Which winter cycling gloves should I buy? 

11 JANUARY 2022

By Nicki Giles

Female cyclist kneeling by bike modelling Sportful WS Essential 2 Womens Gloves 2

There's a lot to consider with winter cycling gloves, including size, materials, features and the conditions you ride in. Here’s how to choose your perfect pair.

Any cyclist planning to ride all winter needs a great pair of gloves, since along with clear views and crisp air, winter brings with it the cold and rain. To relish the peace of winter routes and keep fit for spring, you’ll will need to dress appropriately – starting with your hands, since they sit in front of you on the handlebars, exposed to the elements. Not only is their comfort crucial to your enjoyment, but they need to stay functional to operate the gears and brakes and steer your course. Read on to discover what to look for in a first-rate weatherproof glove.

Female cyclist riding wearing WS Essential 2 Womens Gloves 2

Winter warmth without excessive bulk

Keeping your hands warm is the first job of any glove, and it’s the same with cycling gloves, especially since travelling at speed on your bike generates its own wind. Unlike with ski gloves, though, manufacturers can’t just stuff cycling gloves full of insulation, since your fingers must remain dexterous enough to operate controls. So, the best cycling gloves pair a windproof outer layer with a relatively thin insulating liner.

The Sportful Sottozero Glove, for example, couples a light fleece lining with a softshell outer that keeps off the breeze. It also packs on a touch of extra warmth by incorporating 60g of PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation at the back of the hand and a very thin layer of padding in the palm.

The heat is further sealed in by a Velcro strap at the wrist, which works to close off gaps between your jacket or jersey and your glove, retaining your body’s natural heat to warm the inside. All of these features combined make it Sportful’s hardiest glove, cosy down to -5˚ C.

If the day is a bit warmer but it’s blowing a gale, you might want to pull on the Sportful WS Essential 2 Glove. It comes with light padding and a fleece lining, so it’s lovely and warm at 5˚ C or above. Its Gore-Tex Infinium™ lining also ensures it keeps the rain at bay and is completely windproof.

Sportful WS Essential 2 men's gloves in cycling jacket pocket
Closeup of WS Essential 2 Women's Gloves being puiled on
Female cyclist pulling on her Sportful gloves

Keeping your hands dry as you cycle

There are two ways to keep the rain out of your glove – by incorporating a waterproof layer or water-resistant coating or by making it from a material designed to keep you warm even when wet.

The Sportful Fiandre Glove takes its name from Flanders in Belgium, which is famed for its unsettled climate and generous share of rainfall – a bit like the UK! True to its name, it works hard to keep the rain out. Its back is made from Polartec® NeoShell soft shell fabric, which keeps you dry by simultaneously sealing out rain and letting any sweat buildup on the inside disperse. It also has sealed seams and a Neoprene cuff to prevent drops from sneaking in at the wrist.

The Sportful Neoprene Glove incorporates sealed seams and high cuffs in the same way, and being made of 100% neoprene – the same material used in wetsuits – it is highly water resistant. What little rain gets through is held against the skin and soon warmed. The gloves are therefore a joy to wear down to 5˚ C, even when it’s pouring out.

Closeup of Sportful Fiandre Gloves with palms and backs showing
Closeup of Sportful Neoprene Gloves with palms and backs showing

Grip and texture in the places you need it

One essential feature that separates cycling gloves from those used for hiking or skiing is the textured palm and fingers. The former is needed to help you keep a tight grip on your handlebars, even when they’re damp, while the latter helps you to keep control of the bike by getting a good grasp on the brake controls and gears.

These days, the best gloves also include a touchscreen compatible insert on the index finger that allows you to operate your bike computer or interact with apps like Strava on your smartphone, without needing to take the glove off and expose your skin to the chilly air.

All Sportful gloves have some sort of silicone texturing on the palm, but the Sportful Sottozero is particularly impressive in this respect, as its whole palm, composed of Clarino™ artificial leather with silicone grip, is tacky, while both the thumb and index finger are fully device compatible.

Another little bonus it offers is a microfibre nose wipe on the outer thumb. Particularly when a strong wind is blowing, we’ve all been known to need a nose blow from time to time on a winter ride. If you don’t have a tissue, this glove – and the Sportful WS Essential 2, which has its own Ultrasuede® wipe strip – will let you dab at your nose and ride on, feeling fully dry and fresh.

Man riding bike in Sportful gloves

Cycling in safety on dark roads

While most cyclists appreciate the need for reflective jackets on the evening commute or as a precaution in case a winter day trip runs long, it’s easy to underestimate the value of reflective touches on gloves. But, since your hands are used to signal, it helps if they can be clearly seen!

To that end, the whole Sportful glove range is adorned with one or more reflective logos. The Sottozero Gloves and Neoprene Gloves go one step further to promote your visibility, with the former incorporating reflective printing and the latter a wide reflective racing stripe on the back of the hand.

Studio shot of red Sportful Sottozero Gloves
Studio shot of black Sportful Neoprene Gloves

Fit for purpose winter gloves

Another essential feature in any winter glove is an excellent fit. As previously mentioned, a close-fitting cuff will close the gap between your jersey and jacket and glove, keeping the heat sealed in. You also need fingers without too much material, for easy operation of controls or devices, and enough but not excessive material between the fingers, so they’ll be able to wiggle and grip in comfort.

Conversely, a glove needs to be sufficiently roomy to permit the blood within the fingers to circulate freely, so that they will be naturally warmed from within and remain mobile.

When buying online, it’s a good idea to check a brand’s size guide if you haven’t owned a pair of their gloves before, to be sure of getting a great fit. Alternatively, if no guide is available, perusing reviews will give you an idea of likely sizing. Sportful has its own size guide, which you can easily access.

To measure your hand at home, simply use a flexible tape measure. Trap the end between your thumb and the outside of your index finger, then measure around the widest part of your hand, over the knuckles. If you fall between sizes, it’s probably best to size up for the sake of comfort, but don’t worry if you get your sizing wrong when buying directly from our website, as Saddleback is happy to accept returns of undamaged and unused goods, free of charge, within 100 days of purchase.

Man and woman riding bikes together with Sportful gloves on

Finding the glove for you

The final factor to consider when choosing the right winter cycling glove is that you’ll be the one wearing it. The most carefully designed glove is only perfect if it perfectly matches your needs. Consider the average temperatures you ride at – likely to be different in Alaska than in the UK – and the conditions you expect to meet while riding. These factors will determine the relative importance of waterproofing, insulation and windproofing in your glove.

You’ll also want to consider the time of day you cycle, which will affect how much reflectivity is necessary, how cold your hands routinely get, which will again affect the importance of insulation, and whether you wear under-gloves, which will be an important factor when it comes to sizing.

The type of cycling you do will also influence your idea of perfection. We have concentrated on road gloves in this blog, but padding, protection and hardiness will take on a whole new level of importance if your favourite type of cycling is MTB, downhill or gravel.

Ultimately, whatever it is you value most in a glove – whether that be warmth, dexterity, breathability, weather protection, visibility, a good fit, padding, cool design features or something else entirely – prioritise that in your search and you can’t go far wrong.