As I write this we’re in the middle of the least bike-friendly winter in years here in western Colorado. Snow, cold, wind — we’re having it all. And in these conditions, riding is possible only if hands and feet are well protected.
I’d argue that next to feet, hands are the hardest part of the anatomy to keep warm on frigid rides. Good cycling gloves are crucial because cold hands can compromise braking and shifting to say nothing of being miserably uncomfortable and cutting your ride short.
So I was looking forward to testing the latest winter glove from Spenco. It’s marketed as an MTB glove but there’s no reason any long-fingered model like this shouldn’t work for road cycling.
The Cold Snap looks good — fleece lining, gripper dots on the palms and plenty of padding to protect my hands from handlebar vibration as I bounced around on the winter’s crop of new potholes. Due to snowpacked roads, I didn’t get to ride in these gloves as much as I would have liked before writing this review. But I wanted to get the verdict to you while it’s still the cold season, and I think the tough, variable conditions made up for the somewhat limited hours.
The Nose Knows
Unfortunately, the gloves disappointed in several key areas. First and foremost, they don’t have a nose-wiper, that soft terry or fleece material on the back of the hand and thumb for dealing with the inevitable runny winter nose. The material in these areas works for emergency wiping but it’s too scratchy for comfort and it isn’t absorbent.
It makes me wonder how a person who designs gloves for winter cycling could leave out such an important feature. Doesn’t anyone try these products before they go on sale? To make the gloves more useful, I jury-rigged a solution by sewing a piece of fleece from an old cycling glove to the Cold Snap. It worked, but buyers shouldn’t have to resort to home-brewed measures.
These gloves have other flaws as well. Sizing seems small compared to gloves from other makers. I usually wear a size L but needed an XL in the Cold Snap. If you normally wear an XL, these gloves probably won’t be big enough.
The name is a misnomer. The gloves worked fine in temperatures down to freezing but were decidedly chilly when the mercury dipped lower. To be fair, Spenco declares that the gloves are “perfect for temps as low as the 30s,” indicating that that’s the limit. So maybe “Cool Snap” would be a better name.
I didn’t try them in rain — it has been too cold for unfrozen precip — but they soak through quickly when exposed to road spray. I held one gloved hand under light spray from the shower and the results were the same. Although the fleece lining would keep hands somewhat warm in rain and mild temperatures, the outer material isn’t water repellent at all.
On the Plus Side
It’s a shame these gloves have such glaring flaws because they also have several strong points. The fingers are cut slim enough that they didn’t interfere with manipulating Shimano STI shifters. Unlike gloves with bulky insulation, the glove’s fabric doesn’t get caught between the shift lever and the brake lever.
I also like the well-padded palm and the gripper dots, which keep hands from slipping on the handlebar. The gloves seem durable, although 15 hours of riding and 5 washings aren’t enough to determine long-term toughness.
The cuffs are long enough to protect my wrists. But I suspect some riders may find them a bit short and vulnerable to letting in cold air at the end of jacket sleeves. The hook-and-loop closures were easy to operate and secure.
It would be easy for Spenco’s designers to upgrade this glove from mediocre. What it needs is re-sizing, water resistance and a bit more insulation to make them wearable when the temperature drops to freezing.
Oh — and a nose wiper.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.