How to Choose Mountain Bike Handlebar Warmers for Winter Biking


Winter mountain biking is very challenging when it comes to the temperature of your hands. A rider's hands are essential for control, which is why keeping them warm is necessary for rider comfort and safety. Although thickly padded riding gloves can help a little bit, thick material means less lever control and a reduced grip on the handlebars. Mountain bike handlebar warmers offer much-needed warmth even when riding with normal gloves. 

Choose mountain bike handlebar warmers with good warming capabilities, and adequate battery life to prevent numb, cold, and painful hands. Bar mitts are also a useful addition to a bike when riding in winter because they shield the knuckles against biting wind. 

Cold hands make it difficult to maintain a proper grip on bicycle handles which can result in accidents. Though regular biking gloves can protect the hands from the cold, winter riding presents its own set of challenges, like rain, snow, and exceptionally icy winds. This article will help you choose mountain bike handlebar warmers for winter biking. 

When mountain biking or cycling, winter gloves may not be enough and mountain bike handlebar warmers may be necessary for safe riding.
When riding bicycles in winter, riders' hands need extra thermal protection against the elements. Image Source: Amazon.

You may also be interested in learning what to do if your mountain bike handlebar keeps twisting. Be sure to read our related article to find out more.

What Are Mountain Bike Handlebar Warmers?

Handlebar warmers have become very practical for winter mountain biking because they can provide the required warmth while you maintain a proper grip on the handlebars. They’re small battery-powered gadgets that slide into the handlebars to warm them up.

Mountain bike handlebar warmers are battery-powered heating elements that slide into the two ends of the handlebar. When the heaters are turned on, the grips get warm so that the rider’s hands remain flexible and comfortable during winter rides. 

Handlebar warmers like these are rechargeable and their battery can last for almost 5 hours if you charge them for 3 to 4 hours, which is the estimated time for the battery to be fully charged. Of course, this can change depending on the model of the warmers. All you need to do to recharge the handlebar warmers is to use the USB cable that comes with them or any standard USB cable. And if you would like to try making your own handlebar heaters check out this video tutorial by Joe Barnes_Hazzard Racing.

It may be a good idea to read our article that provides tips on how to choose mountain bike grip sizes before choosing your warmers so that the warmers are compatible. 

Handlebar warmers like these heat the handlebar from the inside to keep your hands comfortable and warm while mountain biking.
Battery-powered handlebar warmers slide into the handlebars easily to warm the grips on cold winter rides. Image Source: Pinkbike.com.

One great thing about handlebar warmers is that most models offer multiple temperature settings which are suitable for different weather conditions and different riders' needs as you don’t want to warm your hands too much and end up with sweaty hands. 

If you find that your hands get too hot while cycling then our tips for choosing a mountain bike grip for sweaty hands could be useful.

Handlebar warmers like these are compatible with all standard mountain bike handlebars. The warmers work very well with aluminum bars, with the most amount of heat being transferred to the grips but they also work with carbon bars. The only difference is that less heat will be transferred to the grips due to the material. And you don't have to worry about how safe the warmers are because most handlebar warmers are provided with sensors that control the temperature in a way that only warms the grips up without causing any damage due to overheating.  

Most handlebar warmers that are compatible with mountain bike handlebars are temperature controlled so that the handlebars don’t get too hot.
Handlebar warmers can be adjusted to different temperature settings to suit everyone's needs. Image Source: Pinkbike.com.

Symptoms and Challenges of Winter Mountain Biking

Many mountain bikers end up hanging their bikes in the garage during winter to avoid many of the challenges that winter mountain biking entails. Most riders complain about the symptoms they feel in their extremities during cycling, including the loss of feeling in their hands and painfully cold palms. With the use of handlebar warmers and other tools, mountain biking can be much more comfortable during winter and many of these challenges can be overcome. 

The challenges of winter mountain biking include hands becoming numb, cold, wet, and slippery due to extreme weather conditions. Itchy palms and frostbitten fingers can also be a problem when riding in extreme cold. 

As this article from the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation explains, winter prevents many riders from venturing out onto the trails. 

