At the 2012 Philadelphia Bike Expo, I saw something called “Bar Mitts” — neoprene covers for hands that attach to a bicycle’s handlebars. The idea is that you wear thin gloves, and the neoprene keeps your hands warm.
I really couldn’t see how they could possibly work. They’re open in the back! When I hit the Internet, though, people were raving about them. However, none I could find were going to work on a M bar Brompton, so I made my own.
Then I made a “muslin”, fitting paper and cloth around Basil’s handlebars until I had a pattern I thought might work. I took the laptop sleeves apart, put it on the neoprene bits, and drew around the pattern on the neoprene. (This photo shows only part of the pattern.) Neoprene is easy to cut with strong scissors.
Most commercial mitts of this type seem designed for mountain bike bars, or bikes with twist shifters. Basil’s a six-speed Brompton, so he has protrusions which require accommodation. A lot of trial and error was involved; these mitts have a much more three-dimensional shape than most of the commercial ones.
Sewing the neoprene was surprisingly easy. I used a large needle, a wide zizgag stitch, and went at a slow, even speed, pushing the edges close together as I stitched. The final stitching on each mitt involved installing a separating zipper, so that it would be possible to open the mitts and fit them over Basil’s shifters.
Here’s the underside of one of the finished mitts. (Actually, it’s not completely finished because I haven’t yet bound the opening at the left, which goes around the handlebars, but you get the idea.)
My mitts are huge, by design, and the opening very wide. I’d read about concerns that people sometimes got their hands trapped inside — an obviously dangerous situation. It’s a problem I wanted to avoid.
The wide opening allows me to use my mirror without obstruction, too.
The neoprene keeps its shape rather well — it floats nicely above the shifters, and I don’t have any trouble shifting, or even ringing my bell, which is only slightly muffled by the mitt.
There’s an elastic band inside the right mitt to hold it onto then handlebar, so that my hand can’t get tangled in the mitt when I’m pulling my hand out. The elastic slips right over the handlebar and is completely unobtrustive.
A hook-and-loop band secures the mitt on the left side. Because of the mirror, a loop can’t slip over the handlebar on this side.
I’ve tried these briefly in 24-degree (-4 C) weather while wearing thin gloves; much to my surprise my fingers stayed reasonably comfortable, although I’d probably want slightly thicker gloves if staying out longer. I had no trouble at all shifting or braking, although it was a bit odd to be doing both when I couldn’t see my handlebars. Pulling my hands in and out of the mitts was fast and easy.
Here’s how they look from the front:
Dorky? Oh yeah! But so are the commercial ones. Mine are dorky with polka dots!
Can I fold Basil with the mitts in place? The left mitt can be left on, although it will touch the ground. The right mitt touches the spokes, and interferes with a full fold, so I unzip it and pull it off when folding Basil.
My next scheduled ride is a 55 mile one that is likely to be at cold enough temperatures that these might be a desirable accessory. However, I’m unwilling to attempt my longest ride ever with experimental hand coverings, so further testing will have to wait a bit longer.
Some people claim that the commercial mitts have something of a windsail effect, and slow their riding pace. This seems likely, though it’s not something I’m going to care much about if I’m doing transportation riding, or even while doing a lot of my recreational riding.
One last note: Most butted neoprene seams seem to be vulcanized or glued together, but my seams weren’t going to face the wind directly, so I didn’t bother doing that for this iteration. If I want to, I can probably modify these later to achieve a similar result. This set is proof of concept, not necessarily the ideal final result.