Snow and snot-freezing temps don’t stop core cyclists from getting outside and riding during the winter months. Indeed, a whole subset of the industry has formed in recent years to cater to winter riders with products including fat bikes, studded tires, and apparel built to pedal no matter the weather.
I am one of the devotees of this sometimes-masochistic activity, and this winter in addition to putting my carbide-tipped tires to the test I’ve been wearing gloves from 45NRTH.
The brand’s Sturmfist 4 fuse the pinky and ring finger area together but otherwise leave some dexterity with separated fingers and thumb to brake, shift, and hang on tight.
The premium handwear ($130) was designed by bikers and its flexible, paneled palm and articulated fingers mold easily over handlebar grips. The gloves are relatively thin and lightweight given the cold temps for which they were built.
45NRTH, a Minnesota brand, set a goal to balance dexterity with extreme warmth. Rated down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the Sturmfist gloves exist in territory reserved for mittens.
The secret is a mix of high-end materials, including a fabric called Polartec NeoShell that is most often seen on shell jackets. It blocks water and wind but still breathes in case your hands sweat.
Goat leather on the palm adds durability. For insulation, the brand uses a synthetic down-like material called Polartec Alpha, another ingredient borrowed from the jacket world. Inside, merino wool lines the gloves for a cozy fit against the skin.
They also come with thin, removable merino inner gloves for an extra layer, though most days I did not need the bonus warmth.
A final touch, 45NRTH added aerogel insulation in the palm to keep hands warm while gripped on a ride. The strange, airy material, derived from silica gel, is used in NASA astronaut suits and to protect equipment on the Mars Rover.
Bike riding in the winter can feel like you’re on the moon. This month, in temps down to minus-10 degrees, the Sturmfist gloves have been a key part of my “space suit.”
My verdict? Warmth is about as subjective as it gets in gear testing, especially on the hands and feet. I suffer from damaged hands after years of ice climbing and often need to overdo it in the gloves department.
The Sturmfist gloves are among the warmest I have tested for their weight. That said, in the below-zero department, even with the merino liners, my hands were icy claws after about 5 miles outside. (As per the company’s rating scale, wear the Sturmfists in above-zero weather if you want to be comfortable.)
An aside: Below-zero bike riding is not uncharted territory, and there is handwear made for any temp. Serious winter riders often employ pogies, which are large coverings that mount on handlebars for built-in protection and warmth.
I wear thick mountaineering mittens that lack all dexterity when it’s truly polar outside.
Most other days, after I brush the snow off my saddle in the morning, the Sturmfist do the job keeping my hands useable and mostly happy on the winter road.