Review: Bar Mitts – Essential Cold Weather Gear

There are very few cycling products that I really love. Not gear that just performs, but gear that excels, above and beyond anything else; a category killer, if you will. When it comes to keeping your hands warm in winter, Bar Mitts perform better than anything else you’ve ever tried; gloves, warmers or liners.

The mitts, which come in both the road version shown above and a mountain bike version, are basically pockets for your hands. They easily slip over your hoods or brake levers, and provide a warm, dry, insulated oasis for your hands while the rest of your body suffers.

In a never ending quest to figure out how to keep my hands warm during cold Midwest winters, I stumbled across Bar Mitts at the Iceman Cometh Challenge MTB race a few months ago. Folks were swarming the booth, and I had to see what all the fuss was about. See what all the hype is about, with a full review, after the break.

Construction/Materials

The heart of Bar Mitts is the 5.5mm closed-cell neoprene, a material with exceptional water proofing and insulation properties. It keeps heat in, and water out. Double stitching along the folded seams creates a wind tight seal, and a heavy duty zipper (for externally routed cables) should hold up to years of abuse. The zipper isn’t seam sealed like you would see on a rain jacket, but if conditions are bad enough to wear these mitts, any precipitation has probably long turned to snow or hail.

Installation

Installing these things is simple. Without directions, it took me less than a minute to get each mitt on. My test bike had newer internally routed Shimano Ultegra shifters/brakes, so installation was simple as sliding these over the hoods, starting at the bottom, and securing the velcro strap around the top of the handlebars.

Velcro tabs on both sides of the bar are all it takes to keep these in place.

The velcro straps are really the only thing you have to do to secure the mitts. They do a remarkable job of staying in place without sliding down the bars. The bottom of the mitts tapers to a fairly small opening, which held tight on my thin Fizik Microtex bar tape. If you have thinner tape, a zip-tie around the bottom would be plenty to keep these in place.

Even with thin bar tape, the bottom stays in place. I'm still working on finding that bar end cap.

If you are still running externally routed cables, there is a model with zippers along the inside for your cables. Our test mitts  had the zipper, but since the bike has internally routed cables, I just kept it zipped up with no issues. You can order the mitts with our without the zippers.

Performance

Like I said earlier, these are one of my favorite cycling products, and let’s just say, it’s not for the looks. These things solve a problem that sometimes gloves can’t – providing warmth and dexterity.  My favorite part about the mitts is that you can wear a very thin glove – a full finger fall or spring glove is usually plenty under bar mitts. You still get the feel of your bike and the road, but your hands won’t freeze in the first few miles.

These mitts should be reserved for the very coldest of days, and could easily become “overkill.” For my first test ride, I chose a windy day where the temp stayed at a chilly 18 degrees, and my fingers stayed WARM for the entirety of the 2 hour ride with just a thin spring glove on. However, anything above 35-40 degrees and these will be too much.

While they did their job of keeping my hands warm quite well, it should be noted that in heavy cross winds, you WILL feel these things. Just remember that you suddenly have a much larger side profile, and you should be fine, but I could feel a difference in handling the bike in 10-15 mph crosswinds. Head on, you probably won’t feel much, but even a slight crosswind will be enough to push you around.

Fit

Because of the semi-rigid nature of the thick neoprene, the mitts hold their form and leave a plenty of room inside to move your fingers and shift. I’m 6’2  and was a bit worried when I discovered that I had grabbed small mitts to test, but was happy to find I was able to push my Ultegra levers out as far as they went without any trouble. Obviously a larger size would have been better, but I’ve got pretty big hands, and was surprised that I could still fit into small Bar Mitts.

When I first tried these, I shared the same thought that many folks do when they first see them; they look awkward and uncomfortable. The thought of having your hands shoved into pockets while on a bike is a bit unsettling, but I didn’t lose much range of motion, and was even comfortable riding out of the saddle with lots of bike sway. They are easy to get in and out of, so you can actually eat and drink on your ride without having to take your massive winter gloves off.  I was happy to be able to grab a bottle, open a bar/gel, or use my cycling computer whenever I wanted.

Finally, I was pleased to find a cure for the cold wrists I often came home with, a product of jersey and jacket sleeves riding up, leaving my wrists exposed. The mitts protected my wrists from winds and kept them insulated and warm as well, a much needed bonus on cold days.

The Bottom Line

Warm and surprisingly comfortable, your hands will never be the weak link in your riding outfit with Bar Mitts, but leave them at home if you think you can get by with gloves.

More info and purchase here.

Comments

Collin - 01/17/11 - 11:27am

Another alternative to these are Moose Mitts by Trails-edge.com. They have been making these for years by hand in their shop. I’ve used them for 3 years of nasty winter riding up here in Michigan.

Bisyckler - 01/17/11 - 10:38pm

I commute most days in WI. Last year, I didn’t have Bar Mitts, and suffered from numbingly cold hands when the temperature sunk below 15 degrees regardless of what super-high-tech gloves I wore. It was very uncomfortable, and at times dangerous, because I could hardly operate the brakes. This year, I got my Bar Mitts, and I am HAPPY and WARM! I’ve ridden my standard 25 miles in +5 degree weather and am extremely comfortable. Freedom of movement inside the Mitt is great. Getting hands in and out of them is no problem at all. And after having been caught in a snowstorm that I wasn’t planning on riding through, I can report that they also keep your hands dry. They are well constructed, well engineered, and at $50 a pair, priced fairly. These are one of my favorite seasonal bicycling items (my other favorite is my LED illuminated and reflective safety vest – I am extremely easy to spot at night).

Kovas - 01/18/11 - 1:44am

Dang…

When I saw BAR MITS in the title, I thought – great, finally someone invented a beer-cozy that you wear on your hands. Keeps your brewski cold at the bar.

Guess I’ll have to wait…

Jacques from Ottawa - 11/09/11 - 10:44pm

Great review. I have been cycling 15 miles to work year-round including in sub-zero temperatures and the hands have always the weak link. I have used a wide variety of gloves, lobster mitts and regular mitts, but it was always a problem selecting the handgear with the proper temperature range. Layering helped a little but often forced me to stop, remove the top layer, ride some more until the hands started getting cold again, put the top layer back on, etc.. Many many times, my hands were either soaked in sweat or frozen solid. The Bar Mitts should provide the definitive solution to this problem. Thanks for reviewing them.

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