Watch out for these symptoms of winter mountain biking:

Symptom 1. Numb, Cold Hands 

One of the most common symptoms that riders experience during winter is numb hands. The hands are most likely to be cold and numb because when you ride your bike in cold weather, your body directs most of the blood toward the vital organs of your body. In turn, your extremities are left very cold and numb due to the drop in blood supply. 

Losing the feeling in your hands is not only irritating but it can be very dangerous. When you’re riding your bike, your hands play a vital role in controlling the grips. Losing the feeling in your hands can lead to a lack of control of the grips. You don't want that to happen to you when you're mountain biking as it could be dangerous. Our tips for selecting mountain bike armor for heating and cooling could help you to choose warm gear as well as cool gear for extreme weather conditions. 

According to this article by the Mayo Clinic, the numbing of the fingers and hands during winter is a common condition known as Raynaud's disease. This condition causes some areas of the body to feel numb and sore in cold temperatures. This is because of the limited blood supply to the affected areas. With handlebar warmers, you can maintain the warm temperature of your hands during your ride, to ensure your safety, performance, and comfort. 

According to this post by A’ME Grips, warm hands mean better blood circulation which can reduce fatigue and maximize dexterity and performance. With handlebar warmers, riding during winter will no longer feel like a chore.

Your numb hands can lead to safety issues if you lose control of the bike.
Numb hands are not only irritating but can also lead to safety issues due to the possibility of losing control of the bicycle. Image Source: Tip Hero.

Symptom 2. Wet, Slippery Hands Due to Rain and Snow

Another common challenge that mountain bikers face during winter is wet slippery hands because of rain and snow. Riding your bike in the rain can be very dangerous in terms of control because your hands can get slippery and lead to the loss of control of the grips. Not only this but rain can make the cold even worse when it comes to freezing hands. 

One of the best solutions to overcome this issue is to use waterproof bar mitts like these. Our article about common mountain bike handlebar grip upgrades lists and explains ways that you can improve your grips if your hands become wet & slippery while riding. The section below explains more about bar mitts and how to choose the right pair for you. 

Make sure that you have appropriate grips for wet conditions so that you can maintain control of your bike.
Biking in the rain can be very dangerous because with slippery hands comes the issue of loss of control. Image Source: Road.cc.

Symptom 3. Frostbitten Fingers 

According to this article by Mayo Clinic, frostbite is a condition that results from the freezing of the skin and the underlying tissues. The symptoms of this condition include numb and cold fingers in addition to a prickling feeling. When the skin is exposed to extremely cold weather, it becomes more vulnerable to frostbite and painful welts. This is one of the challenges that riders face when they go mountain biking during winter. This problem can be solved with the use of handlebar warmers like these and bar mitts. 

A symptom of riding on a mountain bike in cold winter conditions without handlebar warmers is frostbite.
Frostbitten fingers can be very painful and lead to a very uncomfortable cycling experience during winter. Image source: Alberta.ca.

Symptom 4. Itchy Palms 

Itchy palms are another issue that mountain bikers face during winter. This is a condition referred to as cold urticaria. According to this article by Mayo Clinic, cold urticaria is a skin reaction that appears after exposure to the cold causing itchy welts. Such a condition can be very irritating while cycling. That's why maintaining a normal temperature for your hands is necessary. Whether you use handlebar warmers or bar mitts, ensuring that your hands are kept warm enough during riding can impact the overall cycling experience and boost your performance. 

Your hands may become itchy if you ride in cold temperatures without some kind of handlebar warmers for your mountain bike.
Cold Urticaria is a condition that results from exposure to the cold. Image Source: Medical News Today.

Summary of How Handlebar Warmers Help With Winter Cycling Challenges

Symptoms & Challenges Features Needed in a Mountain Bike Handlebar Warmer How These Features Will Benefit You
Numb & Cold Hands  Adjustable temperature  The adjustable temperature option will help you adjust the temperature of the handlebar according to your preference. 
Frostbitten Fingers  Long Battery Life  Handlebar warmers with a long battery life can ensure that your hands are kept warm during your ride or for as long as possible. 

