Neoprene Handlebar Covers for my Brompton

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.

Neoprene is expensive, and hard to come by.  I bought two large laptop sleeves that I found in a discount bin; this gave me more than enough neoprene to make my prototype mitts.

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.


9 replies on “Neoprene Handlebar Covers for my Brompton”

Those are so fantastic! I love how cheery they are. I’ve been wanting to make some for a while now, but haven’t really gotten around to figuring out how.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Thanks, Jessie! It’s the figuring how that is problematic — you are probably a lot more skilled at drafting patterns than I am, though. I think the trick to usabiility is to make sure the mitts are so open that getting hands in and out is easy — and making sure that the mitts are anchored in place somehow. I muslined these to pieces before finally putting them together . . . though I admit that the style is all Built NY, who make those crazy-wonderful neoprene laptop cases.

Hi I have a brompton with Mbars too. I don’t have the patience or skill to make them as you did though I must say your mitts are pretty cool! Are you sure that the Bar Mitts won’t fit the M bars? Did you speak with someone at the company and they confirmed? Just wondering because I could really use these. I really wish to ride my bike this winter and can’t stand taking NYC subways any longer!


Cali, I’m not sure at all. I know they didn’t at the time I made mine, but it would be smart to send them an email and see what they say. They should know about this market niche they’re missing! Thanks for the kind comments about mine — maybe Bar Mitts should get on the polka dot wagon, too?

Hi! So I contacted the company and they recommended the Mountain bike versions for Brompton. I purchased them today and rode them to work and they really do work!


The fact that the Brompton’s brakes are under the handlebars, compromises the design and its difficult to use the brakes and the bell pretty much doesnt work at all while in the glove because its too snug.

Im so bummed. i will have to make my own after all. Im glad that you started though so i have something to start with. Have you tried them out in 30 degrees or lower or for extended rides since your initial post? What size laptop bags did you use? Do you have any other photos that show how you cut out and sewed your mitts for us that are artistically challenged?

P.S. thanks for your help and sorry for all of the questions!


Yeah, there’s just something about working brakes! The bell, unfortunately, will always be muffled a little bit. I can ring mine, but neoprene has a dampening effect. Good thing yelling works.

To take your questions in order, Cali, I used the mitts on a number of rides from 24 – 30 degrees, but did not have the opportunity to ride with them for an extended period of time at those temperatures. I suspect that they’d be fine, and that it would be possible to extend the temperature range a bit by making different choices in the gloves worn inside the mitts. Even if you resorted to using slightly bulkier gloves, you’d still be better off than when wearing lobster claws — at least to my way of thinking! I’m on medical hiatus now until spring, so, unfortunately, I won’t be able to gather any more data this winter.

Laptop bag size: Big! The trick here would be to try to work out your pattern before going in search of a bag to cut up. I have small hands; the size I bought might not work for someone else.

Photos: I’ll see if I can dig up the crude pattern I made and send an image to you, Cali. It should give you some idea of the shapes I cut. You’ll still want to fiddle and make sure that the placement and shape work for your hands and your handlebars, but seeing the pattern pieces I used might be a helpful start. This will certainly take a few days, so please be patient!

Also did you add the velcro piece to secure to the handlebars or did the sleeves come with it?

Most likely I will have to order the neoprene on Amazon.

I added the hook and loop and elastic band used to hold the mitts in place. (One mitt uses hook and loop because I have a bar-end mirror, and elastic wouldn’t go around it easily. The other mitt just required a loop of elastic.)

The laptop cases I used were purchased at a junk store in our area called “Tuesday Morning”; I think they buy up overstock and sell it at discount — sometimes great discount. Other sources for discount neoprene cases would be the sale racks at electronics stores, or “end-of-season” at places like Target. There isn’t any “end-of-season” for laptop cases, of course, but there is seasonal re-setting of the shelves, which means unsold goods often get discounted.

Amazon might be a good source for the neoprene — but you might want to check out the thickness of the stuff used by Built NY in their laptop cases to be sure that you’re getting the thickness you want.

I don’t think you’d want anything thinner than the neoprene in the laptop cases for your mitts (though thicker might be fine.) You want serious insulation, and also a neoprene stiff enough to hold its shape somewhat. You might also check out supplier of outdoor/camping materials. Seattle Fabrics sells neoprene, and now has it with colored fabric on one side, which could be fun. Other online outdoor retailers may have other options, too.

An advantage to using the laptop cases is that I was able to carefully remove the binding from the cases and re-use it to finish the edges of my mitts. That’s not necessary, but it’s a nice touch.

Thanks for the info it is much appreciated! I will shop around for laptop cases and i look forward to your email. I plan on callng the company this week to request that they make mitts for other handlebar options.

Comments are closed.