Let’s be honest here – running in the dead of winter sucks.
And cycling in the winter? Well, that really sucks.
But the one thing I hate more than training in the cold is hamstering away on the ole treadmill and bike trainer.
Nope. Not gonna happen.
Now we’ve all heard the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” and never is that more accurate then when it comes to winter training. I plan to follow with an in-depth post on winter training essentials but want to focus on one specific piece of gear first.
Why the focus on this one item? Because it’s probably my single greatest gear purchase ever.
We’re talking ’bout big-ole mittens here
When it comes to gloves I don’t mess around as my hands are probably colder than those of the average person. As a result I keep gloves stashed everywhere – my desk at work, my car (I actually use the glove compartment for its intended purpose!) and my commuter backpack just in case I get caught in a cold situation bare-handed.
When you’re exposed to the cold your blood is redirected to protect your body’s most vital organs (brain, heart, etc.) through a process known as Vasoconstriction. And guess what your body doesn’t think is vital?
Them fingers of yours.
Now given my problem with cold fingers I don’t even bother to look for cycling or running specific gloves. No, I need the real deal for this job and not some overpriced shell gloves labeled as a “cycling” glove. I require insulated gloves designed for freezing cold days that can withstand a wicked wind chill.
I need…ski mittens!
But why mittens?
Because mittens are warmer than gloves.
“Why is that?” you ask
To save yourself some unnecessary googling just know that bundling your fingers will generate more heat than if you kept them separated. And more finger warmth will directly translate to less overall suckage.
Sure mittens are super dorky and you’ll look like you’re running with oven mitts but why should that matter? You’re probably also wearing tights, neon clothes and a headlamp so who really cares about vanity at this point?
Not me. My fingers are nice ‘n toasty.
But dude, what about dexterity!
The main argument for gloves centers on finger utilization and trying to do things like play a piano, tie your shoes or pick your nose are a lot easier when you don’t have one massive finger to do it with. Wearing mittens for running is fine but it’s crazy to think that you can change gears and brake effectively with ski mittens.
Or is it?
Here are four images of me changing the gears on a road bike, mountain bike, hybrid bike and a vintage 10-speed. A mitten with a soft enough underside will allow you plenty of ability to change gears and grasp your brake levers.
Looking at the pictures above you’ll probably notice a few things: 1) I own a lot of bikes 2) I haven’t finished re-gripping my vintage 10-speed and 3) I’m not showing a triathlon bike.
Riding a triathlon bike with mittens is not a problem but I hang up the triathlon bike for the winter. Why? Because the roads are a bit more suspect in the winter and I’ve already explained that I think triathlon bikes are dangerous. So since road and triathlon bikes are fairly interchangeable I just ride the roadie all winter.
Plus, let’s keep this a secret, I really just don’t enjoy riding a triathlon bike as much as a road bike.
Fine, so which mittens should I buy then?
So rarely is anything on this site going to be the best as I’m sure there are asbestos-lined gloves made out of Polar bear hide that may be slightly better. With similar gloves from The North Face and Marmot priced at $70 these $30 Hotfingers mittens are a bargain.
Call me a victim of advertising but I was intrigued by the name Hotfingers and bought them on a whim. Since then I’ve purchased a second pair, a pair for my wife and convinced my brother-in-law to buy his own set. When winter rolls around the Cheap Athlete family becomes Team Big A$$ Mittens!
I highly recommend these Hotfingers mittens to anyone who plans to ride or run in temperatures below freezing. At $30 they are probably not the cheapest option but they are a plug-and-play piece of gear that you can trust and will last you for years. Please note, you are going to sweat something fierce in them so make sure to throw them in the washer and dryer or you’re also gonna have some nasty fingers. And nobody wants that.