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My Opinions On Cold Hands

This is purely my opinion, I've no scientific research to back this up, just over 20 years of freezing my fingers off through the winter on my bike...

I've purchased expensive gloves, used liners, used heated grips, used BIG handlebar muffs and even tried not wearing gloves.  If you're going to ride your bike in sub zero temperatures...YOU WILL GET COLD FINGERS!  It's a fact, accept it or buy a car.  What you can do is make the whole sorry affair bearable. 

The human body is a remarkable machine that can survive many situations.  The main part of your body that keeps you alive is your torso.  This is where all the important organs live and as such the body will try to keep this bit warm rather than the arms and legs.  So if you start to get cold the body reduces the heat in your fingers and toes to focus on keeping your heart and liver warm.  So, the very first point of keeping your hands warm is to ensure your body is warm!  You might have toasty gloves in protected muffs but if you've no jacket on the body will just suck the heat out of your hands.  If however your body is toasty warm then there may just be enough heat left to keep your fingers warm.

Plenty of lots of warm layers.  In the winter I look like a big scary biker, the ladies are always so disappointed when after 5 minutes I've removed all my layers to reveal my unimpressively average frame.  1 Tshirt, 2 jumpers, 1 bike jacket, cut off, waterproof over jacket, jeans, leggings, quilted overpants and waterproofs...I can barely move by the time I've ready to roll.  It's a pain in the ass but it all helps to keep ME warm which helps to keep my fingers warm.

The next thing is grip.  Fearing every ice-laden corner it's all to easy to hold tight to the handlebars.  What I find is that this very action makes the fingers stiffen and limits the flow of precious blood to the fingers.  When your fingers are screaming in agony try stopping a while and letting go of the bars, the blood returns to the fingers and relief is forthcoming, but it is temporary.  You do need to hold onto the bars but try loosening your grip as and when you can.  It's not the perfect solution, but it definitely helps.  I also find large gloves help, there's room for the fingers to move.

Speaking of gloves, have many pairs to hand (HA!).  Wet gloves are the worst thing in the world for cold fingers.  Air is actually used as an insulator, most "warm" things are about trapping air, think of duvets, jackets and so on.  Water on the other hand (HA!) is often used for cooling.  Wet gloves allow what little heat is in your fingers to flow away at an alarming rate.  If your ride through the winter you're sure to ride in the rain sometime.  I have a motley collection of gloves so when one set is wet I can use another pair.  If I'm out for the day and it's wet I may take one or two pairs with me. 

4 pairs of motorcycle gloves in a liine
My collection of gloves.  4 pairs is still not enough with the rain we've had recently...

Of course things like heated grips, handlebar muffs, hand guards and quality gloves all help.  But I find most of these things to be a fix rather than stopping the problem at source.  So in summary, be sure your body and legs are as warm as possible, your gloves are dry and don't grip the bars too tight!  Still, when all's said and done, you're going to get cold fingers...

Reader's Comments

Tom McQ said :-
I too carry 2 pairs of gloves if the forecast is wet. Nothing worse than a sopping wet pair of gloves - even if they're 100% waterproof!! I also have heated grips on full blast to warm up the small amount of blood thats circulating thru my hands.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
John. said :-
heated grips, having put some on the bike last year i find the the inside of the fingers get warm but the top of the fingers are still cold, thats why I also got some oxford stay dry muffs. Ive found that not only does the muffs keep the wind off so retaining heat within the glove fingers, but also keeps the gloves dry when the rain sets in. But you are bang on about keeping the body warm, plenty layers and good warm boots.

Maybe a discussion about boots Ren and foot wear in general.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
Ben said :-

I use a pair of Thermal cycling gloves and if my gloves leak & its raining, I keep some of the disposable gloves from a petrol station as spare in my jacket.

They keep my hands dry and seem to help keep the cold out!!

For my feet, I wear thermal ski socks and I carry a couple of carrier bags to put my feet in if my boots leak. (also useful for pickup some last minute shopping on the way home....but not if I am using them as emergency waterproofs!!

01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Ben.

I use them plastic gloves from the petrol station. They help a little bit with the warmth but even better is it makes getting wet gloves on and off a lot easier! Plastic bags on the feet too.

So much stuff is marked up and sold as waterproof but it rarely is.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
Arthur said :-
I've been using Gerbings Heated gloves through the last three winters. Now it doesn't super super cold here around London, -5C is probably lowest I've seen, but the Gerbings have kept my fingers plenty warm enough throughout, even at motorways speeds. Did have some issues with early pairs not having particularly robust wiring, but newer pairs have held up well (and they were always replaced under warranty in couple days). Not cheap at £150, but I'd probably still buy another pair when they do finally die.

However, I do agree with you on layering up and keeping your core warm too, definitely half the battle.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Arthur. I've never tried heated gloves, perhaps I should. The thing that's put me off is the connection to the bike. If I'm on and off the bike a lot, as I often am, would the connection last? I'd be worried about forgetting and yanking the wires too, I'm stupid like that.

As I primarily ride a 125 I'm also acutely aware of the extra load on the diminutive charging system. I'm sure a larger machine with a more powerful alternator could cope though.
01/01/2000 00:00:00 UTC
Billybusa said :-
Dear ren
Forget about those expensive gloves for riding in cold, dark, dank days of winter summer or any time of year. A good pair of mits can ( possibly ) do the trick. A nice circulation of air around yon digits can help a lot. I, myself use a thin pair of leather gloves and then stick on a pair of those gortex overmitts that you can buy from an army and navy store ( or stall on a market). They do work a treat, and are cheap as chips ( around a tenner ) Ive ridden all over europe with them, and their ( as tony the tiger would say ) GRRRRREAT !
03/04/2016 22:25:42 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Last year I bought a pair fo summer gloves with a view to getting some mittens to go over them. All the mittens I found though were too bulky or too small. I never considered the ex army or overmits options!

I shall get on ebay later and see what I can find. Cheers Billybusa!
04/04/2016 08:00:05 UTC
Bob said :-
I fit large plastic hand guards, these are about £11-£12 off Ebay. Then heated grips, recently I've been picking up brand new heated grip sets for £20 at shows and autojumbles, I always keep a set in stock.
Between the guards, heated grips and thick leather gloves I find I can ride through even the coldest days. Very occasionally if I'm heading cross country and I know the temperature is going to be down at 0-3C I'll bring out the heated waistcoat (50W) and replace the handguards with a set of those neoprene "boxer" glove type muffs- but I really hate riding a bike with them on, so It's got to be proper cold.
I have the problem with my little KE100 that it's electrical system is so marginal that it barely manages to keep up with the electricals that are already fitted as standard. However, it only gets used for short runs and commuting in the snow so I can usually just about cope.
26/10/2016 12:28:33 UTC
Bogger said :-
Any glove that you like to wear. Then over the top a pair of the cheap Gortex overmitts. After decades of riding with cold wet hands I have found this to be the cheapest and most effective way of keeping my hands warm and dry.

04/03/2020 21:22:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Bogger - Goretex overmitts - please advise me of what make/model you have? I have summer motorcycling gloves that would provide the slide protection and a pair of overmitts would work perfectly in the rain.
05/03/2020 09:13:09 UTC
said :-
Can't do links but try this item number eBay item number:


05/03/2020 21:11:01 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Bogger! Top man, just ordered a pair. At 7 quid it'd be rude not to.
06/03/2020 09:15:35 UTC

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