By William Beck
Price: $44.98 on Amazon
Weight: 306g (for the pair; Large size)
Source: Online, company website
Colors: Black, blue, red
How Obtained: Purchased
RBR Sponsor: No
Tested: 46 hours (640 miles)
Bar Mitts a Great Alternative to Thick Gloves
When temperatures drop below freezing, it can take a mighty thick pair of gloves or mittens to keep your hands warm. Thick hand coverings make it difficult to shift and almost impossible to reach and grasp objects in jersey pockets or your gear bag.
Bar Mitts provide an alternative that promises to keep hands warm when they’re resting on the brake hoods, but still let riders easily grab food, water bottles, or other items. Similar warmers called pogies or Moose Mitts have been available for many years for flat handlebars, but the Bar Mitts are the first version that I’ve seen that are designed to fit road levers.
The Bar Mitts are available in two styles. One has a zipper opening for the side-exit shift cable in older Shimano shifters, while the style for Campy, SRAM, and newer Shimano shifters with internally routed cables does not have a zipper opening. Each style is sold in three sizes and three colors (black, blue, and red).
Side-Zipper Model Accommodates Older Shimano Shifters
I have older Shimano 9-speed shifters, so I ordered the side-zipper style in medium size and black. It only took a few minutes to slip the Mitts over the ends of the handlebars, zip the sides around my shifter cables, and fasten the inner edge of the Mitts to the top of the handlebar with the velcro straps on the inside of the Mitts.
I first tried the Bar Mitts on a 200-km brevet wearing wool liner gloves under the Bar Mitts. At the start, my hands were comfortable in the 35F (2C) temperature. As the temperature rose above 40F (4.5C), my hands started to feel too warm, so I partially opened the side zippers of the Mitts.
That kept things comfortable until the temperature got up to near 50F (10C). At that point, I easily peeled the Bar Mitts off the handlebar and stowed them in my saddlebag for the rest of the ride. Overall, I was pleased, but I decided that my hands felt a little cramped in the medium size, so I exchanged them for a large.
The large size has worked very well for me on two additional 200 km brevets and several centuries with temperatures as low as 24F (-4.5C). At that temperature, my hands started feeling a little cold, but thicker gloves worn inside the Bar Mitts could easily extend their comfort range below 25F. There is plenty of room left for thicker gloves in the large size.
On one ride, I rode four hours in the rain with temperatures in the high 30s and lower 40s. The neoprene material of the Bar Mitts kept the rain and wind off my hands, so I believe that my hands were much warmer than they would have been in gloves alone. And most of all, I really liked being able to use my hands to grab food or my camera without first having to pull off a big glove and hold it in my teeth.
Braking and Shifting Not Ideal In All Bar Positions
The main disadvantage of the Mitts is that the only hand position that provides fast access to the brake and integrated shift levers is on the brake hoods. The drops and tops of the bar are still available, but you can only safely use them when you know you won’t need to stop or shift quickly. For example, I often switched my hands to the tops of the bar on slow climbs with no problems.
Perhaps the best endorsement of the Bar Mitts is that they are still mounted on my handlebars and will likely stay there for the rest of the winter. The large size provides plenty of wiggle room and could accommodate medium-weight gloves inside the Bar Mitts for lower temperatures.
I also think being able to unzip the sides of the old-Shimano-shifter model as temperatures warm is very useful, and I’d buy that model even if I had newer Shimano shifters (or Campy or SRAM) that don’t need a zipper for the cable.
William Beck is a long-distance, year-round cyclist from Maryland who enjoys riding with the DC Randonneurs. He fits in about 8,000 miles per year and has completed several 1200Ks, including Paris-Brest-Paris.