45NRTH Sturmfist 4 Update

I had previously shared some preliminary thoughts on the Sturmfist 4.  I now have quite a few miles and hours on them, and have some updates.

They are, bar none, the best cold weather bike gloves I’ve ever worn.  They’re the best cold weather gloves I’ve ever worn.  Ski gloves, mittens, whatever you want to compare them against.

Last weekend, I did several hours on the fatbike, out in the wind, riding snowmobile tracks across bare farm fields.  Temps were 13 degrees, wind was 25mph, wind chill was bitter.  I wore the gloves, by themselves, no chemical heaters, nothing else.  My hands were perfectly warm and comfortable.  I even stopped to drop air pressure.  Because the wool liner gloves are so flexible, I was able to remove just the shell glove, and keep the liners on while I fiddled with the presta valve stem.

Last night, temps were around -6, wind chill was around -30.  Moreover, it was dark.  I did have a pair of chemical heaters in the gloves, and frankly, my hands weren’t just comfortable…they were warm.  Not a tinge of coldness, notwithstanding riding somewhat technical trails and having to have a finger constantly on the brake lever.  I threw the heaters in the shell about 20 minutes before the ride, the gloves were warm and toasty when I put them on, and my hands were perfect the whole ride.

Cold hands and cold feet are the single biggest challenge for me in the winter, because I have poor circulation due to the Raynauds.  The 45NRTH Wolvhammer and Sturmfist combination are, quite frankly, what enable me to ride outside when it’s cold out.  There is no way I can overstate how much of an improvement these two products have made in the quality of my winter riding.  Without them, I either can’t ride outside, or I ride outside and freeze.  And I’m talking painful, hands stop working, no color or blood flow, potentially damaging cold hands.

I can’t speak to long-term durability of the gloves yet.  But if you have cold hands, the Sturmfist 4 is the glove you should be looking at.  There are few products that have had such a direct and meaningful impact on my personal comfort.  There are many companies that make jackets, or pants, or hats.  I have not found any company that makes a comparable glove.  They are a game changer–they are a product that literally makes my life better.  I can offer no higher praise.


Wear Wool.

I’m a tech guy.  I like shiny things.  I like electronics.  I like new ideas.

When it comes to clothing for riding in winter, I get all keyed up about permeable membranes that assist in moisture transfer.  The benefits of a fabric that stops wind and rain, but lets moisture out are self-evident.  Indeed, for the first several years of my riding, my wardrobe focused largely on layers and layers of tech fabrics.  You need the windstopper base layer to keep you warm and wick moisture away, and then maybe a poly-whatever base layer over that for insulation, and then a poly-whatever jersey (or not), and a goretex or windstopper shell on the outside.  These are things that I believed were absolutely necessary for winter riding.  On a night when it was 20 degrees out, I’d be wearing at least 4 layers on my upper torso.

I’m several years into my winter riding experience these days, and the benefit of that experience is that my riding garb has become simplified.  I still believe, very strongly, in the benefits of a really great tech shell.  I wear my Gore jackets when fat biking or mountain biking, and wear my Rapha jacket when riding gravel or road.  A shell is critical to keeping you dry (keep outside rain/snow out), and keeping the wind off of you.  What has changed, however, is my approach to base layers.

These days, I wear wool.

Wool keeps me warm whether it’s wet or dry.  It dries quickly.  It is durable.  When washed regularly, it doesn’t hold stink.  If you buy nice stuff, it holds up really well.  It’s versatile.

If the temps are going to be upper 20s or warmer, I’m wearing a thinner wool base layer, such as the Rapha winter base layer.  If it gets colder than that, I’m wearing the Rapha deep winter base layer with integrated hood.  And as far as base layers go, that’s it.

I’ve ridden on the road, in wind, in 5 degree temps wearing just a wool base layer and a shell–and been totally warm.  Zip up the zipper and you stay toasty.  Moreover, wool dries faster–if you start getting warm or sweaty, unzip a bit and let some air flow through your shell.  The wool keeps you warm, and dries out quickly.

Tech fabrics, as great as they are, simply do not wick as quickly as wool…and they don’t do as good of a job keeping you warm when they get wet (if they get wet).  The other issue with layering tech fabrics is that you end up creating microclimates between layers.  Tech fabrics are great at transferring water vapor from one side to the other.  However, if you wear a layer of tech fabric under a layer of tech fabric, the vapor transfer doesn’t work so well.

For example, if I wear a windstopper singlet under a tech shell, the water vapor from my body passes through the singlet’s membrane, and turns into water (not vapor) on the far side of that membrane.  That water gets trapped under the outer shell, and can’t get out.  The water vapor doesn’t remain vapor long enough to go through both layers of membrane…so you end up trapping and retaining sweat–making you wetter.  Adding a layer of fabric between the two just exacerbates the situation, as it creates a sponge to hold all of that water in place.

On the other hand, if you wear wool under a tech shell, the wool transfers the water vapor directly to the shell, the shell passes the vapor, and you remain dry.  No trapped moisture. If you do become wet, the wool keeps you warm nonetheless.

I’ve been wearing Rapha wool because that’s what I have.  I’ve started to look at some of the Icebreaker products more and more because, frankly, it looks like the highest quality wool merino on the market.  Picking a quality product is critical to ensuring that it will last and be useful for you after repeated use and washing.

A quick note on washing: I wash my wool base layers after every ride.  I turn them inside out, and wash with cool water in a machine–and then air dry.  No ill effects, even after a couple of years of use.

So today’s “lesson I’ve learned” is simple: Wear Wool.  Give it a shot, and don’t feel that you have to use a ton of tech fabrics to stay warm and dry this winter.  Anything to get you outside, regardless of the weather.


I’m writing with a bit of apprehension.

You may recall that about 2.5 months ago, I shared a certain exploit where I fell off my bike and landed squarely on my back.  In the immediate aftermath of that incident, I believed that the extent of the damage was a couple of broken ribs, based upon a series of X-rays I had.  But even a couple of weeks later, I was still way too sore for broken ribs.  I ended up going in for an MRI and…guff.

One minor compression fracture and two 10-20% compression fractures, all of the thoracic vertebrae.

The good news is that it doesn’t hurt the vast majority of the time.  It typically doesn’t hurt to ride…although if you fall off the bike and land on your shoulder, it sucks pretty bad.  Similarly, any quick twisting motion is pretty ridiculously painful.  It’s not a nice pain, either–it’s sharp.  Nauseating.  Instant.

Sure, I have celiac’s, but for the most part, I consider myself to be lucky that I’ve been healthy my whole life.  I’ve had a ton of broken fingers, but that’s it for broken bones.  I’ve never spent more than 2 hours in an ER in any one visit.  Never anything major other than digestive issues (ulcers, celiacs, etc).  I’ve never experienced pain with movement.  I’ve never had to think before jumping off a ledge, or before picking something up.  I’ve never had limits on activities of daily living.

It’s disconcerting.

I’m doing everything right in addressing this, letting it heal, not doing anything stupid.  But for being 10 weeks out, I’d expect to be further along.

On the other hand, this is one of those learning experiences.  When I can wake up and get up without any discomfort–I’ll appreciate that.  When I can have a deep sneeze without a rack of pain–I won’t take that for granted.  But for now–for now I’m broken.