The most important aspect of this test was the “do I look like a dork” section. Peaks on helmets and valve caps are big no no’s on the road bike – never substitute substance for style, I have been told. I’ve even had my peak cap and helmet straightened up for photos. The key part of my test was going to be the reaction I received from fellow discerning road cyclists.
Taking some big hunks of neoprene and sticking them over the hoods was probably going to get me a bit of ragging on the bike, which is starting to look less like a road bike with all the little bits and bobs I’m adding for the bikepacking races in 2014. The big outing of the Barmitts was on our annual Christmas ride, for which I dress up, I was going to look a bit odd anyway, may as well finish off the look.
The Barmitts slip over the bar-ends and cover the hoods allowing you to ride glove-free to about 5-6 degrees (not scientifically tested). The air warms up within the Barmitts as you pedal along, keeping the ambient temperature quiet comfortable. This did change with the cross wind, but it seemed to only affect the areas closer to the wrist, with the ends of the fingers remaining quite toasty. The really big plus for me was when it rained and given how much rain we’ve had, there’s been ample chance to test this aspect. My hands remained completely dry in the lashing rain, I was riding with cashmere lined leather gloves (as one does) at the time and they remained completely dry and my hands were pretty warm. I eventually took off the gloves as the temperatures got up and my hands were starting to sweat a little.
The Barmitts look like mini fairings on the handlebars, thus one would expect some impact from the wind. Into a headwind they work very well, however in a gusting sidewind bike handling became a little sketchy. As the “fairing” effect is directly attached to the front wheel, gusts made the front of the bike very twitchy, changing my weight distribution to bring more of it onto the front wheel helped control this a little better. I preferred using them in the country, where as City riding felt a little too sketchy to manage around London traffic and the changes in wind direction from buildings and cars. (As a very light rider I generally shift sideways in the wind, so preferred to take off the Barmitts off in the 50mph gusts on the commute home).
One of the other factors to consider and should be fairly obvious – you get to ride in one position only – on the hoods. Initially I found the shape of the Barmitt restricted where my handholds sat on the hoods, a little adjusting of the Barmitt position gave me a more comfortable hold. If you spend most of your time on the hoods, this won’t be a problem, if your hoods are an uncomfortable position to sit in for extended periods, you’re going to have a problem. (I’d probably be questioning your flexibility and core strength and not blame the Barmitts). I spend most of my time on the hoods, so loved these little additions to ride comfort.
Lastly the Dork-Effect. I was fully braced for some ragging on the ride, however this did not come, the overwhelming response was, “what a great idea”. Even to the point where I was rolling the bike out of the post-ride pub and a patron commented on “what a great idea”.
In conclusion, where you need to get those long winter rides in, these Barmitts are absolutely fantastic.
Warm, dry hands – a huge plus on long winter training rides
Thinner gloves – better control on the levers
No numb, painful fingertips – you can actually feel the levers
Sketchy in cross winds – takes a bit of getting used to
Hand positions restricted – probably will alert you to bad bike setup or lack of core strength fairly quickly
Cost: around £45 (2013 price)