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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.