As someone who has cycled in temperatures down to -30C (-22F), I can certainly attest to one thing: OK, yes, you have to be a bit crazy, but also, it’s really hard to keep your hands warm and dry. If you wear gloves, no matter how well-insulated they are, your fingers will eventually get cold. This is because they don’t have access to each other’s body heat, and just don’t generate enough on their own. Using thick mittens keeps your hands a lot warmer, but often to the point where they actually start to sweat. And manual dexterity with mitts? Imagine a lobster trying to ride a bike. Fortunately for us crazy people, Toronto cyclist Hamish Greenland has addressed this problem with an invention he calls the BarBra.
The BarBra is really just a waterproof nylon wind guard that attaches to your handlebar stem, and covers the front, top and bottom of your handlebars. It’s designed to eliminate the windchill both on your hands, and on your cold-conducting aluminum bars. It’s wide-open on the back, so it’s easy to move your hands in and out. There are also sealable openings that allow for mirrors and a headlight. You’ll still want to wear gloves of some sort, but the idea is that you can get away with wearing something much lighter than you’d otherwise need.
"The idea of a cover for handlebars came to me after riding home from work at -15 Celsius [5F]," Greenland told us. "That night I realized that what was making my hands so cold was not the outside temperature but the speed with which the cold air passed over my gloves... From then on I started experimenting with various materials that would keep the wind off my hands as I rode without adding weight or slowing me down."
There are already similar products out there for motorcyclists and snowmobilers, known as handlebar muffs. They look like they would do the job for cyclists, although many of them are quite a bit bulkier and more expensive than the BarBra. They also have separate entry "tunnels" for each hand, so they might be a little trickier to quickly get in and out of.
If you think that BarBra(TM) is the girl for you, she costs $29 Canadian (about $US27.55) plus shipping, and is available online.