There are plenty of contenders for the title of ‘most annoying thing about riding a bike in winter’ but cold hands are one of the key candidates.
I can think of few things worse than riding around with digits so cold that Captain Birdseye could put them in a box and call them fish fingers.
That’s where heated gloves like the Keis G301 Ultimate Warm gloves come in, using the wonder of electricity to deliver heat to your pinkies and stave off frostbite.
I used these when the temperature was hovering down around the zero mark and the combination of electric power and decent insulation made it much more pleasant to be out and about.
These are the warmest of the heated glove range from Keis - not because they produce any more heat than the others, but because they keep that heat inside for longer.
Photography: Adam Pigott
That’s partly down to the grouping of fingers. One look will tell you they’re not like ordinary gloves, and they’re actually halfway between a glove and a mitten.
The first two fingers go into one chamber and the other two are tucked away in the second chamber (though there is a dividing layer of warm material in each of those chambers, so all the fingers have their own pocket on the inside).
The principle is that each finger is exposed to less airflow in this arrangement than it would if it was dangling around in its own exclusive cocoon.
It’s not a new concept in motorcycling - gloves in this configuration have been around for years - but it seems to work, and kept my hands nice and warm on the bike.
As well as the reduced surface area being exposed to the cold air, there’s a thicker 3M Thinsulate lining than normal to trap more heat next to the skin, where it can keep you warm.
There are downsides. The extra thickness will bother some, and the finger-grouping arrangement does reduce dexterity.
That last bit wasn’t an issue for me on the bike, but then I use only ever use either two or four fingers on the levers. Those who operate them with one finger, or even three, will have trouble.
Off the bike is where it kicks in a bit more, making it trickier to get the second cuff inside a jacket sleeve. It’s tough enough in some winter gloves when you’ve got all four fingers, but it’s a bigger problem when doing your best Dr. Spock impersonation.
Still, I got there in the end and the frustration at the start of a ride lasts nowhere near as long as the pain of enduring fingers that feel like they’re going to freeze solid and snap off.
I tested the G301 gloves firstly when they were connected to the battery of my Yamaha FZ-1 Fazer, which is done via the cables supplied as standard with the gloves.
A harness with eyelets attaches to the bike battery and it pokes out past the seat. Then you feed the supplied Y-cable through your jacket. The base of the Y plugs into the connector poking out from your seat, and the two other ends poke out from your sleeves so you can plug them into the gloves.
The red light on the button of each glove briefly illuminates in red to show they’re connected up, then you press and hold to turn them on. There are three heat settings and the colour on the button changes to show which mode you’re in - green is low, orange is medium and red is high.
The buttons sit in the right place to let you alter the settings while having the glove cuffs tucked under your jacket sleeve, which is the neatest arrangement for the cabling, and also means the inside of the gloves stay dry. The last bit is not just desirable but essential for a glove that delivers heat by way of electricity.
In temperatures around two or three degrees Celsius, they made life much more comfortable. I tested this by riding with one glove switched on and the other turned off, for comparison purposes.
The difference was very noticeable and it didn’t take me long to declare the experiment over and switch the other glove back on so I could continue in comfort.
I also wore the gloves when taking power from the optional batteries, which cost an extra £79 and tuck into pockets on the cuff of each glove.
The gloves were just as warm, and having fewer cables to manage was handy. But on the flip side of that, the batteries made the glove cuffs bulkier, hence making it trickier to get them under my jacket (though I still managed it).
There’s also the issue of reduced range from the batteries. They last between three hours (on hottest setting) and six hours (coolest setting) from a charge, so it’s only really on longer journeys that battery life becomes an issue.
In terms of comfort and warmth I found these gloves to be impressive. The only issue for me personally is around dexterity. If I found myself needing to do lots of long rides in winter then these would be a great option - they’ll keep my hands warm for longer, and I won’t need to be feeding them under a jacket so frequently.
If I was looking for something on more ‘normal’ journeys of around an hour at a time - my 65-mile there-and-back commute for example then a pair of four-fingered gloves such as the Keis G701s would fit the bill more closely.