In the current November/December issue of AMC Outdoors, I wrote a basic primer on what it takes to keep cycling through the winter. (Read the full article here.) Personally, of all the pieces of winter biking gear, the part that I find most challenging is handwear.
My hands stay comfortable down to about 25 degrees or so with a decent pair of windproof gloves, like the Black Diamond Windweight or REI Novara Headwind, both of which I use. But when temperatures start to drop below that, things get more challenging. Down to about 15-20 degrees, I can still get by with the gloves mentioned above, though my fingertips get pretty cold before I generate enough body heat to warm them up (which typically takes a good 15-20 minutes of solid riding).
Below 15 degrees, I’ll don either a pair of thick REI Switchback Gloves (down to about 10 degrees or so) or REI Switchback Mitts with a lightweight pair of liners inside (for temps below 10 degrees). Even with such heavy-duty handwear, my fingers still initially get cold after about 5-10 minutes of riding before eventually warming back up. Wearing mitts, I also start to get mildly concerned about my ability to quickly hit the brakes or shift gears (not a problem with gloves).
To address this dilemma, I’ve been researching the available options for bike pogies. Bike pogies attach to the ends of your handlebars and over your brake and gear levers, then extend upward over your wrists and lower arms. They both block the wind and provide insulation, allowing you to wear only a lightweight glove inside them for full dexterity. Here are some of the options I’ve found.
At the inexpensive end, Cabela’s offers a set of simple pogies designed for ATVs, the Classic Accessories™ QuadGear™ ATV Mitts ($20). They include internal pockets for chemical hand warmers. Not designed for bikes, but they should work fine and are the cheapest option available by far.
From there you move into a series of pogies designed by a handful of small Alaska gear makers that specialize in serious cold-weather activities. These include the Bike Toasties ($84) from Apocalypse Designs (scroll down to find the listings) in Fairbanks, where temperatures routinely plummet into the minus-30s and below. I like the reflective stripe on them for visibility.
Another small Alaska operator is Dogwood Designs, which makes great—and very well insulated—pogies ($90). The operation is so small, in fact, that they don’t even have a website! Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and availability. I’ve seen a few pairs of these around, and am leaning toward these as my coldest-weather option.
From there, you enter the extreme end of an already extreme activity: expedition pogies. Epic Designs, a small one-man operation, will custom build you a pair of ultra-warm, ultra-thick pogies for around $200. They even include a gusseted bottom pocket for storing a hat, gloves, snack, etc.
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.