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Cold Ride, Warm Hands

Ice on Lake Michigan in Belmont Harbor

Writer's Update: It's been two years since I first wrote this article reviewing the heated gloves. I ended up buying the set. They continue to work great. Not sure why I waited so long to take the plunge.


For 13 years, I've bike commuted through Chicago's winters. While some years are more challenging than others, one thing that remains is the need to keep my hands warm while biking on the coldest days. Over the years, I have devised various measures for addressing this issue, but have never discovered a definitive solution. Rather, I just resigned myself to accept cold rides, cold hands.

So, you can imagine my excitement when my friend Hector recently loaned me a pair of his BlazeWear heated glove liners. At a retail price of $150, these liners are a luxury I've never given myself, although the allure of warm hands has tempted me more than once. I brimmed with excitement over the possibilities. Was this the solution I had been seeking? Was it a sign that the gloves made it into my hands (pun intended) freely? And most importantly, would they work?

Now all I needed was a truly cold day to test the product. Well, the Department of Life is full of ironies, as this winter has been exceedingly mild. Mind you, it's below freezing and generally cold. But we have had precious few, bitterly cold days.

During this winter, I have tried the liners on milder days and found that they keep my hands warm, almost too warm. Fortunately they have multiple settings to adjust the amount of heat that is generated.

Three settings allow you to adjust the temperature of the glove liners.

Biking on the Coldest Day of Winter

In January I tried to test the liners on a very cold day only to discover that batteries were not charged. Shortly into the bike commute, I found that they were not generating any heat whatsoever. An indicator that the batteries were running low would have been helpful. And so my hands were just as cold as before. The real test would have to wait for another arctic day. A unexpectedly rare occurrence for this Chicago winter.

February 9th dawned clear, sunny and bitterly cold. By the time I started the bike commute, temperatures had risen to 14 degrees with 13 mph WNW winds gusting to 18 mph, making for a wind chill of -5 degrees. Perfect conditions for testing the gloves. Would they work?

You know it's cold when the water bottle freezes during the bike commute!

​Follow Annie's advice to avoid this situation.

Now for anybody living in a northern climate, you know there are different levels of cold. Like the mild kind of cold when you see frost forming on the windshields of cars, or the ground. Or a more intense cold when you breath through your nose and hairs inside start to freeze.

The same holds true for different kinds of cold when you are riding a bike to work, There's the mild kind when you feel the breeze and it makes you shudder. And then there is the type of cold when your water-bottle freezes. It starts on the outside and eventually becomes as a solid as brick and is impossible to unscrew the lid. Well, this was one of those days. ​

So I put on the liners and turned them up to the highest setting, pulled my boiled wool mittens over them, and then slipped my covered hands into the outer windproof shell: three layers in all. This system helps to keep my fingers relatively comfortable since they are inside a mitten. The thumbs are always a challenge. From there, I started the ride and headed out to the lake front trail.

It takes the liners a good 10 minutes to warm up before they are fully effective. Hector had warned me that they are not instantaneous and from my earlier test rides I had observed this behavior. That said, I was in a rush and "forgot" to turn them on before heading out the door. Really, who has the wherewithal to remember yet another activity before the morning commute? ​Normally, it takes a good 2-3 miles of riding before my hands start to get uncomfortably cold so I figured they would heat up just when I needed them most.

Well, they worked; for the most part, The palm of my hand stayed warm and my fingers never became uncomfortable during the entire ride. In fact, they had never felt so good on such a cold day. The liners did help my thumbs too, however they eventually became uncomfortably cold. Perhaps a larger heating element on the thumbs would help. In any case, they worked, especially when I needed them most. I need to ask Hector if he's willing to s

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