Reverence: Lobster Claw Gloves

Claws cold? Rock lobsters. Marko's are made by Swix.

Our Antipodean readers may want to skip this article and come back to it in June as the Austral winter begins.  Anybody reading in the northeastern states may want to get down to their closest bike or ski shop stat.  But regardless of where you are on the globe, if you ride in, let’s say, sub-freezing temps the lobster claw glove/mitt is the way to go.  The origins of the lobster claw mitt are not well documented.  I’ve heard they were originally developed for cycling by Pearl Izumi and then adopted by the nordic skiing crowd.  But I was first introduced to them over ten years ago while working as a ski-tech and salesperson in a ski shop.

It’s no secret that mittens keep one’s fingers warmer than gloves do.  Ten thousand years of circumpolar field testing provides all the data one could ever need to prove that theory.  Cycling in mittens, however toasty they may be, is a bit cumbersome and leaves one fumbling about the levers.  Gloves, on the other hand, provide the dexterity required but since they insulate each finger separately they don’t allow for finger-on-finger conduction (that just sounds hot doesn’t it?) that keeps hands warm.

This is why our friends at companies like Swix, Toko, and Pearl Izumi developed the lobster claw hybrid.  Often times, take hybrid bikes for instance, with compromises the consumer ends up with something that works but does neither function the product is designed to do very well.  Not so with the lobster claw mitt.  Or is it a glove?  They serve both the dexterity function and warmth function very well.  The split-finger mitten pairs the pinky/ring finger and middle/pointer finger to provide finger-on-finger conduction that gloves lack.  This also allows the rider the dexterity to actuate shifting and braking levers with the middle/pointer combo while still gripping the bars with the pinky/ring combo on slippery road surfaces.

While I’m not tied to any one brand, I know lobster claw mitts come in various weights depending on your insulation needs.  Mine have ample insulation over the tops of my hands but have no insulation in the palms.  This provides me with a solid grip and feeling for the bars but may not provide enough warmth for some riders.  They also breath extremely well.  These are designed for riding in cold and dry conditions.  Yes, they still provide warmth in wet conditions but they are not waterproof.

So if you’re looking for a system to keep your hands warm whilst riding in cold temps, don’t overlook a good pair of lobster claws.  I originally purchased mine for nordic skiing but find they are my go-to mitts for winter cycling.  I’ve ridden them in temps down into the teens F and they do not disappoint.

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48 Replies to “Reverence: Lobster Claw Gloves”

  1. Thanks, Marko. I’ll have to give this a try. My winter go-to has been two pairs of cycling gloves, a tighter pair and a cool weather pair overtop. It works okay and I still have my fingers, but neither is particularly insulated, and getting started in the morning can be a chilly chore. This might be a better and slightly more stylish solution.

  2. Finger-on-finger heat!

    I actually had my hands in some of these in a shop last year. They were on closeout but I second-guessed buying winter gloves in the spring. Damn, I’m kicking myself right now over that decision.

    I need to pick up some heavier winter gloves and think I’ll go for some claws.

  3. @Marko
    Yep: that was going to be my first port of call (I rarely need an excuse to drop by). We actually have a new MEC in Burlington, which is much closer, although why they put in strip-mall-central and difficult to get to by bus or bike is rather beyond me. It’s not nearly as good as the one in Vancouver, but it’ll do and they’ll get stuff in for you.

  4. Thank you Marko, I’m just back from my night training session at 0°C :)

  5. Bought a pair of snowboard gloves with inner liners 2 weeks ago to replace some Crafts, but still cold at < 0ºC with the wind. I have craw-envy. BTW, Brooklyn yesterday:

  6. @Frank Classic

    I’ve got a pair of the Pearl Izumi Barrier lobster mitts and they do all right down to about -10/-15c for me, but I’m not out on my bike for more than 20-30min when it’s that cold since I don’t have the massive testicles necessary to train outside in those temperatures; I just commute.

    Christian VDV recommends a shot of Grand Marnier in the bottle to keep it from freezing on sub-zero days. That’s some real hard-ass shit.

  7. Um, yeah, lobster claws. They’re great. I have a pair of Crafts now. Some years ago I lived in Wyoming and rode in zero and single digit temperatures, and I don’t mean that wussy Celsius, but Fahrenheit. I wore a pair of military trigger finger gloves that came up to my elbows, leather palms, and a thick pair of woolen liners inside. Man were they warm, and cheap, too. Military surplus. Now my daughter wears them riding in the winter in Denver.

