernova, but will try to post one soon. Have had it since May 2011 and it's replaced all my other battery operated headlights. The rechargeability is very easy and convenient and the charge lasts a long time. Light is super bright, with different modes. Very easy to move from bike to bike. That said, the price is kind of insane and may not justify the benefits for everyone.

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  22. I've experimented with wool alone, and with the exception of bulky (but toasty) sheepskin and shearling, don't find your average wool gloves windproof enough, so I freeze the barnacles off my hands!

    This is my experience as well. Wool works great as an insulating layer, but not as a wind breaker. I wonder if thin wool liner gloves inside of wind shell outer gloves would be the ticket.

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  23. Jealous! Those DeFeets look awesome! Great post!

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  24. My understanding is that the "real" winter cyclists (in, say, Alaska) use pogies (e.g., http://www.commutebybike.com/2008/01/18/pogies/). I've never tried them but I think they would keep your hands warm while cycling while giving you complete freedom when you stop to take a photo etc.

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  25. somervillain - This was the case for me as well prior to the DeFeet gloves, which is why I like them so much. They are very much wind-proof, for me, the knit is very dense. Not saying they will work for everyone, but for $15 could be worth experimenting.

    The liner+bulkier glove combo does not work for me, because the liners alone are not warm enough to operate my camera with while standing still in the cold, and the outer gloves are too bulky.

    For functionality in temps below 20F, I've heard good things about the Ibex Kilometer II gloves and got a pair for the holidays but have not tested them yet. They look a bit techy for everyday wear, but hopefulyl will work for roadcycling without the finger tips wearing out.

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  26. Eric said: "Another tip, keep a pair of disposable latex gloves in your bag and on extra cold days slip them on to wind proof the wool gloves. You won't need two sets of gloves if you do this and they serve double duty of keeping your hands clean if you need to service your bike."
    Thats an awesome idea.

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  27. Another tip, keep a pair of disposable latex gloves in your bag and on extra cold days slip them on to wind proof the wool gloves. You won't need two sets of gloves if you do this and they serve double duty of keeping your hands clean if you need to service your bike.


    Awesome! I will try this, if only to experiment. And I won't use latex, but nitrile. Gotta flaunt the French blue!

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  28. Interesting idea about the latex/nitrile glove layer. I usually ride with very thick (double layer) hand knit (by me) wool mittens that work well until it gets bitter cold. That might be the trick to get them through the few days they don't work for. Might also make locking up a bit less brutal.

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  29. Could you share your mending technique? I can never get this right.

    -Towanda

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  30. Re Latex gloves: for short rides this might work (well, on short rides cold fingers are also not that much of a problem); but I wouldn't want to wear latex gloves for more than 15 minutes. My hands sweat quite a bit and I wouldn't want to soak my hands in that for any extended period of time.

    My glove repertoire: Windstopper fleece from the army surplus store for autumn/spring; Kinco high-vis waterproof lined work gloves (KWP 1938) for temps down to -5°C; below that it's Kincos on the inside and these guys on the outside. I also have a pair of MEC lobster gloves, but they suck: the thumb is not windproof and they're not at all waterproof. I think they have updated the design in the meantime, so maybe they're better now. I have bar-end shifters, IMO the best winter shifting solution, as it works with any type of glove.

    I also used to have a pair of Smartwool liner gloves which I combined with the Kincos or the arctic mitts, but they had the same hole problem that Velouria describes. And they didn't add much insulation.

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  31. Oh, while we're at the topic of gloves: Does anyone else have the problem of gloves being too short for your thumb when riding in the hoods? I don't think I have unusually long thumbs, but with all the gloves I have my thumb presses against the end of the glove, thus diminishing the insulation capacity. I suppose this is due to the part between thumb and index finger being pushed back while you're resting on the hoods.

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  32. when I was a little girl, my mom used to slip our feet into socks, then a bread bag, then the boots in winter. Plastic bags inside a mitten just doesn't sound the same, but I'll have to give the latex gloves a try!

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  33. Not that I wish to be a walking advert for Haglofs, but I can operate my SLR with the Regulus gloves. However, my camera uses physical rather than touch screen buttons.I can't use my touchscreen phone camera with the gloves however.

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  34. I don't have touch screen buttons on my cameras either, so the being able to press the physical buttons is what's important to me; the iphone touch-screen can wait.

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  35. I need a decent pair of 30-40 degree gloves,and I'll be in the bike shop on Friday. Thanks for the info on these,Velouria,I'll check em out :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  36. Any suggestions for keeping feet warm? I ride in regular street shoes which lack any sort of windbreaking abilities. Doubled up thick Smartwool socks work for an hour, but anything longer than that and my toes start to hurt from the wind.

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  37. http://bikejerksmpls.blogspot.com/

    I think these look innovative. Maybe not camera friendly. For that sweet shot sometimes you have to sacrifice,maybe? Mpls is a happening bike scene. lots of creativity. I have no ties, but I sense integrity.

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  38. V--have you tried Descent Cold Out? After trying numerous brands of gloves, I found the Descentes to be the best for riding and shooting (cameras, that is). As a fellow D90 and Lumix user, I find these gloves to provide the best combo of warmth and dexterity.

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  39. Felted wool gloves (and mittens when below -15C) is what I use. Been thinking of it some time- and this evening I`ve been making some to send to Velouria (if you trust me with your adress) Then I log on and read this post..
    badmother

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  40. if you want a recommendation from europe: nicely snug fitting all american roper gloves - in goat skin, deer skin or elk hide. no lining necessary - fine with most winter conditions except maybe arctic ones. fingertips of gloves with electro-conductive stitching for touchscreen use.
    here is the DIY http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-A-Glove-Work-With-A-Touch-Screen/

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  41. I've always written off DeFeet as making only garish plastic clothing, so this is great to know. Looks like they have wool socks, T's, and knee warmers. They're definitely only my list now!

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  42. At Jens: Cool, but what sort of thread is onductive but still soft enough to not scratch the screen?
    badmother

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  43. Ergo Finger. Now there's an article someone has to write for the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA and Lancet.

    Jens: Thanks for the tip. I'm going to look for those gloves.

    For years, I wore wool liners under leather gauntlets. They were military surplus, which lasted for a long time and were much cheaper (free, actually, in my case!) than all of the bike-specific stuff.

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  44. Smartwool "Spring" gloves (initially intended for spring skiing, I guess) are my choice for cold weather. They have wool insulation with leather fingers and palms for long wear and wind blocking. I am not sure if one would retain enough dexterity for camera work with them on. For me, they are good down to about 30F without an added liner, and because of the leather fingers, they will last several years with nearly daily two-season use.
    http://www.smartwool.com/mens/spring-glove-10.html

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  45. Those DeFeet wool gloves are the only thing I've worn on my hands while cycling for the past year and a half. When it gets too cold for the wool alone in early November, I put heavy down-filled pogies on the bike. The wool insulates well enough from the cold handlebar grips and brake levers that my hands don't get cold, and when I signal and lock up, they keep my hands from instantly freezing when it's -30C out. The bike I ride most often has a twist-grip shifter, and the little rubber bits are completely worn off of the index finger of the right glove. Fortunately, that doesn't seem to make anything more difficult.

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  46. Leather mittens are the ticket. I rode in cold milwaukee winters for a few years in a pair I got at Walmart for under ten bucks. They were totally wind-proof and great until the temps got down near 0. Then I'd just layer some simple gloves under. I swear my hands were warmer than those of my expensively clad friends. They were easily my favorite winter cycling accessory, especially with the patina of a few years use.

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