 

You may also be interested in learning how to make your bike look cool. If so, be sure to read our related article for more information.

What Are Bar Mitts?

Bar mitts are like pockets that are designed to be attached to the handlebars of your bike with a large opening for your hands to slide into. Bar mitts might look funny, but since they ensure your hands are kept warm when your ride in freezing temperatures, you shouldn't worry about how they look. 

Bar mitts are coverings that can be attached to the handlebar of a bike into which bikers slide their hands to keep them warm while cycling in cold weather.

According to this article by Bicycling, handlebar mitts, which were originally invented in 1974 by Billy Nutt, are mitts that look like T-shaped pouches used as alternatives to bulky biking gloves for warmth during winter rides. It might be hard to get used to riding with bar mitts in the beginning, but once you start using them frequently, you'll get used to them and will even feel more comfortable with them. 

Bar mitts give a similar feeling to riding with thick gloves, except that they make your hands warmer and offer better dexterity. With thick gloves, it's difficult to grasp objects in your jersey pockets or bag, but with bar mitts, it's very easy to access your pockets or bag by simply removing your hands from the mitts because they don't cinch closed around your wrists. You can still use lightweight gloves like these with the mitts for extra warmth in case you have large-size mitts as there will be enough room to accommodate them. 

Bar mitts like these are available in materials that not only protect against cold temperatures but also provide excellent protection against the wind and rain because they are made using wind-resistant and waterproof materials. The best and most common material for good-quality mitts is waterproof neoprene. They are also often made of SBR material. 

Of course, bar mitts provide a different experience than handlebar warmers. They are two different things, but you can use them together for extra warmth.

Although bar mitts aren’t actually warmers for your handlebar they can keep your hands warm and dry while riding your mountain bike.
Bar mitts can keep your hands warm and dry during winter rides while maintaining finger dexterity and good grip. Image Source: Amazon.

Do Bike Bar Mitts Keep Your Hands Warm?

Bar mitts keep your hands covered while wrapped around the bars and insulate them from the outside temperature. They’re designed with waterproof, wind-resistant, and insulating materials to ensure that your hands are kept warm inside the mitts no matter how cold the weather is. Neoprene is the best and most common material for good-quality bar mitts.  

Bike bar mitts keep hands warm by serving as an insulator against cold weather, rain, and wind. They are made using wind-resistant materials like neoprene which has a close weave so that air doesn’t move through the fabric. 

Can Bike Bar Mitts Keep Your Hands Dry?

Bar mitts can keep your hands dry thanks to the waterproof neoprene. Even the thickest gloves will never keep your hands dry, but with neoprene bar mitts you can have the best waterproof protection against the rain for a comfortable winter ride. 

Bike bar mitts can keep hands dry because the neoprene material is designed to prevent water from leaking through. To prevent water from leaking in around the opening, try wearing a pair of lightweight gloves inside the mitts and make sure the sleeves go all the way into the warmers. 

Jileon explains in this article, that neoprene is a synthetic form of rubber that is resistant to extreme conditions and, most importantly, it’s waterproof. That's why it’s used in making wetsuits that are used to insulate swimmers who swim in cold water to keep them warm and dry.

How To Find the Best Handlebar Mitts for Staying Comfortable on Winter Rides

To have the best result from cycling with bar mitts, there are some factors to take into consideration. The material of the mitts matters and fabric with a close and tight weave is the best fabric for bar mitts because it doesn’t let air circulate through the fibers. Durability is also very important, a tightly woven fabric wears down slower than loose weave fabrics. Functionality also matters to ensure that you can access the brakes and shifting levers easily. 

To find the best handlebar mitts for staying comfortable on winter rides, look for mitts that are made of waterproof neoprene that can maintain both durability and warmth.  Mitts made from neoprene are more durable because it offers strong resistance against cuts, abrasions, flexing, and twisting, compared to other materials. Functional mitts make it easy to access the brakes and shifting levers while staying warm.

