To maintain comfort once the cold wind starts to bite, a quality pair of winter gloves are essential. The extremities feel the cold first, so good insulation is critical, but breathability is also important, as nobody enjoys sweaty hands
Numb fingers are one of the worst afflictions facing cyclists hammering out the miles over winter. Losing the feeling in your digits due to the cold is unpleasant, and can be dangerous if your braking speed is affected. A good pair of cycling gloves can go a long way to reducing, or completely eliminating, this loss of feeling and will certainly make you more comfortable.
Cycling gloves have come on a long way in the last fifty years. Thermal fabrics can now be made windproof, whilst retaining elasticity and manufacturing methods have also improved.
Overlocking (the reinforcing of minimal seams) has improved strength whilst reducing bulk. Reducing bulk is important in gloves, as bulkier gloves sacrifice dexterity.
Waterproof membranes are more fit for purpose than before, being thinner and more permeable to water vapour. All in all, great news for maintaining body heat.
One major benefit of all this progression is that gloves can now keep your hands (and more importantly fingers) warm in some pretty serious conditions.
We’ve assembled our best reviewed winter cycling gloves. There are options to suit a vast range of conditions.
The three key variables when creating a winter glove are weather proofing, breathability and dexterity. In most cases, where the former is beefed up, breathability and dexterity suffer.
However, some brands have found ways around this – for example in incorporating the highly flexible fabric Neoprene, often used in wetsuits, as per the Endura FS260. This isn’t breathable, but the moisture generated by your sweat is kept warm. Another common technique is combining some fingers into pockets, which means warmth is shared and empty (cold) airspace limited.
If even the warmest of deep winter gloves don’t seem to be enough for you, then it’s possible to purchase thin gloves to use as a liner – like the DeFeet E-Touch Dura Gloves – these are usually fairly inexpensive and can be used alone between seasons.
Our pick of the best winter cycling gloves
Endura FS260-Pro Nemo Gloves – £27.99
Review score: 9
Constructed using Neoprene, these light and flexible gloves keep moisture generated by your own body in and rainwater out. The idea is that whilst breathability is low, your body heat warms sweat and keeps your digits toasty. Such a glove isn’t for everyone, but if you get on with the concept they could be your perfect match.
Specialized Element 2.0 gloves – £45
Review score: 9
Don’t want to go ‘full lobster’ (eg all fingers bunched in one pocket)? Then this semi-lobster creation from the big S might suit. Your brake/gear operating fingers stay separate, but little finger and its neighbour are in one, spreading the warmth.
Windstopper fabric keeps the breeze out, and these are touch-screen friendly.
GripGrab Polaris gloves – £60
Review score: 9
Using 4mm of insulation and a single gel pad over the base of the palm, these gloves are warm without being too bulky. The long cuff keeps the chill out, too. A bit pricey at RRP – but these do combine a high level of warmth with a low level of bulk which makes for comfortable riding.
Gore Universal Windstopper Mid Gloves – £49.99
Suited to autumn, spring and early winter – when you don’t quite want a thick pair of gloves, but need a little more protection than cycling mitts can offer. These are well insulated, but not so thick that you lose the feel of the handlebars.
Review score: 9
DeFeet E-Touch Dura Gloves – £17.99
Review score: 9
A lightweight pair of autumn to early winter gloves, designed to be compatible with touch screen devices. Come winter-proper, these can be used as liner gloves beneath a more heavyweight pair, too.
SealSkinz Ultra Grip Hi Vis Gloves – £35
Review score: 9
Waterproof, windproof and comfortable – the ‘Aqua Dynamic design’ keeps the conditions out whilst remaining stretchy and breathable. For £35, we think SealSkinz is doing well to offer that they call ‘complete wet weather and wind proofing’ protection.
What to look for
Thermal and Wind Protection
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in the middle of a long ride in the depths of winter, miles from home, with blocks of ice on the end of your arms where your hands used to be, making it all but impossible to brake, let alone change gear.
