Like a lot of people, my fingers are one the first things that succumb to the ravages of cold weather biking. The combination of cold air rushing over the glove surface and sweat trapped inside can sometimes cut my frosty rides a bit short. And that’s a shame, because some of the most beautiful rides happen on those cold bitter days when the streets and trails are devoid of people who are instead hiding inside, warming themselves on their couches, watching reruns.
To combat this problem, I’m always searching for gloves that offer warmth and breathability. Thankfully, there are quite a few good options on the market. One such option is the Windstopper glove from Gore Bike Wear. I have been using a pair of their Element Urban Print version for a few months and am quite happy with them.
Besides having a layer of water resistant, windproof, moisture wicking Windstopper material, the Element Windstopper glove has a plethora of cool features that make for a glove that performs well in daily use.
First up the inside of the glove is a comfortable, soft fleece material which draws moisture off the skin so that it can evaporate through the Windstopper material and keep your skin dry. This process worked well in most instances. Only once in awhile did I find that the glove couldn’t keep up with the amount of sweat being produced by my hands. Generally this was when I was working hard in temperatures above freezing.
There are a few things worth noting on the exterior of the glove, starting with the always important snot/sweat wipe on the thumb. The absorbent patch is soft and big enough to deal with any moisture problem you have going on with your face.
Next up is the palm. It’s almost completely covered with silicone dots that do a great job of providing grip. The dots are interrupted only by a gel pad on the outside edge of the palm, reinforced material between the thumb and index finger, and touchscreen friendly material on the tip of the thumb and index finger. While not the easiest thing to do, I was able to use my iPhone without removing my gloves.
The back of the glove has some features designed for your ride into work, or pedaling to the trailhead. Besides the nice bright material on the edges of the fingers, there are three reflective pieces of fabric, and one reflective logo on each glove that do a decent job of catching the eyes of the drivers around you. Perfect for signalling a turn or alerting oncoming traffic to your approach.
Finally, there is the overall fit and design of the glove. Of course the camo is cool, but the fit is just as important. The glove goes a bit past the wrist to provide good coverage under or over a jacket, and features an easy to use Velcro strap in addition to an elastic wrist cuff to keep the cold and wet where it belongs—on the outside.
Gloves are not the most exciting things in the world, but Gore Bike Wear did a great job of designing a pair that kept me dry and warm in temperatures ranging from low single digits to 45 degrees. They have also held up very well to my repeated urban and singletrack excursions. If the camo isn’t your cup of tea, Gore makes several different Windstopper models.
More info: goreapparel.com
Last year Leatt announced new helmets that were slated to begin shipping in 2015. As is often the case, even the best-laid plans don’t always pan out as expected. A fire at Leatt’s foam supplier delayed production significantly. Fortunately, these new lids will begin shipping in January of 2016.
6.0 Carbon and 5.0 Composite – $499/$399
Helmets are a logical step for the brand that arguably popularized the the neck brace. Given Leatt’s focus on medical research, it comes as no surprise to the company workign to minimize rotational trauma to the brain. The MIPS system brought the concept of rotational trauma and resulting conclusions to our consciousness, so it’s great to see additional offerings serving this market.
Leatt developed what they’re calling “360º Turbine Technology” to reduce impacts and rotational forces. These little discs not only absorb impact, but they also allow the helmet’s shell to move independently of the head. Additionally, Leatt’s in-molded shell and dual-density foam facilitate a 10 percent smaller helmet, which reduces rotational energy transferred to the head and brain by 20 percent. Turbine technology is said to reduce impact at the concussive level up to 30 percent and reduce rotational acceleration of the head and brain by up to 40 percent. Six helmet sizes available from XS to XXL.
3.0 Cargo Pack – $179
Leatt has offered packs for a couple of years now, but those packs were a partnership with another company. For 2016, Leatt brought pack design and production management in-house. Packs will begin shipping in November 2015.
The 3.0 Cargo offers three liters of water capacity in Leatt’s CleanTech bladder and ten liters of storage. Leatt’s 3DF CE Level 2 back protector should provide quite a bit of protection while the company’s vest-like chest harness secures the pack.
2.0 Enduro Lite WP – $139
The Enduro Lite offers two liters of water capacity and five liters of storage inside its waterproof fabric and water resistant zippers. A CE Level 1 back protector provides confidence, and a weatherproof touch screen pocket protects your devices.
3DF Knee and Elbow Guards 5.0 – $75/$59
Welcome to Leatt’s newest generation of 3DF viscoelastic knee and elbow pads. Not only is the new material 25% slimmer, it’s also considerably softer and more supple. However, under impact, it’s every bit as protective as the previous version. Pads will begin shipping in October.
3.0 X-Flow and 4.0 Lite – $50/$40
Leatt’s gloves are totally new for 2016. The 3.0 X-Flow gloves (left in the above photo) offer Armourgel protection for the first knuckle, Clarino palm and mesh backing.
The 4.0 Lite glove (right in the above photo) includes Armourgel protection for the first knuckle and the second and third knuckle on the ring and index finger. A Nano grip palm offers palm protection and smart phone compatibility. Expect gloves to begin shipping in October.
As you might expect with a name like 45NRTH, as in the 45th Parallel, this company knows a thing or two about cycling in extreme winter conditions. The Minneapolis-based brand was founded under the Quality Bicycle Products (QBP) umbrella back in 2011. 45NRTH’s initial product offerings were tires, but they’ve since branched out to offer products that keep your hands and feet warm and cozy as the mercury drops.
