When it comes to keeping your hands and feet warm when cycling the wind is most definitely the enemy. As we head into colder weather it’s the first thing that I think about before I go out for a ride.
I have poor circulation in my digits and even the slightest wind chill that hits them when I am riding is enough to cause a painful reaction to the cold that is known as the hot-aches. This occurs when blood stops flowing normally to the extremities – in North America the symptoms are known as the screaming barfies.
The pain – it feels like your digits are been hit repeatedly by hammers – is caused as you start to warm up. The blood then starts to try to flow more normally again, but has cold-constricted vessels to try and push through and this causes the pain.
In extreme cases systemic symptoms also include nausea and dizziness, something I’ve experienced a number of times and it is not pleasant.
The simple solution is to wear gloves and for the feet, overshoes. Cycling specific gloves are designed to fit snugly and ensure that the rider still has good dexterity to allow a solid grip on the handlebars and safe use of brakes and gears. Technology now means that windproof and waterproof material is of a standard that offers great protection against the elements and cold, but you will notice that the more you pay, the more protection you get.
There are a few areas to think about in addition to buying gloves and overshoes. The first is to ensure that you purchase the right size. Gloves too big mean a loss of control on the handlebars, but too small and the tight fit will restrict your circulation and potentially cause more problems than you solve.
The other issue is putting gloves on hands that are already cold. This often means with well-insulated gloves that your hands stay cold inside the glove, or at the very least take longer to warm up. It is also important to make sure that the rest of your body is warm too.
I wouldn’t call myself an expert in gloves and overshoes, but I’ve experienced enough occasions when I’ve got it wrong, or my clothing hasn’t been up to scratch, to realise it’s something I need to pay careful attention to. I’ve had a number of great rides spoiled by hot-aches.
I have also had rides where I’ve overdone it. On one ride in particular I was testing out a pair of lobster-style gloves – like mittens, but with a split between the second and third fingers to allow for braking. It was minus-eight C, but in the gloves I could feel my hands sweating.
So to summaries, if you want to keep riding over the winter then, if you haven’t done so already, it is worth investing in good gloves and overshoes. They may just be the key to ensure a good ride doesn’t turn into a miserable affair.
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Where to Ride? Glen Lednock
Start: OS Landranger 1:50,000 Map 52 & 53
Start at NN065270 Pitcairngreen
Distance 22.5miles/ 37.5km
Description: This is a wonderful rolling road circuit through rural Perthshire. Starting at Pitcairngreen head towards Busby, then at the crossroads turn right to Ardittie. A left turn will then take you into Glen Almond and towards Buchanty Spout. Return by the B8063 through Logiealmond and Chapelhill towards Redgorton and then finish back at Pitcairngreen