Bar Mitts/Pogies

Oh! The sacrifices I make for you to write this blog! 😉 I have written about winter biking and clothing more than once and I thought I’d written my last.

I realized that, while I have written and raved about my mittens from Empire Wool and Canvas Company (more than once), and mentioned Bar Mitts (aka pogies), I’ve never tried them. As a responsible blogger, I bought a pair.

The Bar Mitts brand come in regular and Extreme models. Living in a rather extreme climate (having ridden in temperatures from -26 to +106 degrees F [-32 to +41 C]) the Extreme seemed the logical choice. If I wanted to see if they could replace my mittens, the Extreme was the only choice.

The Extreme uses thicker Neoprene and adds a cuff. Without the cuff in place, you can see a large gap between arm and mitt. That much ventilation is not welcome in bitter cold.
With the cuff in place, there is no gap between arm and mitt.

Other reviews I have read talked about sweaty hands. In cold weather, that is not an issue worth losing sleep over. I rode with them at 50 degrees (10 C). I forgot how warm 50 degrees is. My windfront tights were too warm. My jacket was too warm. The cap under my helmet was too warm. My hands did not become too warm until after I realized I was overdressed in general. Even then, I removed the cuffs and opened the zippers, which allowed flow through ventilation. My hands were the most comfortable part of me. In the upper photo you can see a bit of light coming through from the bottom. That’s where the zipper is.

They come in multiple sizes. The place I bought mine stocks only extra-large. I can’t imagine a smaller size. There wouldn’t be room to get my fingers around the brake levers with warm gloves or mittens on. In a warmer climate, that might not be a problem; but then, you wouldn’t need the Extreme model, would you?

Mounting on the bike

is a simple process. They open up with a zipper and slip over the bars. Zip them shut, then Velcro two tabs around the cables on the stem side of the bar. The mitt is held in place with an expanding bar-end plug. (If you’ve ever used a boat with a drain plug, you’re familiar with the concept.) It takes a bit of fishing through a small hole in the Neoprene with a 4mm Allen wrench to tighten. Removing is likewise simple, but not something I’d do as often as I’d change from one pair of gloves or mittens to another.

Riding

takes a bit of adjustment. Since they cover the bar ends, you can’t use that hand position. If you have bar-end attachments, you can buy a model with holes so the bar ends stick out, but then you can’t use them and stay warm at the same time. To signal a turn, you slide your hand toward you to get it out of the mitt, then signal; so it’s a two-step process and takes a bit longer than just removing your hand from the bar to signal. Slipping back in is easy but, again, different than just re-gripping the bar. When approaching a turn, to remove your hand to signal, slide it back in to apply the brake, and maybe back out to signal again is a bit of a chore. If I had reason to get my hand out fast, I think it could be a problem. If you use a bell, it will be inside the pogie, meaning the sound is greatly muffled. You can’t see your hands, but if you need to see your hands to shift or apply the brakes you have a bigger problem.

Warmth

is the reason for these, right? So how do they stack up? Since they stay on the bike, if you leave your bike in an unheated space, they are cold inside until your body heat warms them. They are not air tight, so there is a breeze coming through where the cables exit. You can adjust the air leak by tightening or loosening those tabs. If you’re gonna pull your hand out to signal, you still need a glove or mitten unless it is pretty warm out. If you never signal, they are much easier. Then again, I don’t want to ride with you. You do need less glove than without the pogies. I have so far tried liner gloves, full fingered lightweight gloves, full-fingered “winter” gloves, and woolen mittens. The coldest I have ridden so far is 5 degrees (-15 C). At that temperature I needed mittens under the pogies. Gloves weren’t enough. There’s not a lot of room inside with a mitten on, so applying the brakes takes a bit more concentration. I would not wear my big Empire mitts inside. (I just tried them. I can get them in but once there, they stay there. I have to pull my hand out of the mitten and the pogie to do it with any speed.) The mitts I wore at 5 degrees would not have been enough at below zero temperatures and getting my hand in position around the brake lever in that tight space took some doing.

