The weather in the UK turned quite abruptly earlier this month.
September was surprisingly warm and dry. October came along, the switch was flipped and winter began (or at least a chilly autumn did).
This time of the year tends to see me make a wardrobe gaffe. Thankfully (for both you and me), said wardrobe gaffe is not the type that I take a picture of and then send to an undercover reporter masquerading as a young female politician-fancier*.
(*This is the sort of reference that will mean nothing to you if you’re not from the UK, or you’re reading this at any point in the future).
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Cold Hands Luke
On at least one ride each year, I misjudge totally the temperature outside and fail to dress adequately. This normally happens during the ‘hip season’ (as travel agents may call it) between summer and autumn/winter. And I feel my mistake most profoundly in my hands.
Not this time.
I was at “home” home in Yorkshire (ie. the land of my forefathers) when the weather changed and had arranged to go riding with my sister and her husband.
The BBC weather-tattlers had been all a-quiver during the preceding week, foretelling the arrival of a band of rain, followed by significantly lower temperatures. I had spent a not-insignificant portion of that same week thinking about what I would wear on the ride.
I’m not going to describe my entire outfit, other than to say that whilst I chanced it by sporting a fine pair of bib shorts, I took no risks at all with my hands. I wore my old winter commuting gloves. My sister wore no gloves (without complaints); her husband wore his summer mitts. My hands were just about warm enough.
Get To The Point Grimpeur
Right. Well, all of this preamble is a long-winded attempt to explain that having warm hands is very important to me*.
(*Also I get this thing where the ends of my fingers turn white when they get cold, which I have self-Google-diagnosed as Raynaud’s phenomenon… to which I feel duty bound to add, “Mah Na Mah Na, do doo duh doo do”).
So important to me, in fact, that last year I invested in a pair of Sealskinz Thermal Performance Road Cycling Gloves (to give them their formal name), to be worn on rides where the temperatures even hint at dropping into mid single figures (centigrade).
I don’t know how you go about reviewing a pair of gloves. To be honest, reviewing any sort of clothing is a bit problematic (at the least, highly subjective).
Whatevs. Not knowing how to do something doesn’t generally stop me from pontificating wildly (see: this blog, anything I’ve written about cycling, etc). Let’s do this.
Let’s Start With The ‘Features’
Who knew that gloves could have more than a couple of features (fingers, hole to stick hand in, etc)?
Yet features they have. And some of them don’t sound entirely fabricated in the Sealskinz marketing think tank (aquarium?).
Talking of fingers (we were), the gloves come with ‘pre-curved’ fingers. Once pointed out, I realised that i) this was the case and ii) this is a good thing (after all, your hands will spend most their time curved around your handlebars).
Staying in the same general location, the tips of the first two fingers of each hand (‘pointy’ and ‘bird’ fingers) have little leather patches to aid feel and control when changing gears or braking. I think they help a little in using my (touch screen) Edge 510 bike GPS.
Moving to the palm, there are generous pads dotted around. At a guess, I’d say they’re filled with some sort of gel. These provide comfort from road vibration and forays into water-filled potholes. The pads also prevent overstimulation of the ulnar nerve, which can cause finger numbness in some people (like me).
The Sealskinz are waterproof and windproof, which will go a long way to keeping your hands warm. They have a microfleece lining and a layer of insulation on the back of each hand.
As far as I can see, it’s this back-of-hand insulation that sets the Thermal Performance Road Cycling Glove apart from its less warm sibling, cunningly named the Performance Road Cycling Glove. Oh, and a longer cuff with a velcro fastening strap on the thermal model.
Rounding off the fleecy features, both hands feature a section of soft material on each thumb, designed to wipe runny noses and any other facial fluids.
So Are They Any Good?
A resounding yes, yes, thrice yes.
Let’s start with the most important thing. They’re fugging warm (hence, “thermal performance”).
If I find myself in a position where the temperatures outside necessitate the wearing of an even warmer glove, that ride is not actually going to take place. In that scenario, the high likelihood of ice on the roads would send me straight to the turbo.
If you want a warm pair of gloves, look no further you need to (as Yoda would say).
Any Issues With Them?
Well, they are a little on the bulky side. But then what do you expect?
If your other winter clothing is cyclo-specific, figure-hugging apparel, then you’ll be sporting slight clown hands.
On the other hand (did you see what I did there), if you wear a wind-proof or waterproof jacket, the additional glove mass will not look out of place.
That said, ‘glove bulk’ (technical term) can cause practical cycling issues.
I find that I sometimes miss gear changes when riding with fat fingers. I think I pull the gear shift slightly towards me, disengaging it in the same way that happens when braking. I’m not exactly sure what about the gloves causes this to happen. However, I’ve found this to be no more of an issue with the Sealskinz than with my old, less bulky winter gloves. The issue seems to be binary: wear winter gloves, become slightly incompetent.
Style Tips From One Who Knows (Not)
I have the red ones. Red is scientifically-proven to be the colour of winners. If you don’t want the psychological benefit of les mains rouges, another, more muted, grey colour scheme is available.
The Sealskinz Thermal cycling gloves are a fine set of hand warmers. They are more than up to the task of dealing with the coldest temperatures I’d be prepared to ride in outside.
The gloves are quite bulky, but I’m happy to put up with this in the interest of comfortable hands. Looking super stylish is something I can focus on during the summer months (or never, if I’m honest).
Until next time, banzai!