  8. I used to get made fun of by my friends (who were always “too cold” to ride in the dark and rain of Portland) for having lobster gloves. I had some PZ gloves for years. Wore them until they wore out a couple of years ago. Black and neon yellow. Ugly, but oh so functional. Snow days, rainy days, no matter. It’s not about staying dry, as that’s impossible. It’s about staying warm. I call liar to anyone who says they can stay dry in a driving 40 degree rain for a 3 hour ride. If your gear is waterproof enough to keep the rain out, then you are now bathing in your own sweat. Wool is your friend.

  9. Got me a pair of lobster claws the other day. And with clear roads, I’d planned a good long ride for Tuesday morning. Woke up at 5:00 to 5-6cm of snow. Too much, I decided, for the road, but it didn’t stop me from riding into work…

  10. @Marko
    Too early to tell. Work is only ten minutes along a flat rail trail, so I didn’t really get a sense of how they kept me warm (or not) or the advantages of manual dexterity for gear-changing, etc. They felt nice, though (I bought the MEC ones you identified above), and look pretty slick. I’ll report back after I’ve put them through their paces.

  11. @Marko
    Good lord these are sweet! They took a bit of getting used to, as I discovered that I do kind of splay my digits all over the place while riding on the hoods, and rarely seem to have index and middle finger together (this felt a bit weird), and I could have used a bit of a cushion for the palm of my hand (I know: HTFU), but my hands and fingers were warm””almost to a fault.

    And apologies for the negative remarks last week. First week of the term and several since my last substantive ride; combined this makes me cranky. Beautiful ride the morning, even if my lungs let me know I’m at least two months from peaking. -10 before the wind, but sunny and clear. Some dodgy descents, too, but there’s nothing quite like a good winter ride.

  12. I picked up Pearl Izumi Barrier claws for Christmas. I went from popsicle fingers to sweaty fingers. I’ll make that trade any day. I did three hours in 23-27 degrees F today and didn’t have any real finger problems. My feet on the other hand…

  13. @Marko
    I have a pair of neoprene covers that are good, but my problem is one of sweaty feet. My feet sweat absurdly large amounts, and as soon as that happens, they get cold. I’m currently experimenting with various socks to see if any help alleviate the matter. A double layer of SmartWool socks didn’t do the trick today.

  14. @Collin
    Try a vapor barrier. If the sweat can’t evaporate, you won’t get cold. Might give you some swampy feet, though.

  15. Even though we are having a very cold summer down here, just to make you feel good, I did a roller session outside on Saturday (needed a quick ride). The temperature on my Garmin (yes Frank) at 11am was 44 degrees. Celsius!

  16. I picked up a pair of Sidi’s winter boot last week (Diablo MTB, Hydro road). My feet have never been this comfortable at 1°C.

    I realized I was planning my routes based on how fast I would have to ride (speed + wind = instant foot freeze). Shoe covers seemed like a half solution for a city that will hover between 0 and 10°C for at least two more months.

    The problems: No one stocks them, so you have to guess at the size (standard width only, whole sizes, designed slightly bigger to accommodate a thick sock). It’s more of a boot feel than the glove feel of a summer shoe. The heel is a bit loose due to the design.

    What clinched it for me was arriving home after a ride just before it started snowing. I was extremely comfortable and could have stayed out an extra hour. I touched the bare unwrapped aluminum of the bar tops and they were ice cold.

    I’m looking forward to riding my full repertiore without worrying about the temperature or amount of wind.

    DeFeet charcoal blaze socks on the inside. Thanks for the sock tip, Frank.

  17. @Geoffrey Grosenbach
    I’ve been rocking the same DeFeet socks with a regular pair underneath. Toes are a little cold at the end of the ride, but I haven’t lost any toes in awhile.

    Now (and I hate to do this) I need a detergent recommendation. Yesterday’s ride covered my new jersey (below””from my coffee shop) in spots of grit, salt, and oil on the back. Most came out in the wash, but it’s clearly the sign of a budding Velominatus, that white needs to be WHITE (and riding white in less than pristine conditions is, I know, a pretty stupid idea)…

  18. @Steampunk

    Again, that IS a sweet jersey. And if any of you peeps have yet to see the website/facebook page of Domestique, I suggest checking it out. Great looking coffee shop but so much more.

