There’s no getting around it. Pogies are, objectively, ugly. Just the word itself–pogies–is ugly. But having warm hands when the temperature dips below about 15 degrees Fahrenheit is truly a beautiful thing.
Even if you have particularly warm winter riding gloves, brake and shifter levers act as heat sinks, literally leaching the warmth out of your fingers through your gloves. This is further amplified when cold air is able to flow freely over them. Pogies, on the other hand, act a lot like a thermos, keeping a pocket of warm air between a rider’s hands, grips and controls, and the outside elements. This allows you to run much lighter gloves, allowing for better control over braking and a better overall ride feel.
I put three pairs of pogies to the test—the Bar Mitts Extreme, 45NRTH Cobrafist, and Mitts By Mary—testing each of them down around 0 degrees Fahrenheit, with wind chills ballparking at negative 15. They’ve been keeping the feeling in my fingertips so far this winter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is a good thing considering Punxutawney Phil seems to have been right about winter holding on a bit longer this year. So, speaking of holding on, here’s how my three favorite pogies compared.
Bar Mitts have been around for a long time, and if pogies were more of a household item I would almost consider them the Kleenex of the pogie world. At their core, Bar Mitts use neoprene as its insulating material. For the unfamiliar, neoprene is the rubbery stuff wetsuits are made of. I opted for the Extreme version which gets an extra millimeter of neoprene thickness, a fleece lining and a velcro removable cuff that further seals the opening for the rider’s hands.
This version uses a bar plug to help hold them in place, where the base model uses a velcro strap. I did find it a bit tedious to install the plugs since they require pushing a 4mm hex through a small port in the end of the pogies to find the actual bolts buried behind the material. I preferred the 45NRTH Cobrafists’ bar plugs because the construction quality is much higher and they’re quite a bit easier to install. But on the other hand, the Extreme’s end cap isn’t exposed to the elements, which could potentially offer better overall insulating qualities.
While Bar Mitts offers a few different sizes, I opted for the XL size for a little extra ease of entry and roominess. These were the most spacious of the bunch inside, and I appreciated the extra real estate.
If your hands ever happen to get too warm, the zippered bottom, which eases the process of installing the Bar Mitts over the brake levers, plays double duty as ventilation. The velcro straps at the handlebar opening do a pretty good job keeping wind from infiltrating. I’d say they’re close, but not quite on par with the 45NRTHs system for sealing the inboard end of the pogies.
45NRTH deserves a shout-out for its creatively awesome product names. The company also deserves praise for making a mighty fine pogie. The Cobrafists are built from a ripstop nylon outer and synthetic insulation inside for warmth. They have a built-in foam seal for extra insulation where the handlebar and cables enter the pogies, and this interface proved the most air-tight of the group. The bar plugs for these are top notch and super easy to install and adjust, and work well as stand-alone bar end plugs when it gets warm enough to ditch the pogies.
For temperature regulation, the Cobrafists are king. They have large zippered vents on both the tops and bottoms of the pogies, making it really easy to fine tune the temperature inside the mitts. I also really appreciate the glove-friendliness of the zipper tabs as well as the tighten and release functionality of the cinches. Piling on the features, there’s also an internal pocket for hand warmers or snacks, though space is at a premium so don’t expect to fit too much in there.
Of the group, the Cobrafists offered the best overall shape. They are constructed so that they create a nice open box around the grips, and were the easiest to get my hands in and out of as well; even with the cuffs cinched down. That said, I did find myself wanting a touch more wiggle room at the bottom. When I’d actively move my fingers to help warm them up at the start of rides and after trailside snacks or repairs, they’d hit the end of the pogies. This never interfered with the brake lever nor did it negatively impact my ability to handle the bike, but it did make the space inside feel slightly cramped. Really though, this is a minor nit-pick.
You probably haven’t heard of Mitts by Mary. That’s because these pogies are handmade by a local of Marquette, Michigan whose name is, you guessed it: Mary. They’re sold locally in Marquette, and through her Etsy store.
The Mitts by Mary pogies are dead simple, they slide on easily over the brake levers and are tightened with a cinch. Inside, there’s an elastic band that loops around the end of the grip to hold them in place. They are crafted from a rip-stop nylon and are lined with Polartec 200 Wind Pro Fleece. The inside pocket is slightly bigger than the 45NRTH Cobrafists, but somewhat more intrusive in that I can feel the pogies with my fingers while they’re resting on the brake levers. The “sleeves” are a little longer on these, so they’re less likely to fill up with snow or get soaking wet—a quality I definitely appreciate.
From a warmth standpoint these absolutely surprised me. I was able to run them with minimal discomfort at three degrees Fahrenheit, in just a pair of ultra-thin summer riding gloves, and even gloveless at about 20 degrees. However, they’re not sealed quite so well on the inboard end where the handlebar and cables come through. Wind is able find a way through, making them a bit uncomfortable when the wind whips up. But it would be easy enough to arm-chair engineer a fix by stuffing something into the end to seal off the hole if really needed.
The Mitts By Mary don’t hold their shape as well as the Bar Mitts or 45NRTH. This made them the most challenging of the bunch to get my hands into quickly. The floppiness does, however, have an advantage: It makes them very packable and easy to deploy on-the-fly. But they’re not attached to the bike securely enough for me to feel comfortable leaving them on my bike when driving to and from the trailhead.
If colors are important to you, Mitts by Mary are available in a multitude of options for both the outer and liner colors—with custom two-tone options available as well. I also appreciated the minimal branding. Another plus: these are handmade one at a time so you can feel good about supporting someone’s hard work and craft.
All three of these pogies do their job of keeping the cold out, and I’d be happy running any for daily use. The Mitts By Mary offer a lot for the price, are the easiest and fastest in the group to install and uninstall, and are made in the U.S. by a small business. That said, the Bar Mitts and the 45NRTHs are more refined, better engineered products. In extreme weather, they go toe-to-toe. I wasn’t able to discern one as warmer than the other even when running one of each at the same time. The Bar Mitts are a great choice if you prefer a bit of extra space for your hands, but from an overall finish and feature standpoint the 45NRTHs have an edge, but that should be expected from the most expensive pogie in the pack.