Which are the best winter cycling gloves for 2018?
To maintain comfort once the cold wind starts to bite, a quality pair of winter gloves are essential - but finding the right blend of warmth, dexterity and breathability can be hard
As all cyclists know, in winter it’s the extremities that freeze first, so a decent pair of winter cycling gloves needs to be able to trap in the warmth first and foremost.
However, unlike ski gloves, cycling gloves cannot depend on super-thick padding because we need to retain sensitivity so that brakes, shifters and Di2 buttons can be operated and Garmin screens swiped.
More winter kit suggestions
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- What to wear for winter cycling
So keeping out the wind is crucial: fabrics such as Gore Windstopper and the similar WindTex do this as well as offer water repellency and breathability. The inner padding and/or membrane varies from glove to glove and on what sort of temperature the glove is aimed at, whether deep winter or chilly and wet.
Cuff design is also a key element of the glove’s design, not to mention its performance, and the sort you go for depends on personal preference. Some have zips, others have Velcro, some have elastic gathering and it’s common for a glove to have no mechanism at all, relying on the stretch of the cuff fabric. In many ways this is the best and most user friendly method.
Best winter gloves reviewed
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Castelli Estremo winter cycling gloves £80
Wind and water resistant Gore Windstopper fabric features on the back of the Estremos and the pads use a sticky silicone print creating an assured grip on the bars. There’s a brushed nosewipe panel on the back of the thumb. The lining is made from Polarfleece 340G and feels warm without being overly bulky.
A Velcro cuff makes them easy to take on and off, providing a close fit when long sleeves are tucked in. We did find the Velocro a little fiddly to operate, though.
Overall, the Estremos impressed us, performing well in the cold and the fabric didn’t hold on to moisture and was quick drying.
Rapha Winter cycling gloves £85
An attractive pair of gloves with a seamless panel on the back which provides windproofing and water resistance due to a DWR coating. Pittards goatskin leather reinforces the palm and underside of the fingers and the lining is a soft, brushed polyester.
Elasticated cuffs are long and fit closely, though not as easy to get on as a Velocro or zip assisted affair, they’re snug when on.
We found the Medium pair came up quite small, the suede palms aren’t the grippiest and we found the lining could get sweatlogged during hard efforts. However, they did keep the chill out right down to the coldest temperatures, as long as we weren’t hanging around.
Assos bonKaGlove_Evo7 winter cycling gloves £90
BEST ON TEST – 10/10
A top end winter glove, the Swiss brand has used its own airBlock windproof and water-repellent fabric on the back. The palms feature an abrasion-resistant synthetic suede with silicone ‘A’s on the fingertips and around the edges of the palm.
The inside features Assos’ multi-density wadding, and the construction is sealed by a neoprene cuff with taped seam.
There’s a sensible addition of a reflective indicator strip on the outer edge of each little finger and a tab at the wrist to help get the cuff positioned right.
Designed for temperatures between -4°C and 8°C we found them very warm at 5°C. However, they breathe well and don’t absorb an excessive amount of sweat into their linings. For long winter rides these gloves are perfect, and the price isn’t overly inflated.
Lusso WindTex winter cycling gloves £30
An excellent product at a fairly low price point, from the British brand Lusso – the WindTex gloves are constructed entirely from the eponymous fabric, with grippy gel pads sewn at the palm and a the underside of the thumb. There’s no padding or liner.
A reflective ‘L’ logo appears on the back, and the cuff is high and stretches to fit.
We found the fabric on the back a little bit baggy, but otherwise had no complaints – these lightweight gloves coped with single figure temperatures without being too hot on warmer days. Lusso says their temperature range is from 0-14°C and we wouldn’t argue with that.
GripGrab Ride Waterproof Winter cycling gloves €64.95 (£55.95)
The gloves from Danish company GripGrab are well suited to UK conditions. The Ride Waterproof Winter gloves feature a breathable membrane, and retain heat when it’s cold. The long cuff extends some way over the wrist and uses a Velocro tab to close.
