DIY Cycling Mittens

$85 for new Pearl Izumi Lobster gloves?!?  Okay, I loved my old pair but I’m just not willing to part with that much money to keep my hands warm this winter.  Truth be told, I suppose they are worth the money.  Lobster gloves are the perfect blend between the warmth of a mitten and the dexterity afforded by a pair of gloves.  Riding a fixed gear bike though means no gears to shift and only one brake lever to grasp so I can get away with mittens if I want which gave me a great idea.  I decided to upcycle my old Louis Garneau jacket into a pair of gore-tex cycling mittens.

My LG Gore-Tex jacket lasted for years!  I wore it for my daily commute from October to April for 7 years before bits of the gore-tex began to peel away in some high stress areas, like where my shoulder bag would sit, until I was left with a wet back and shoulders on rainy days.  There were of course a few spots that could still hold back the rain and I decided to put them to use.  Full disclosure: I never took Home-Ec and have never been taught how to sew, but, like Jeremy Clarkson so often asks on BBC’s Top Gear, “How hard could it be?” 🙂

I started with some liners that I made from fleece that I’d picked up at Fabricland.  The minimum purchase by the yard will cost about $8 and will get you enough for at least 6 pairs of mittens (if you’re feeling ambitious).  What I have here certainly won’t constitute a pattern, but if you decide to give it a try for yourself, just fold the material over your hand and trim off the excess and cut a pac-man for the thumb hole.  I’d actually started by making one that turned out a bit tight, so I started over, using it as my pattern.  Seen here:

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I sewed these by hand, using some extra strength thread and a loop stitch   The thumbs were a bit of a pain in the butt to put together.  I put my thumb through the hole, folded some material around it, pinned it in place, trimmed the excess and sewed.  Voila, liners are complete and are a perfect fit!

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I’ve had some deer hide sitting around for a while that was supposed to go into another project.  Instead they became the leather palms for my mitts.  Less than 6$ worth.  Here they are after being cut for size:

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Then it was time to rough cut out the gore-tex covers and complete the thumbs before adding the leather palms.  Leather palms do take a while to add.  First you need to mark all of the holes with a pin wheel, then punch all of the holes with an awl.  Finally saddle stitching them into place with a braided nylon thread will set you back another hour each.

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and many hours later:

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There we have it custom fit, Gore-tex riding mittens with deer hide leather palms.  No, the gloves aren’t seam-sealed and they’re not perfect, but they’ll do just fine.  I used them last week and they were great.  I made the thumbs a bit longer than standard fit so that the tips of my thumbs have a bit of extra space, and gave my fingers a bit of wiggle room as well.  They were wind-proof, gripped my bull-horn bars well and were very warm!  If winter ever arrives then I’ll be ready, or at least my hands will be warm…

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Serfas USL-5 Helmet Light

My Planet Bike LED helmet lamp has served me very well for the last 8-10 years, but lately it has been letting me down.  I was on my way home from a 100km loop on Friday that finished in the dark and my light didn’t quite make it home, despite its relatively new AAA batteries.  Still no complaints, it owes me nothing after all these years.  So I was out looking for a replacement.  This time I had only a few criteria:  Lightweight, bright and USB rechargeable (One of my old lights used “N” batteries that were hard to find and cost almost as much as the light itself, so I was not going to make that mistake again).

After a bit of online research and a visit to the local bike shop I decided on the Serfas USL-5 Raider headlight.  It is USB rechargeable, produces 70 lumens of blinding light, has a flashing mode, 180deg of visibility and weighs in at just 37grams (according to their website).  The burn time is a bit of a let down though at just 6.5hrs compared to nearly 100hrs on my old light (which was only 20 lumens, 100g and required 3 AAA batteries).

So I charged it up last night and tried it out my way to work this morning.  It has a low-beam, a high-beam and the only mode that I’m likely to ever use, a flashing mode.  This light is bright!  Riding into the darkness that December brings to Toronto at 6am, I could see Stop signs flashing back at me that were two blocks away!

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Serfas USL-5 Headlight

It mounts securely in seconds with a silicone strap.  I attached mine to my helmet to be as visible as possible, although it will fit around a handlebar easily as well.  Here it is (upper light) on my helmet compared to my old Planet Bike light (lower light):

I’m really amazed at how much light it casts to the sides.  It really is visible at 180deg.  At $40 I think is a great replacement to my old light.  Let’s just hope that I don’t have to write about it again for 8-10 more years.

Ride safe!