Like many cyclists, I have trouble keeping my feet and hands warm when the temperature drops. Last winter was especially difficult; almost snowless, Winter 2016-2017 in Northwest British Columbia featured 45-days when it got no warmer than -15. This year, I decided to do something to help my hands, which can get painfully frozen, so I acquired a set of Bar Mitts pogies.
I went with the mountain extreme cold Bar Mitts (C$153); there are various models including versions for drop bars with both internal and external cables. Since I run bar ends on both mountain bikes, my set came without the expanding bar end plugs to keep the Bar Mitts in place. After I installed the pogies, utilizing the zippers and two hook and loop strips to position and secure them, I never used the bar ends again.
In fact, once I started riding with the the 6-mm neoprene, fleece-lined pogies, there were several things besides gripping the bar ends that my hands didn’t want to do, like signaling, waving to relatives and wiping my nose. My hands were like two slugabeds in thick down sleeping bags, grumbling about having to emerge to face the day.
Winter 2017-2018–and I consider the true season to be November through March–was at first uninterested in providing ideal test conditions. It was the opposite of the previous winter, with heaps of snow and relatively mild temperatures. But once the solstice swung around, the mercury plummeted and I could put the Bar Mitts through their paces. Wearing at first my warmest winter gloves and then my second warmest gloves in -23, I found my hands kept comfortable, even if I left the bike outside for several hours and the cockpit had time to chill.
Until it grew cold, the Bar Mitts felt like overkill, but in the meantime they did a fine job of keeping my hands, lower arms and the cockpit snow and rain free. They certainly drew a lot of comments and questions from folks, and even good-natured mockery from my friends. I found other another use for the Bar Mitts: storing steamed-up eye protection when climbing long hills.
They do take getting used to, as the motion to extract one’s hands doesn’t seem natural at first. The only significant crash I experienced in the early part of the season was exacerbated by not being able to get my hands free, but a hook and loop secured inner cuff can be removed to increase the ease of insertion and withdrawal. And there’s the slugabed factor–I found a deep, exaggerated nod was enough to acknowledge friendly vehicle honks and waves, but attempts to wipe my nose on my shoulder were ludicrous and gross.
However, I consider the Bar Mitts to be the greatest contribution to my winter riding since studded tires. Riders can consider their options here. Next year I address my frozen feet.