Winter Biking Part III: Gloves

Winner: Novara Stratos, $55/500kr

Runner-Up: Burton Approach, $55/500kr

Essential Accessory: Hestra Merino Wool Liner Active, $28/250kr

Big Surprise: Super hard to find good biking gloves in Sweden.

No Surprise:  When you do, they are really expensive.


My hands get cold. With the weather in Sweden being, well, cold, I was wearing gloves every day starting in September, and was in full cold-weather-gear-mode by November.

When it's not really really cold, simple fleece gloves work great for me. They're have good tactile feel,  they're relatively cheap, and are generally comfortable for me around 8-10C (45-50F) and above. I tend to lose most gloves, so balancing comfort, warmth, budget, and self-loathing is important.

Average daily temps in Stockholm only run above 10C from May to September, so finding something better was crucial to riding every day. I tend to minimize my usage of bike-specific clothes when possible, as they tend to be cheesy, more fashion than function, and overpriced. Going up the ladder in conventional gloves doesn't work well for riding, however, as the warmer gloves tend to get bulky, lack dexterity, and typically and often windproof or waterproof enough for more than a really short ride anyway.

The Winners

Novara Stratos,  ~$55 USD

Claw-style gloves look a little silly, but it's all about keeping fingers together for warmth and having better dexterity than you get with mittens. They really work. This may not be a revelation to the reader, but it was to me. It's more accurate to call these gloves 'half-claw', since only your pinkie and ring fingers live together, pointer and index are separate. This setup worked pretty perfectly for me, and I could ride comfortably in the Stratos' down to -6C (21F) or so, maybe down to -8 with liners.

Most surprising to me here was the country of purchase. I found myself completely exasperated with both the availability of winter bike gloves in Stockholm, not to mention the prices. The average Swede is probably more cold-hardy than me and also less inclined to misplace everything, to perhaps demand is low. I optimistically carved out some REI time into my schedule while on a 2 day work trip to NYC, and found these. I've seen them on post-season sale for $37. If I was in the US, I'd buy 5 pairs today.

I lost these gloves in late March, or I'd post a picture.

Burton Approach, ~$55 USD

Not only did these gloves come from the US as well, I also got them for 'free' in a package deal with a North Face jacket that I bought literally on the way to the airport with the family as we were moving to Sweden in January 2016 since the zipper of my prior winter jacket literally disintegrated just before getting into the car to head to JFK and embark on said journey.

These gloves have taught me to remember not to disregard the things that fortuitously come our way without intent. They spent most of winter forgotten, deep inside my sock-and-underwear drawer. Angie (who remembers these sorts of things) reminded me of them not long before I lost the Stratoses, and they served as well as replacements until they too were lost, on April 16th, with temperatures hovering around 0 amid flurries of snow.

These gloves weren't quite as warm as the Stratoses, but were great down to -2 or -3C (26-28F), and I could extend their range in a pinch with liners. If you're not going to ride in lower temps and you want a more conventional or snowboardy type glove, these are a great choice at a reasonable price.

Hestra Merino Wool Liner Active, $28/250kr

I'll fully sing the praises of Merino Wool in a separate post. In all things base layer, I am grateful to the Merino sheep.

For some reason, the liners had less impact with the Stratos gloves than with the Approach. That may be because the Stratos gloves are thicker and more layered to begin with.

The Losers

Giro DND, “Mil Spec Olive”, ~$25 US, ~400 SEK in Sweden

These gloves are just fine for nice cool weather. The snug Medium fits me almost perfectly, and they saved me from what would have been a painful road rash on the day I took a spill and cracked my helmet. They have a suitably minimal amount of padding for people who like such things, and the touchscreen compatible fingertips are neat. The cuffs are short, which can be good or bad depending on your preference, the weather, and your jacket.

The DNDs absorb water, so their usefulness drops in parallel with the chance of precipitation. 

I like wearing gloves when it’s a little cool, so these gloves have some use for me, but they saw zero action after September.

Pro Bikegear Ultimate Winter Gloves, ~400 SEK

"Ultimate Winter" nuh-uh. Maybe in Florida or Spain. "Ultimate Fall" would be more truthful. These gloves are neither warm nor dry enough to keep their promise of being the ultimate glove for any winter, let alone Swedish winter.

I spied these at a not-totally-exorbitant price and recommended by an employee in a shop I otherwise have liked. They were the only winter-ish biking gloves on display; I inferred, incorrectly, that this meant that these gloves were all my hands would need.

My hands go numb in these after 10-15 minutes of riding at zero-ish celsius temperatures. Their water-repellence is surprisingly low, almost DND-esque. 

As a general bike glove, they’re OK. They have a cuff that’s long enough to go under your jacket sleeve, but it’d be way easier to grab with a gloved hand if it was just 1cm longer or so.  My favorite feature is the reflective piping along the fingers.

Also, FWIW, these are made by Shimano. I wouldn’t have known this without reading the fine print on the tags on the inside; for whatever reason, this fact was either not-present or very subtle on the packaging.

Outdoor Research PL150 Sensor Gloves, ~300 SEK at Alewald’s

These are fairly generic midline synthetic winter gloves. They feel drier than either of the other gloves when it’s wet out (either due to repellence or wicking). They’re not quite as warm as the Pro Ultimates, but they’re less stiff and the cuffs are stretchier so it’ll be easier to use a liner underneath. 
They don’t have any special biker padding like the bike gloves do, but that’s not a big deal for me. They do have some grippy stuff on the palm.

I’ll need a liner for these when it gets really cold, but I’m more OK with that in this case than I am with the Pro Ultimates, both because it’s expected and because it’s significantly easier to get these gloves on and off.

FWIW, these gloves also claim to be touchscreen compatible, but this doesn’t work for me. 

To-dos for Next Year

Figure how the best way to wire dynamo->handlebars for warmth.