Remember when you could ride your bicycle wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt? Well, many of you have mothballed the bicycle for winter and are donning ski's, snowshoes, or snowboards. Not everyone turns to non-bicycle forms of recreation in the winter. In fact, winter cycling even made headlines in the local Utah media last week. The news agency KSL in Salt Lake City ran a story about "Fat biking" on Utah lake. What a great punch for cycling making headway into the conversations of non-bicycle owning persons! Of course the conversations may turn to how crazy some cyclists may be. We have more than a few customers here at Universal Cycles that have built up (or are currently building up) fat bikes. Click here to read the great article and watch the video.
You may have noticed that we've been pandering these silly contraptions in our newsletters and on the website for a while now. Or perhaps you haven't noticed, because you immediately laughed at the concept and deleted the newsletter, or you possibly simply live on the Galapagos Islands. In any case, I do read our newsletters and I do live in an area with a sub-freezing winter climate. Add to that the fact that I have very poor circulation, commute through all seasons, and enjoy shifting and braking to some degree, I decided that I would try to keep my digits warm through all manner of weather and temperature. In my short and young lifetime I have tried dozens of gloves and glove liners and gloves with glove liners to no avail. My fingers go numb and occupy so much scrutiny on my part, that I'm impeded from observing chattering chipmunks, babbling brooks, particular snowflakes, billowing factory smokestacks, and slippy-slidy cars that lock up their brakes and slide into the intersection against a red light (true-ish story).
I've been living in Ogden, UT for nearly four months, and found out pretty quick what a "real" winter is. I recently purchased the MTB version of the Bar Mitts designed for flat handlebars. My commuter bike has Surly open bars with quite a lot of backsweep, and I got the OSFM size of Bar Mitts. What the company calls OSFM, we at Universal Cycles call medium. The company recommends sizing by type of rider attire rather than anything to do with hand size. That is to say, the average person who will be riding in super sub-freezing temperatures and will be wearing huge bulky gloves and a really thick jacket should opt for the large size Bar Mitts. Indeed, I typically wear a size large glove, but would not see any arctic tundra type conditions, so I bought the OSFM (again, medium) size. The installation was simple, straightforward, and quick. Just unfasten the hook-and-loop closure, unzip, slide on, and re-zip/re-attach hook-and-loop closure. Inside the mitts are another piece of neoprene/hook-and-loop that you secure around the end of the grip/handlebar. There are now also options for those of you running bar end mirrors, bullhorn style bar ends, or those of you who simply like superfluous holes in things.
The verdict is, that these are the quite possibly, nay, undeniably the dorkiest accessory that I have ever installed on my bicycle (our mechanic Shawn might put pedal reflectors ahead of this one). Yet, were to try and pry the Bar Mitts from my tingly warm dry fingers, I would surely deny you the privilege. Honestly, for really cold, blustery, and inclement weather this product simply works. I have been riding with the Bar Mitts and a pair of lightweight winter gloves to great effect! The cold is staved off and I have great dexterity to shift and brake. This last weekend the weather app on my phone reported a "feels like" temperature of -4 degrees fahrenheit. For those of you who live in more temperate climate zones, let me illustrate what -4 degrees fahrenheit feels like... it's like waking up, filling your thermos with coffee, donning your balaclava and snowsuit, and then climbing up into your freezer next to that bag of frozen peas. My hands were warm and toasty with the Bar Mitts and I believe that in milder winter weather, I will be able to get away with an even lighter weight long finger glove inside these things.
Since I told you this would be a fair and honest review, there are a couple more points that I would like to make. First, the Bar Mitts can be ever so slightly awkward on handlebars with a lot of backsweep. I believe this is due to their being made for "flat" bars. It doesn't detract from their effectiveness or usefulness, but the angle at which your hands and wrists grasp a bar with much backsweep doesn't superbly match the angle of the opening of the mitt (I admit, I'm being very picky here). Also, the OSFM (medium) size is only good up to a mid weight glove/jacket combination. The company means it when they say those of you wishing/needing to still wear bulky gloves/jackets should go for the large size. Another point has to do with non-shifting/braking maneuvers. The Bar Mitts make it a bit difficult to, say, hand signal a left turn, turn on your headlight, ring-a-ling your ding-dong bell, scratch your nose, or wave to your neighbor fastidiously clearing their driveway of snow. And then there's the garish reminder that you look like an extreme goober on your commute, albeit a warm fingered goober at that. Bar Mitts may not be for everyone, but those of you who don't care so much what others think of you, desire pleasantly warm riding in cold weather, or those who have poor circulation (I raised my hand to each of those), these are just the delicious ticket for you!