    Zach is right. Try a thin liner sock, bread bag, thicker outer sock. In that order (or just do the bread bag first without liner). Problem solved.

  19. @Marko
    In terms of product review, the jersey is as comfortable as it is handsome. I’ve not worn any Kallisto gear before, but it’s a good fitting and very comfortable jersey. I also rather like riding around in a jersey that says “domestique” on it.

  20. @Steampunk
    Mrs. al says Vanish stain stick (c) might do it.
    Having said that nothing got the grease off the front of this summer shirt – who was I following? sigh.
    Thank heavens there are no rule v police reading this thread …

  21. @Steampunk
    Nice jersey; do you have matching white bibs to go with it? Answer carefully.

    Sadly, I’m inclined to suggest that your jersey will never be clean. One of the reasons we went with less white on the V-Kit was for this reason; white jersey’s are not very Rule #9-compliant.

  22. @frank
    No matching bibs; matching white bibs would be against the Rules. Krys, the proprietor has held out on that, which is fine, so I’ve been wearing a pair of Castelli bib tights. The spots aren’t too bad, but enough to remind me that wearing the new jersey on a Rule #9 day was pretty foolish.

  23. That time of year, already! These have made their way to the top of the cycling drawer and will likely get their first ride of the season this weekend.

  24. @Steampunk

    That time of year, already! These have made their way to the top of the cycling drawer and will likely get their first ride of the season this weekend.

    Was holding onto a pair of the PZ lobster claw gloves two days ago. Need some winter gloves sson. So they sound great for cycling, what about XC skiing? Do they also work well for that? Any one have any experience with them skiing?

  25. @Buck Rogers @Marko
    I’ve used mine primarily on the bike, but I would imagine they’d be fine for XC skiing. I would imagine, though, that they might be a bit warm for cycling in TX. Marko might disagree, but I tend not to don mine unless the mercury dips below freezing. It takes a bit of getting used to the Vulcan greeting on the bike, but probably less of an issue on skis. But oh so warm!

  26. I went for an outdoor ride last Saturday and I opted out of using my bright blue Pearl Izumi lobster claws because I’m trying to rid myself of all things P.I. – besides, the color hideously clashes with all my cold weather kits. My pinkies and thumbs were frozen so bad within the first 10 minutes that I almost turned around but then they started to thaw out after 30 minutes or so so I was ok. Lesson learned – wear the lobster claws when it’s -7c.

  27. @Cyclops
    Sounds about right. Mine are a less abominable black, but I do get to sweating in them if it’s not too cold.

    1. Fingerless gloves: >10c
    2. Thin, full-fingered gloves: 5-12c
    3. Thin, full-fingered gloves under winter glove: 0-5c (today)
    4. Lobster claws: <0c

  28. @Steampunk
    I agree. Mine don’t come out unless it’s five below. I’ve taken to wearing my cycling mits underneath if the mercury might go up during the ride.

  29. Good stuff. Thanks Gentlemen. Probably will hold off this year as I will not be up to VT this winter skiing. Next year I hope to get some skiing in as well as cold weather riding so it might be worth it to try to pick them up on a Spring sale.

  30. Well, I finally gave in an bought a pair of these things. Most expensive gloves I will ever buy…

    I got Giro 100 proofs. Bed time for me but they will be tested soon.

    Do you guys remove the thin liner or do you wear both the liner and the glove itself.

    Here’s the glove:

    Giro 100 Proof

  31. @King Clydesdale – How did you like those gloves? I just put them on my Amazon wish list. I don’t need gloves for weather that cold too often, but they’re nice to have…

  32. @Buck Rogers



    BTW, this is FUNNY! Photo shopped or an actual piece of street art?

    I just saw this. Wherever it is, don’t they know, or understand, the need for punctuation? Are you supposed to stop for Mr. Claw, or does Mr. Claw have to stop because for him, it’s the law?

  33. I know the PI lobster claws go back to at least 1993 because I still have a pair of ungodly awful teal and violet claws. Ugly as sin and warm as warm can be.  Lasted me through a few New England winters.

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