In order to fulfill this mission of providing warm goods for your hands and feet, 45NRTH is employing some space-age materials. Back in 2012, the company started using aerogel insulation in their Jaztronaut insoles. This aerogel offers the lowest thermal conductivity of any solid and the highest insulation value of any existing insulation. It’s the stuff NASA uses to protect astronauts in space.
Like other insulation materials, aerogel relies on air as an insulator. But, unlike your favorite puffy jacket, it doesn’t rely on loft to provide this insulation. Instead tiny nano-sized air bubbles in the aerogel create an insulating barrier between you and the cold. And, because the material is highly compression resistant, its ability to insulate does not diminish with pressure. So, it’s the perfect material to use in high-pressure locations like the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands.
This fall, 45NRTH announced two new glove offerings under the Sturmfist name; both employing a layer of the aerogel insulation on the palms and fingers to isolate your paws from cold handlebars.. The Sturmfist 5 (five fingers) target a temperature range of 15- to 35-degrees Fahrenheit, while the Sturmfist 4 (four fingers, with the pinky and ring finger paired) are aimed at the 0- to 15-degree range.
Sturmfist gloves utilize wind and water resistant Polartec NeoShell fabric for the outer shell material and Pittards water resistant goat leather for the grip surface. Both models also offer functionally awesome and luxuriously comfortable Merino wool lining material. A suede nose whip also graces the thumb of both gloves.
A note about sizing. The size 10 (XL) gloves we tested ran true to size so those with larger hands will find themselves wishing there was a XXL option, of which there is none. Try before you buy.
Sturmfist 5 Gloves – $100
by Justin Steiner
Though the Sturmfist 5 may use the same aerogel grip insulation as Sturmfist 4, its 100g Polartec Alpha insulation targets warmers temps. I’ve found 45NRTH’s temperature recommendations to be a good baseline. At 35-degrees, my hands were on the verge of sweating, but the Merino lining handles moisture incredibly well and the shell material is highly breathable. On the colder end of the spectrum, my hands weren’t toasty, but they weren’t freezing either and my hands tend to run cold. Adding a Merino wool liner glove helped with comfort in the 15- to 20-degree range for me. In these colder temps, the shell’s breathability sometimes left a chill in harsh winds or at high speeds on the road. But, the glove’s breathability is excellent for the slower-paced and higher exertion level of mountain biking, which keep the gloves from becoming a sweaty mess.
On the other hand (har, har!), the palm’s aerogel insulation was incredible. It isolated cold handlebars so well I could hardly believe it. No kidding, if the gloves were warm, the aerogel kind of felt like a heating pad on my way home from work.
Regardless of materials, gloves are only as good as their fit. I’m happy to report the Sturmfists were spot-on for me in size 10 (XL) and run true to a standard XL fit. The fingers were appropriately long for gripping handlebars without being short and binding or long and awkward. Considering the warmth of these gloves, the freedom of movement and dexterity is awesome.
Bottom line; these are the best gloves I’ve used. The quality materials, good fit and incredible dexterity come together in a top-shelf package. Sure, they aren’t cheap, but the price seems very fair to me considering the materials and comfort.
Sturmfist 4 Gloves – $130
by Jon Pratt
Like a lot of people, my hands tend to be one of the first things to get cold on those blustery winter rides. Not so with the Sturmfist 4. The zero- to 15-degree comfort rating is no joke. With 300g of Merino-lined Polartec insulation, and a removable 250g Merino wool glove liner, these mitts are toasty!
I’ve used a lot of winter gloves ranging from five fingers, to lobster claws, to full-on mittens. The four finger construction of the Sturmfist 4 feels just right. I was able to ride, shift and brake comfortably on multiple flat bar configurations and on the Shimano STI drops of my gravel/commuter bike. Obviously there is a little loss of sensation, but nothing as drastic as I would expect from such an insulating glove.
What I really appreciated was the ability to start a ride with both the liner and glove and as my body temperature rose, ditch the liner but still have a soft Merino lining to handle any residual sweat. The glove also extends well past your wrist and features a cinch cord that is functional without having to remove the glove to tighten or loosen it.
I wouldn’t recommend you rock the Sturmfist 4 on the warmer days of winter as I found my hands overheating once it broke through the 20-25 degree barrier, but for those bitter cold days these are definitely my glove of choice.
As an added bonus, the Merino glove liner, with its ribbed palm, makes a great cool weather glove and I find myself leaving them on while driving back and forth from the trailhead. The liners are available separately for $50.
Jaztronaut Insoles – $50
by Justin Steiner
Anyone who has ridden clipless pedals in cold temps is all too aware of the dreaded heatsink effect of the cleat and pedal. On really cold days you can feel the heat being pulled out of your foot. Remember the bit about compressibility? Well, most other insulating insoles I’ve tried simply lose their ability to insulated under pedaling or standing pressure, which leads to cold feet.
With the Jaztronauts, however, that cleat and pedal heat-sink impact was nearly eliminated. There was still a small sense of heat loss through the bottom on my foot, but it was far less than with any other insole I’ve used. I’d say it added at least 10- to 15-degrees of comfort to my Lake MX303 boots. Where my feet would begin to succomb to the cold around 20-degrees with the stock insoles, the Jaztronaut insoles kept me much more comfortable down into the low teens. Although I haven’t had a chance to try them down to zero, I’m certain I’ll be much more comfortable at that temp with the Jaztronaut insoles.
My only disappointment revolves around the lack of arch support. They offer virtually no arch support beyond that of your shoe. But, to be fair, the insulating insoles I replaced didn’t offer any arch support either. Regardless, the $50 upgrade to warmer feet is worth it to me.
The Jaztronaut insoles also come stock in 45NRTH’s Wolvhammer boots, which we reviewed back in 2013. Read the review here.