The company’s DoctorGel pad features at the heel of the palm, and it’s in just the right place when riding on the hoods. The palm, forefinger and middle fingertips use silicone for grip and here’s a touch screen tip on the thumb as well as a terry back. There’s a reflective dot pattern on the bottom half of the back.
These gloves balance warmth with breathability well and the waterproofing is effective.
Santini Jess winter cycling gloves £39.99
Light enough that they don’t impede handlebar feel, with enough padding for comfort, these feature an effective windproof outer. The windproof material covers the entire glove. There’s no specific padding for pressure points, but we experienced no problems.
A tight layer of stretchy fleece fabric makes up the cuff and keeps the cold out, and leaves no wrist gap.
The Santinis are likely to provide everything you need for winter rides in UK temperatures without too much bulk, although it would be nice to have a little more padding under the usual pressure points in the palms.
Mavic Vision Thermo winter cycling gloves £50
With a goal of increasing visibility in the dark, the Mavic’s use the brand’s trademark yellow, with reflective bands on three of four fingers and on the back of the hand.
The outer fabric features in-built waterproof membrane and a DWR treatment to repel water. A separate liner is pretty thick, and though warm this does create a bit of bulk.
The cuff is extra-long and tightened by a Velcro strap, supported by elastic gathering. The underside is made from a synthetic leather – which we did find a tad slippy. There’s padding at the palm and reinforced fabric in the area between thumb and index finger where wear is likely.
Endura Deluge II winter cycling gloves £49.99
These gloves from Endura use 40g Thinsulate padding for insulation and a single panel of durable windproof fabric on the back, with a terry nosewipe. There’s a reflective fabric between the fingers and on the thumb and palm outer.
A soft, synthetic suede covers the palm, with printed silicone lines for grip – plus gel pads at the heel of the hand. Elastic and Velcro control volume at the Cuff.
These are lightweight compared to others on test, and aren’t designed for the coldest weather – but at 5°C are perfectly adequate. As the name suggests, they really perform in wet weather – the insides feature a (truly) waterproof, breathable membrane. You could virtually wash the dishes in the Enduras.
Shimano S-Phyre winter cycling gloves £99.99
Created following decades of hand-to-glove-to-shifter research, Shimano has used a seamless 3D pre-curved design to create a conforming fit.
The gloves follow the hand and wrist with a nice cuff length and great fit around the handlebars – they don’t feel bulky and leave plenty of dexterity. The only downside is that the fingers were a bit long for our tester – which meant they bunched a bit.
The gloves work well down to 2°C, without using the supplied inner liner and they do deflect a small amount of water spray but are not waterproof.
Which are the best winter gloves for cycling?
Picking a winner has been particularly difficult this time because the different glove manufacturers construct their gloves to deal with a particular temperature range or even weather condition, so it can err towards an apples-oranges comparison in some cases.
So we’ve tried to focus on the best glove for UK winter riding, taking into account the type of riding that the average cyclist does between November and March, and we decided that a high level of insulation against low temperatures is important since the average winter club run can be slower than during the season.
The Assos and Castelli gloves are two of the top-priced ones but we think the extra spend is justified for the R&D that has clearly gone into them and the impressive technical garments that have resulted.
We’ve giving ‘best on test’ to Assos because we preferred the mechanism-free cuff to the Castelli’s slightly messy Velcro closure and the Assos had a neater construction with fewer seams. However, the performance of both of these gloves would keep you smiling through the winter miles.
Other tried and tested winter cycling gloves
Endura FS260-Pro Nemo winter cycling gloves – £27.99
Constructed from neoprene, these waterproof gloves keep moisture out – and in. This makes them mega warm, though they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
Specialized Element 2.0 winter cycling gloves – £45
Group your little finger next to its neighbour, to keep those digits warmer whilst still allowing easy use of all the controls.
Gore Universal Windstopper Mid Gloves – £49.99
A fairly lightweight glove that’s still well insulated and offers a close fit plus good feel of the handlebar.
DeFeet E-Touch Dura winter cycling gloves – £17.99
Great lightweight glove for the months before and after it gets really cold. Can be used as a liner glove in the depths of winter and allows for use of touchscreen devices.
