Any fool can be uncomfortable and anyone who has ridden a bike in heavy rain or chilly temperatures will know all too well that it’s the hands that pay the price. As an extremity, and the first point of contact with the wind, the hands are the most vulnerable to the elements. However, technology has come on substantially over the years, bringing us wind-stopper fabrics, neoprene and water-resistant Gore-Tex membranes.
When it comes to cycling, though, being warm is not enough. Cycling requires grip, dexterity for gear changes and braking, and occasionally a touchscreen-sensitive finger to answer a call, look at a map or take a quick picture. Equally, even the warmest gloves can be rendered useless if they become saturated and there are some materials that work far better than some rivals when there’s a torrential downpour.
So, what sort of gloves do you need, and how much should you spend? Here’s our guide to the best winter gloves on the market.
Best winter cycling gloves: At a glance
- A great value all-rounder: SealSkinz Waterproof All Weather Cycle Glove | Buy now
- Best overall winter cycle gloves: Castelli Estremo Glove | Buy now
- Best budget winter cycle gloves: Altura Microfleece Gloves | Buy now
- Best wet weather gloves: Assos RainGloves_evo7 | Buy now
- Lightest gloves: DeFeet E-Touch Dura Wool Gloves | Buy now
- Warmest gloves: Specialized Element 2.0 Long Finger Gloves | Buy now
- Best gloves if money is no object: Rapha Deep Winter Gloves | Buy now
What should I look for in a glove?
First and foremost, you need a glove that fits… like a glove (sorry). Make sure you either try one on or are familiar with the sizing of a brand – many offer sizing charts online.
When buying gloves for cycling, it’s important to consider what technical elements you’ll need them to exhibit. For serious road riders, grip and tactility will be necessary, as well as more packability, since you may want to tuck them into a back pocket after 20 minutes of exertion.
For many, though, finding the right temperature range for riding will be the most important consideration. Following that, it’s essential to consider what level of protection from wind and rain you need.
Depending on how cold and warm your hands may get, it’s necessary to think about how many sets of gloves you might want. If you can only fork out for one set, make sure you set some priorities. Would you prefer to be warm in cold weather but too hot when it’s mild, or comfortable when it’s mild and get slightly chilly when the temperature approaches 0°C?
How warm do my gloves need to be?
Everyone is different, and one person’s cold day could be somebody else’s scorcher. You need to consider how good your blood circulation and natural hand warmth is before deciding how heavy-duty a glove needs to be.
From a thin glove or liner to ultra-thermo lobster gloves with electrical heating, there’s a whole spectrum to pick from when it comes to warmth. Electrical heating may be wise for motorbikes, but cyclists will rarely brave cold weather at sufficient speed to justify that level of warmth. Some brands offer it nonetheless.
Thin cotton gloves are best used in spring as, while they may feel warm when tested indoors, the effect of wind chill will quickly render them useless in temperatures under 10°C.
If a glove is too warm, though, your hands will take a beating as the temperature creeps up, especially given how body temperatures increase during a tough commute.
The warmest deep-winter gloves are usually thick and multi-layered, often employing split-finger designs to retain heat. These can make it difficult to shift gears or find a good place to rest your hands, but for anyone who naturally has very cold hands, they could be a necessity.
Normal winter gloves can put in good service at a variety of temperatures but will only be useful if they can retain heat in wind or rain.
What material do I need?
Neoprene is something of a wonder material where cycling gloves are concerned. A set of neoprene gloves works with moisture, rain and sweat to trap heat on your hands, just like a wetsuit. The disadvantage is that your hands can remain wet and sweaty for an entire ride, and once taken off, the gloves can be horrible to put back on.
Wool gloves are generally much more durable, lightweight and more pleasant to the touch. However, they offer much less protection against the wind, as wool is naturally porous.
A combination of polyester, nylon and Lycra is common for the outer, but some gloves use neoprene to preserve warmth in wet conditions, and some use PrimaLoft for extremely high insulation. Equally, for many gloves, a soft polyester inner liner is key to comfort. A separate polyester or Merino wool liner is also a common add-on to increase warmth and comfort.
What features should I look out for?
Grip can be a big issue on a bicycle, so look out for a special treatment or material on the palm of the glove. A phone-screen touch-sensitive finger – usually courtesy of a conductive material on the fingertip – can also prove surprisingly useful over time.
Pay attention to the design of the cuffs, as a multi-layer transition at the cuff and a decent strap or elastic retention can be very important for water resistance in larger gloves. For the safety-conscious, high-visibility colours or a reflective treatment can make a big difference to overall visibility.
Finally, consider what happens with runny noses in deep winter. Some gloves feature a soft, absorbent patch on the thumb that can act as a wipe guard, and for many that can be a real gamechanger.
READ NEXT: Stay safe on the road with our pick of the best cycling helmets
The best winter cycling gloves to buy
1. SealSkinz Waterproof All Weather Cycle Glove: A great value all-rounder
Price: £45 | Buy now from Evans Cycles