So with this in mind, finding a pair of winter cycling gloves with good protection against the cold.
The first layer of protection should be an impermeable windproof layer designed, as you can guess from the name, to keep cold air and wind away from your hands.
One of the most popular fabrics for this is Gore’s Windstopper fabric, something that is used in the winter cycling gloves of many brands aside from Gore itself, although there are plenty of other options that work just as well.
These fabrics should work to keep the elements out while still being breathable enough to prevent your hands from overheating and getting sweaty.
The second line of protection is a thermal layer designed not only to keep the cold air away from your skin, but also to make sure that any warm air generated by your hands is maintained and not allowed to escape.
What’s important with the thermal layer is that, unlike with skiing gloves for example, it can’t be too thick, as you need to maintain your dexterity to be able to feel which lever your finger is on to change gear and to be able to manipulate the brake lever.
No one like riding in the rain, but if you’re going to keep your training up through the British winter (or summer for that matter), then you’re going to want some decent gloves for the weather.
In mild weather it’s not actually necessary to have completely waterproof gloves. The saying goes that your skin is waterproof, so as long as you have gloves that keep your hands warm, they don’t necessarily need to keep you dry.
However when the temperature drops a bit more, and the rain (and even snow) begins to fall, then you’re going to want some more serious winter cycling gloves with an outer layer that will keep the precipitation at bay.
Like any windproof outer layer, a waterproof layer should be impermeable to the outside elements to keep your hands dry, but should also be breathable to prevent your hands overheating, particularly over the course of long rides.
Particularly if you’re heading out in breezy conditions, you’re generally going to want your winter cycling gloves to have nice long cuffs to help keep that chilly north easterly out of your sleeves.
However it’s not just a case of the bigger the better, and you’re going to want to get a pair of gloves that complement your choice of jersey or jacket if you’re going to be nice and cosy while putting in those long winter miles.
If you’re jacket has loose sleeves then it may well be worth getting a pair of gloves that with a tight cuff over which you can pull the sleeves of your jacket.
However if you’re wearing a long sleeve jersey or tighter jacket, particularly one without elasticated cuffs, then pulling this over the top of the gloves might be difficult.
In this case look for gloves that have a looser cuff into which you can tuck your sleeves, and ideally try to find ones with a velcro strap to enable you to tighten the cuff around the jacket once the gloves are on.
That said, if you’re more of a fair weather rider who isn’t best keen on cycling through Arctic conditions, or just a rider who is prone to overheating during riding, then slightly shorter cuffed winter cycling gloves may be better.
Because your blood runs so close to the skin at the wrist, this can be an excellent place to control your body temperature.
So if you find yourself getting a bit hot in the middle of a winter club run, then pulling down some low cuffs can be a good way to cool off relatively quickly.
Riding on wet or even icy roads can be treacherous, so being completely in control of your bike is more essential than ever.
The bad news is that if your handlebars are wet then it can be difficult to keep a secure hold on the bars, particularly if you’re using smooth bar tape.
With this in mind you want a little bit of a tacky surface on the palm of your winter cycling gloves to make sure you can maintain a secure grip on both the bars and the brake levers.
If you feel the need to upload a gritty Instagram selfie to show your mates just how hard you are for heading out when its blowing a gale and hammering it down with rain, then you’re going to need to be able to prod away at your smartphone screen.
With this in mind many winter cycling gloves now come with fingertips specially designed to be used with touchscreens.
Another important thing to have to keep your hands comfortable is minimal seams. The last thing you want is big seams on the inside of the gloves that will dig into your hands and could prove to be an irritance after a few hours in the saddle.
You could also find them unravelling after a few months of use.
How we score
9 – Excellent, a slight change and it would be perfect
8 – Brilliant, we’d happily buy it
7 – Solid, but there’s better out there
6 – Pretty good, but not quite hitting the mark
5 – Okay, nothing wrong with it, but nothing special
4 – A few niggles let this down
3 – Disappointing
2 – Poor, approach with caution
1 – Terrible, do not buy this product