Once upon a time, faced with trudging to a bus stop every morni ng to wait in the frigid cold for a late, overcrowded, and germ infested bus, I made the decision to give winter biking a try. Back then there wasn’t much of a market share for cycling-specific winter products, and I won’t bore you with some of the makeshift hilarious attire decisions I made. Let’s just say I was often forced to make do with clothing and accessories designed for other winter activities. Well, 13 years later, I think it’s fair to say winter cycling has a market. I no longer get incredulous looks from drivers and pedestrians as I pedal by, and there is no shortage of winter cycling gear to spend my hard earned dollars on. And spend I have.
While it wasn’t too hard to dial in a good system to keep my body warm over the first few winters, finding a system to keep my hands warm has been a recurring challenge. If you want a true taste of the pain cave, freeze your hands real good and then let them thaw. Not fun. And it doesn’t get any less painful. I’ve tried countless brands and styles of gloves and mitts, and even the warmest combinations I’ve come up with usually have me standing next to the trail after about 75 minutes swinging my arms maniacally trying to restore a bit of blood flow and warmth to my hands. Further complicating the matter is the need for a certain amount of manual dexterity while riding trails in the winter; shifting, braking, and wiping the snot from your dripping nose isn’t very convenient with arctic expedition style super mitts.
Enter the AME Heated Grips. “Heated grips!?” you say; “That sounds too good to be true!” Well read on! I’ve been using a set since winter set in this year, and I haven’t had to use my frozen hands grimace wrinkled face yet this season. Better than Botox you might say.
Set up and installation is super simple. Just remove your old grips and slide on the heated grips and tighten with the provided hex key. I like this lock-on option as it makes it really easy to swap out the grips with a standard pair of lock on grips if it gets warm enough not to need them for a couple of days during the winter. Battery installation is also easy – a rubber bracket and Velcro strap are provided so you can strap the battery to your frame or stem. A small complaint for me here is the size of the battery pack and shape of the bracket; because I have a short stem I have no choice but to attach the battery to my frame, and since my top tube is teardrop shaped the bracket does not fit cleanly against the frame and tends to slip backwards while I ride. I’ve since MacGyver’d the set up with a piece of double stick tape between the bracket and frame, and it hasn’t moved since.
The system has five pre-set heat levels that are easily selected in sequence by pushing the small raised button on each grip. A small blue LED flashes back at you the number of times corresponding to the heat level. I’ve tried number five for fun, but it is definitely beyond what you would ever need for comfortable riding. I pretty much use, the first setting exclusively, which keeps me comfortably warm in a pair of fall/winter riding gloves. Battery life is easily 2 hours in -10 to -15 temperatures, and on a recent -18 ride, the battery pack ran out of juice at about 2 hours 45 minutes. Not too shabby considering at that temperature I would have turned for home much earlier with frozen hands in traditional winter cycling gloves. Of course with any rechargeable battery, the colder it gets the shorter the battery life, though I think with frugal management of the battery (turning off and on as required) 3+ hour rides are definitely realistic. Also, the battery lasts longer if you have carbon bars versus aluminum, so now you have an excuse to upgrade that shabby set of aluminum bars you’ve been using. Charging the battery from dead takes a solid three hours, so planning your charging ahead of time is required if you like to ride early in the day.
I think these grips are well worth the investment if you do a lot of winter riding and haven’t found a way to keep your hands warm. I can now look back at all those times I couldn’t hold my keys to unlock the door to my house, or had to walk around my house with my helmet on until I had enough feeling in my hands to undo the strap and laugh. My biggest complaint with this system is I now stay out way longer than my feet can handle. Anyone know if someone has invented heated pedals?
Submitted by Donkey.