Bottom Line

If your hands are always cold, you can’t get Empire mittens because Kevin isn’t making the bike mitts anymore, you have gloves and mittens that you like but they’re not quite warm enough, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you; especially if your mittens use Thinsulate or some other warm and not bulky lining.

If you never signal your turns anyway, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you.

If you don’t like anything bulky on your hands, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you.

If you don’t ride where it’s really cold, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you. Around the freezing point they are pretty comfortable with just liner gloves under them – once you warm up the insides. But that’s hardly what I’d call “extreme.”

As for me? The jury is still out, but the ‘no’ votes appear to be ahead. I admit, it hasn’t been a fair test. I’ve only used them between 5 and 50 degrees. But gimme a break. I haven’t had ‘em a full week yet.

Ice boats and live piano music on the lake…that’s why I live here.

They now have two weeks of use. I will leave them on until it is too warm to use them…but I’m not so sure they’ll go back on next winter.

The Belly of the Beast

I drove through what some might call the heart of Trump Country today; but that would require that Trump, or his support, had a heart. Hence, it was the belly.

Friday: I saw a car window sign that said, “God sent us Donald J Trump…” The rest of the print was too fine to read, so I’ll have to surmise that it said, “…to see if we have the moral strength to resist the temptations of the Anti-Christ.”

A pair of billboards in the Fox River Valley said “Turn America into a Marxist Sh*thole. Vote Democrat.” The accompanying picture was Mt Rushmore featuring Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Josef Stalin, Mao-Tse Tung, and Vladimir Lenin (left to right). Sorry, but I couldn’t take a picture at 70 mph.

I had to go through Hell to get to Heaven, and am now in Peninsula State Park, just outside of Fish Creek. Tomorrow would have been the Peninsula Century Fall Challenge. It was another pandemic cancellation. Since I already had a campsite reserved, and the roads are still here, I will ride the Door Peninsula tomorrow. More to come post-ride.

Saturday Morning: Do people still carbo-load? I did. Half a pound of pumpkin tortellini with pesto (made a few days ago) for dinner last night. This morning a 4 egg scramble with Italian frying peppers, Crimini mushrooms, Cotswold cheese, garlic, and a little more of that pesto for good measure. Toast and coffee. It’s still too cold to want to ride. If I had an internet connection, I’d know how cold. Suffice to say my fingers are chilly typing. Maybe I should have brought the winter tights and jersey after all. And maybe, once I get out of the woods, I’ll be dressed enough to warm up and be glad I’m not wearing tights and a wool jersey.

I contacted the ride organizers a week ago to see if they had a map and cue sheet. They said a map would be printed in the local paper on Friday. I picked up a copy in Fish Creek on my way to the park. No map. Oh, well. The ride might be more fun with no agenda.

Saturday Night: I was dressed just right. I never had to take off the leg warmers or the jacket, or the full-finger gloves. Good thing I had a long-sleeved jersey.

There’s probably a Chevy vs Ford joke in there somewhere

I started north through the park, then onto the state highway, figuring it wouldn’t be busy this early. I rode the highway to the tip of the peninsula (Death’s Door, or Porte des Morts, so named because of the storms that come up unexpectedly, driving ships onto the reef. To a ship’s captain, it probably looks like a sheltered passage between the mainland and Washington Island. There are three shipwrecks in shallow – 25 to 40 feet – water. I haven’t been diving in many years…My certification is still good; maybe time for a refresher course to catch up on the technology, and to find a dive partner.)

Washington Island Ferry

I worked my way back south, wandering back and forth across the peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. I looked at a map once. Otherwise I just wandered. It’s hard to get lost on a narrow peninsula – east you run into the lake, west you run into the bay, north you run out of land, south you end up in Sturgeon Bay.

Europe Lake
Summer is over

Lou and Peter Berryman taught me a strange geographical fact about the area. From Rock Island (just beyond Washington Island) you are surrounded by Michigan, even though you are still in Wisconsin. Due north, south, east, or west, you hit Michigan and not Wisconsin.

