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Tag Archive: winter cycling

Review: Planet Bike’s “Borealis” Winter Gloves

It seems that spring has sprung for most of the country…and so this review may seem a bit late for those of you looking for winter gear for your cold commutes. Since this was MY first real winter in over 20 years, I was expecting a ton of snow and ice in which to test Planet Bike’s “Borealis” winter gloves — I wanted to run these gloves through the worst conditions I could find, even snowball fights and epic sled rides. Alas, it barely snowed here and the longer I waited for Mother Nature to do her thing, the closer to spring it got…

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Here’s a bit about the gloves straight from Planet Bike’s website:

-Windproof back panel and forchettes
-Removable liner for quick dry time
-Ultra-soft Fleece thumb
-Reflective piping for night visibility
-Water resistant, reinforced Serino palm
-3-in-1 design allows flexible temperature range by using liners, outer shells only, or outer shells with liners
-Neoprene cuff/pull tab with hook and loop closure

This 3-in-1 system is pretty handy…wear the liners on cool days, the outers when you need windproof protection or liners and shells together when things get really nasty out there. I was on the cusp between sizes L and XL (I chose the large size)…so the liners are a bit snug but the outers, strangely, have just enough room to wear other liner gloves in my collection. The stock liners are fairly lightweight fleece, so a heavier liner was pressed into service when the temperatures really bottomed out. Here are the fleece liners:

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The fleece liners don’t have any grip-enhancing goodies on them, so they can be a tad slippery all by themselves. I didn’t spend too much time riding with just the liners — when it was warm enough, I had other full-finger gloves that I prefer using, and when the temperatures dropped I grabbed the outer shells (which have plenty of grip). Take a look at all the grippy stuff and reinforcement patches on the palms:

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Feature-wise, these gloves have a lot going for them…good reinforcements on the palm, a generous (and soft!) nose-wiping area on the thumbs, a neoprene cuff and simple closures that did a really good job of sealing out chilly drafts. And, despite their seeming bulk, I had no trouble manipulating the brake and shift levers on any of the bikes I ride. Even the small thumb-lever on Campagnolo Ultrashift levers was no trouble. Seeing as how this was my first time with lobster-style gloves, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these gloves really didn’t interfere with the operation of the shifters as I had feared prior to riding with them.

The grey piping on the gloves is highly reflective, so the Borealis gloves are a good choice for nighttime riding or when extra visibility is key.

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(Don’t let the bright sunshine fool you…it was 15 degrees F when I took this picture!)

Although these gloves are not fully waterproof, they fended off most of the rain and spray from my rides. If you’re heading out into a downpour, however, there may be better choices in gloves for you…something with a vapor-permeable waterproof liner and taped seams. As far as temperatures go, I was comfortable down to around 10 degrees F…with temps in the teens, I could get about an hour of riding before my fingers started to tingle with cold, but below that, I would have to invest in hand-warmer packets, pogies or something else to keep my digits warm.

At a retail price of around $42.00, these gloves are a pretty smart choice for cold-weather commuters. The Borealis gloves are substantially less expensive than other similar “lobster” gloves, yet have most of (if not all) the features in those pricier gloves. And, of course, Planet Bike has you covered for other protective gear and accessories, no matter what season you ride in. Swing on over to their website to take a look.

Coming up later in the week, we will be reviewing some cold-weather shoe covers from Planet Bike. Stayed tuned for that!

Toes Froze? Here are some tips

You’ve probably noticed the up-tick in winter content here. For Elizabeth and I along with many other bike commuters, Winter just got cranked up to Eleven this week, despite the fact it’s still officially “Autumn”.  We’re hoping that these posts help newer commuters cope with the weather change, and encourage bike commuters to expand their foray into the cooler climates. We also welcome the sage advice of others in the comments.

Continuing with our winter theme: Keeping those feet warm. The toes are further from your heart than any other body part, and they spend most of their time close to the snow and slush. Here are some suggestions for keeping those feet warm.

  • Ditch the clipless. The big metal plate found inside most clipless-ready shoes acts like a giant heat sink. You can try putting in extra-thick soles and other tricks like that, but clipless shoes will always cool your feet pretty quickly. I usually end up switching to a completely different bike with platform pedals. It’s also easier to catch yourself before you eat snow if you don’t have to punch out of your clipless pedals when (not if) things go badly.
  • Shoe Covers. Elizabeth has mentioned them several times. These neoprene or rubber covers zip over many different styles of shoes. They block out wind and water, and help hold the heat in that your feet naturally radiate. Many of them are designed to be compatible with clipless shoes and pedals, so if you really don’t want to sacrifice the “connected” feel, you can probably find a set of covers that will work for you.
  • Layer up. Wool socks are thick, and often one single layer of wool will do wonders. I know a few cyclists who wear one or two layers of wool socks with cycling sandals (no, really!) year round. A good, wicking technical sock closest to your skin with less expensive cotton socks can also work. I really do prefer wool or wool/polyester blend socks this time of year, though.
  • Plastic grocery sacks. I learned this trick from Warren during my first winter of bike commuting. Take part of a grocery sack and put your foot in it before you put it into your shoe. Sometimes, I put this layer of plastic in between two layers of socks. Either way, it works to block the wind, but I only use it on the coldest of days, else my feet actually get too hot and can’t breathe. I’ve also seen cyclists (mostly the urban homeless variety) tape or rubber band grocery sacks around the outside of their shoes. I wouldn’t do it, but you can try it if you want. It might keep your shoes dry.
  • Loosen your shoelaces. A LOT. Even without the extra layers of socks, many shoes worn somewhat snugly will impact circulation to your toes. Loosening them up a bit will help. This is even more important when you’re adding layers of socks to your feet, though.
  • Wiggle those toes, and get off the pedals for a bit. If your toes start to go numb, use brief periods of coasting or stopping to wiggle your toes and get the blood flowing. Take one foot off the pedal and flex it around a bit. It usually helps.
  • Air-activated “hand” warmers.  I don’t usually have to resort to these, even in below-zero temperatures. I know plenty of people who do, though. As they’re disposable (and frankly, quite expensive for their purpose) I’d urge you to use them as an option of last resort. Also, I find that the lump they make in my shoes is fairly uncomfortable regardless if they’re above or below my foot. Your mileage may vary.

Got any other tips for keeping those little piggies nice and comfy on cold winter rides? Tell us in the comments!