What to look for in cycling gloves
Thermal and Wind Protection
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in the middle of a long ride in the depths of winter, miles from home, with blocks of ice on the end of your arms where your hands used to be, making it all but impossible to brake, let alone change gear.
So with this in mind, finding a pair of winter cycling gloves with good protection against the cold.
The first layer of protection should be an impermeable windproof layer designed, as you can guess from the name, to keep cold air and wind away from your hands.
One of the most popular fabrics for this is Gore’s Windstopper fabric, something that is used in the winter cycling gloves of many brands aside from Gore itself, although there are plenty of other options that work just as well.
These fabrics should work to keep the elements out while still being breathable enough to prevent your hands from overheating and getting sweaty.
The second line of protection is a thermal layer designed not only to keep the cold air away from your skin, but also to make sure that any warm air generated by your hands is maintained and not allowed to escape.
What’s important with the thermal layer is that, unlike with skiing gloves for example, it can’t be too thick, as you need to maintain your dexterity to be able to feel which lever your finger is on to change gear and to be able to manipulate the brake lever.
No one like riding in the rain, but if you’re going to keep your training up through the British winter (or summer for that matter), then you’re going to want some decent gloves for the weather.
In mild weather it’s not actually necessary to have completely waterproof gloves. The saying goes that your skin is waterproof, so as long as you have gloves that keep your hands warm, they don’t necessarily need to keep you dry.
However when the temperature drops a bit more, and the rain (and even snow) begins to fall, then you’re going to want some more serious winter cycling gloves with an outer layer that will keep the precipitation at bay.
Like any windproof outer layer, a waterproof layer should be impermeable to the outside elements to keep your hands dry, but should also be breathable to prevent your hands overheating, particularly over the course of long rides.
Particularly if you’re heading out in breezy conditions, you’re generally going to want your winter cycling gloves to have nice long cuffs to help keep that chilly north easterly out of your sleeves.
However it’s not just a case of the bigger the better, and you’re going to want to get a pair of gloves that complement your choice of jersey or jacket if you’re going to be nice and cosy while putting in those long winter miles.
This means you’ve got a decision to make as to whether you wear the cuff of the gloves over the top or underneath the cuff of your jacket.
If you’re jacket has loose sleeves then it may well be worth getting a pair of gloves that with a tight cuff over which you can pull the sleeves of your jacket.
However if you’re wearing a long sleeve jersey or tighter jacket, particularly one without elasticated cuffs, then pulling this over the top of the gloves might be difficult.
In this case look for gloves that have a looser cuff into which you can tuck your sleeves, and ideally try to find ones with a velcro strap to enable you to tighten the cuff around the jacket once the gloves are on.
That said, if you’re more of a fair weather rider who isn’t best keen on cycling through Arctic conditions, or just a rider who is prone to overheating during riding, then slightly shorter cuffed winter cycling gloves may be better.
Because your blood runs so close to the skin at the wrist, this can be an excellent place to control your body temperature.
So if you find yourself getting a bit hot in the middle of a winter club run, then pulling down some low cuffs can be a good way to cool off relatively quickly.
Riding on wet or even icy roads can be treacherous, so being completely in control of your bike is more essential than ever.
The bad news is that if your handlebars are wet then it can be difficult to keep a secure hold on the bars, particularly if you’re using smooth bar tape.
With this in mind you want a little bit of a tacky surface on the palm of your winter cycling gloves to make sure you can maintain a secure grip on both the bars and the brake levers.
If you feel the need to upload a gritty Instagram selfie to show your mates just how hard you are for heading out when its blowing a gale and hammering it down with rain, then you’re going to need to be able to prod away at your smartphone screen.
With this in mind many winter cycling gloves now come with fingertips specially designed to be used with touchscreens.
For when the temperature rises, it’s useful to have a sweat patch, usually located on the thumb with which to mop your brow and stop sweat from dripping into your eyes.
Another important thing to have to keep your hands comfortable is minimal seams. The last thing you want is big seams on the inside of the gloves that will dig into your hands and could prove to be an irritance after a few hours in the saddle.
You could also find them unravelling after a few months of use.