Follow these tips to find the right mitts for your winter mountain biking:

Tip 1. Choose Mitts Made of Neoprene 

Neoprene is one of the best materials for bar mitts.  Unlike SBR materials (which are synthetic rubbers derived from styrene and butadiene that are stiffer), neoprene is exceptional when it comes to waterproofing and insulation properties. Neoprene mitts like these are specifically designed for extremely cold winter rides. This material is an excellent form of rubber that provides insulation against wind and rain to ensure that the rider's hands are kept warm during the ride. 

According to this article from Comsol.com, foamed neoprene can offer the best thermal insulation because of the small bubbles of nitrogen gas. These bubbles help to reduce heat loss. So, in addition to being a waterproof material that ensures your hands are dry during the ride, even if you’re riding while it rains heavily, it ensures that your hands are insulated from the outside temperature no matter how cold it is. 

Tip 2. Neoprene Mitts Are More Durable

According to this article from Kent Elastomer Products Inc., Neoprene makes very durable bar mitts. High-quality bar mitts that are made of a durable material like neoprene can last for years. It belongs to a family of synthetic rubber and is produced by the polymerization of chloroprene.

Neoprene is a very durable material that can resist cuts and damage caused by flexing, twisting, and abrasion. It doesn’t degrade in extreme weather and that's why it makes a great choice for bar mitts. 

Tip 3. Use Thick Mitts To Have Better Protection Against the Cold 

You can choose thick mitts for extra protection against cold weather especially if you want to get rid of your cycling gloves. It depends on personal preference. Thick mitts never mean less functionality but still, many cyclists prefer smaller mitts to bulkier ones. However, thick mitts like these can provide extra warmth and protection against the cold. You can also find mitts with zippers or that have a fleece lining like these that offer much better temperature regulation and ventilation. 

Tip 4. Buy Mitts in a Suitable Size To Access Brakes and Shifters

It's crucial that the mitts you use allow for easy access to brakes and shifting. Mitts are recommended instead of bulky cycling gloves for better functionality and access to the brakes and shifters, so you must choose bar mitts that allow for that movement. Flexible materials such as neoprene offer plenty of room inside the mitts for you to move your fingers and shift, which simultaneously allows for better access to the brakes and shifters. 

Make sure you've selected a pair of mitts of a suitable size to ensure that you can move your fingers inside the mitts. Smaller mitts can cause limited or restricted finger movement inside the most and reduce control and access to the brakes and shifters, which is something you need to avoid as much as you can. 

Use thin gloves like these inside your handlebar mitts for a little extra insulation if you don’t have handlebar warmers for your mountain bike.
A pair of thermal neoprene gloves can be used with handlebar mitts in extreme weather. Image Source: Amazon.

What Size Mountain Bike Handlebar Mitts Should You Get?

In addition to your mountain bike handlebar warmers, you can get small or medium size mitts if you intend to use thin cycling gloves with the mitts or if you are not planning to use gloves with them at all. If you want to add extra warmth by using bulkier or heavier cycling gloves, you can go for large or X-Large bar mitts. 

When considering what size mountain bike handlebar mitts to get, choose according to the usual glove size. Most handlebar mitts are oversized to accommodate the required hand movements when changing gears or braking but when using thick cycling gloves, mitts should be sized up to accommodate the extra bulk. 

Summary of Ways To Warm Hands When Cycling in Winter

Cold Riding Challenge Solution Example Product
Mild cold affects the rider’s control and steering Thermal Riding Gloves Winter Cycling Gloves for Men and Women - Thermal Full Finger Bike Gloves
Colder and wetter weather causes the rider’s hands to become numb and slip Handlebar Mitts Bar Mitts Cold Weather Mountain/Commuter Bike Neoprene Handlebar Mittens
Cold palms and fingers affect steering and control  Handlebar Warmers Polar Plug: Heated Handlebar Grip Inserts For Your Bicycle
Extreme cold in snowy and wet conditions that could cause frostbite Thermal Handlebar Covers Kemimoto Universal Snowmobile ATV Handlebar Gloves Black Waterproof Muffs Thick Inner Fleece Handlebar

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