Simply put pogies are like a big mitten that attaches to the bike encasing all of the handle bar furniture to keep your hands warm. If you are interested a in a bit of the history about them, then I suggest heading over to Bike Packers Magazine and checking out their History of Pogies article.
I get that it might seem a little like over kill to be using something like this when you live in the Midlands. However towards the end of last winter (2013) when we had that late dump of snow I was suffering from cold hands and wanted to suffer no more. I actually stumbled across these affordable options a bit late and bought them knowing that I probably wouldn’t use them for a while but I wanted to make sure I had them ready and waiting for the 2014 winter. In typical fashion we have had a very mild winter this year so there hasn’t be much call to use them. Having said that though even in a mild winter commutes at 6:30am before the sun comes up are still fairly chilly so this has been predominately where I have been using them. Last week I went bikepacking and not only expected the weather to be unpredictable but I also expected to be riding late into the evening. On a clear day it can get pretty cold when the sun goes down so I thought this could be a good opportunity to try them out ina different environment.
HotPog have a reasonably sized range of pogies to suit most budgets and the majority of environments you might encounter in the UK. From what I have read though there are probably better options if you are looking for the real high end ones for Iditarod type conditions. Personally I went with the “Explorer” version. Key points as listed on the site are:
• Map Pocket
• Cable Fastner
• HiViz Safety Strip
• Weatherproof outer shell
• Thermal Padded, Anti-Wicking, Anti-Gripping inner lining
• Elastic draw-cord handle bar opening
• Draft killing velcro cable tidy
I have used them on 2 different bikes that have slightly different handle bar set ups. The primary difference between the 2 is the size of the grips and the shape of the bar ends. My P7 has Superstar Excel grips which at 150mm are pretty wide and Cane Creek Ergo Grip II bar ends. This is not an ideal set up to use with the hotpogs as the fit is a bit tight. If the position and angle of the pogie is not “just right” then it can be become a bit difficult to change gear and using the bar end is completely out of the question. On my Lurcher I’m using the Ergon GP2 Grip & bar ends which are much smaller and so the fit is much better. There is even enough room in there to still be able to use the bar end as intended.
Which ever bike I used them on there is no doubt about them keeping your hands warm, with or without gloves on. When using them without gloves it was actually pretty handy to have warm hands while riding but still have your finger dexterity without having to take your gloves off. One place they particularly excel is warming up already cold hands. When putting gloves back on it can often take a good while for you hands to warm up again but with the Hotpogs it was noticeably very quick. The map holder is quite useful and convenient but for me not essential. The map pocket can be used for other things, for example keys. From what I can see this would then mimic the only feature of the “Adventurer” that differentiates it from the “Explorer”… did I mention that the Adventurer is £24 more expensive (almost twice the price)?!? It’s also possible to use the whole thing as some extra storage (all be it temporary) as there is a decent amount of space internally, below the handle bar. At one point I dropped my GoPro into it, just to get it out the way for a short time.
They do restrict your movement a little which I particularly noticed in 2 ways. Firstly I like to eat while I’m riding. It became difficult to hold a piece of flapjack and the handle bar in the way I normally would. Secondly if you take you hand out for any reason, quickly getting you hand back in can be a bit tricky. More than once I just grabbed the outside of the material to steady the bar over an unexpected bump or pot hole.
There are a few things I would contest about their feature list.
Waterproof – They aren’t. The padding does take a decent amount of rain to become saturated enough to leak but it does leak. Sure so do waterproof coats eventually, but it’s not like the water is beading on the outside. The only thing that is stopping the water from soaking straight through is the volume of material. Actually this is probably one of the best things about the map holder as the plastic PVC of the pocket does do a good job of keeping your left hand dry at least. This is slightly disappointing as this is one of the differentiators between this model and the “Basic”.
Breathable – Again I would say that they are not immensely breathable. In the warmest part of the day last week even with no gloves on my hands were sweating quite a lot. Sure the conditions were probably a bit warm but I expected them to vent a little better considering they highlight breath-ability as a specific feature. You can see in the picture above how much condensation built up in the map holder pocket.
Anti-Gripping inner lining – Unless this has only be designed to not grip the metal/carbon of handle bars I would say that this isn’t true either. Surely the point of this would be to not grip the rubber of grips? It’s the rubber on the Cane Creek bars ends gripping the inside that goes along way towards them being a bit tricky to use on my P7.
I think that a lot of the negatives I have highlighted here are just the nature of the beast and not really an issue with this brand or model specifically. For commuting and less technical bikepacking/touring I think they are great but for maybe more technical riding I would probably just go with gloves. On the whole I would give these a thumb ups as although not perfect I think they are good value for money.