They also taught me that the town of Poniatowski, Wisconsin, is the geographical center of the northwest quadrant of earth – halfway between the equator and the North Pole (45 degrees N latitude) and halfway between the Prime Meridian and the International Date Line (90 degrees W longitude). Admittedly, this is an Anglocentric view of the world. While the location of the equator is pretty much set, longitude is arbitrary and was set by the English to make themselves the center of the world.

I walked in the sand at Death’s Door, waded in Europe Lake, had a snack in the marina in Sister Bay, and another snack while watching 19 Sandhill Cranes grazing in a post-harvest field. I was able to refill a water bottle at Newport Beach. I wasn’t willing to eat in any restaurants, so the ride length was dictated by how many bars I could stuff in my pockets. When I was down to the last bar, I aimed for home.

I saw two contradictory Trump signs – “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great”. It made me wonder if The Donald has ever explained when he thinks America was last great. If he thinks it’s great now, I wonder what he thinks makes it great – that the police can shoot Black men with impunity, that armed white vigilantes roam the streets, or:

After a post-ride beer in the hammock, a shower, a walk on the beach and through the woods, and a great dinner, I can’t find anything to complain about, Maybe he’s right – America is great.

The park had a lookout tower. They tore it down due to age. The replacement will be wheelchair-accessible via this ramp.
On the left is the top of the ramp. On the right, across the road, is the tower. Right now, it looks like a railroad trestle.

I have sung the praises of Kevin Kinney and Empire Wool & Canvas Company here before. He made my winter bike mitts. This time it’s to sing the praises of his Camp Coat, which had its maiden voyage on this trip. Wool blanket fabric, with a fleece liner, it was the perfect coat to stay warm around the campfire at night.

I celebrated Rosh Hashanah in my own temple – the woods and backroads; the vehicle being my bike. A few days early for the equinox, but not all holidays can come on the weekend. After the fire died down, I walked to an open area to look at the stars. I needed a light to find my way there, but after standing in the dark long enough, the starlight filtered through trees was plenty of light to find my way back.

High fashion at low temperature

…or, how do you stay warm at -30 degrees?

Now that it has warmed up by 70 degrees F (-26 to +44) [think of it – that’s like 20 to 90 degrees in 3 days], we can look back at the cold weather. What does the well-dressed cyclist wear at 30 below?

I can’t tell you, but I can tell you what I wore and what worked. We’ll go from head to toe (head, shoulders, knees and toes, for the younger set).

For the head: balaclava, helmet hat, and helmet. My favorite balaclava is no
longer available. I now have three of them. For cold weather I use a silk one with the face open – keeps the chin and cheeks warm. For colder weather I use a merino wool one with eye and mouth openings. I can inhale through the nose (and through wool to warm the air before it reaches my nose and lungs) and exhale through the mouth opening to avoid fogging/freezing lenses. For coldest weather I use a fleece one. There is no mouth opening. Some exhaled air stays inside it and is directed down toward my neck and chest. Some fogs my glasses. Exhaling forcefully helps direct more air away from the face to minimize fogging. I may join those who wear ski goggles and let you know how that works.

Upper body (from the inside out): silk turtleneck, wool jersey, wool arm warmers, down vest,  windfront “softshell” jacket (thin fleece).

Lower body: bib tights, winter windfront tights, rain pants.

Feet: over-the-calf silk liner socks, neoprene socks, Bontrager Old Man Winter boots (two layers). [Brand name mentioned because this is kind of a small niche and I don’t know how the few other brands out there function.]

Hands: Silk liner gloves, Empire Wool and Canvas bike mitts [brand name mentioned because most “winter” bike mitts are not really made for the cold, and to give a plug to Kevin Kinney, maker of these mitts up in Duluth MN.] Some folks swear by bar mitts/pogies. Since I haven’t used them, I can’t comment.

All photos shot in available light except the last one, to show the reflective stripe on the mitten.

Just to be clear, in “normal” winter weather I just wear rain pants over my work pants and the jacket (plus vest if 20-25 degrees and arm warmers below that) over my work shirt. The complete change of clothes is only for extremes.

Now this, from NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/02/03/684438571/women-who-dare-to-bicycle-in-pakistan