~ originally published on the dandyBLOG, February 2011~
By Megan Siegel
Photos by Nana Arbova
Cycling in the winter can be painful – especially if you forgot to wear your mittens. And on the really cold days, even gloves won’t protect your fingers from the cold. Cheryl Douglass felt this pain while riding her bike through winters in Calgary and decided to do something about it – she created Handlebar Booties.
What exactly are Handlebar Booties?
Handlebar Booties were designed to protect your hands from the wind, rain and snow. They are water resistant and fleece-lined for warmth. They fit over handlebars and cables so you can put your hands inside where it is warm and dry.
How did you come up with the idea for Handlebar Booties?
I was working in Calgary as a courier and the winters can be extremely cold. A friend of mine was making something similar, which I used for a long time. That product had serious design problems, so we addressed those problems with Handlebar Booties. Anyone who rides a bicycle knows first hand (no pun intended) what “wind chill” means. The Booties will protect your hands from the additional impact of wind
What makes Booties better than mittens?
It’s awfully hard to lose your Handlebar Booties especially if they are locked to your bike. And they’re a great conversation starter! Folks want to know about them. How often do people come up to you and say, “great pair of mitts, how do they work?”
Mittens can be bulky and awkward. They need to be bulky or your hands will freeze in the wind. It’s hard to answer your cell phone with them let alone text anyone. Booties are good for many years, and over the long haul the cost is under $10 per year. Minus 10 degrees is still minus 10 degrees even out of the wind – you will still need gloves. But with the booties, you won’t need those big bulky mitts.
People rave about Handlebar Booties after they use them for a while. They don’t know how they ever rode in cold or wet weather without them!
How can you shift gears and grab your breaks in the Booties?
It’s very easy! There’s lots of room inside! As a matter of fact, I carry a pair of gloves in mine in case I have to walk anywhere. Sometimes I carry my cell phone inside too! You can pack a snack inside. On the very, very, very cold days you can put a commercial hand warmer in there. Then you have Hottie Booties (laughs)!
What kind of handlebars do the Booties work with?
They are adjustable so they will fit most handlebars except drop bars. Sorry guys!
What pattern is on your Handlebar Booties?
The Booties are solid black with a reflective strip across the front. There is piping on the edges to help maintain the shape. We have some patterns that we made while we were developing the product, and we sometimes do special orders. I had a pair hand painted for a friend of mine.
The handlebar booties are made out of a fabric called Denier Codura – why did you choose this particular type of material?
We tried different weights of fabric. We wanted the Denier Codura because it’s a strong, industrial fabric used to make commercial luggage. We liked it because of its durability, stiffness and the fact that it’s waterproof. We were pretty much sold on the Denier Codura from the beginning so we mostly played around with variations of piping, lining, and Velcro.
How did you test the different materials?
I rode for eight winters in Calgary, Chicago and Toronto. I knew what I wanted so there wasn’t a lot of fabric testing to do. We did test to see if they could be screen-printed. We also tested vinyl but found it cracked when we simulated cold temperatures by placing it in the freezer.
You used to make each pair in your shop, but stopped so you could lower the price. Where are the booties now being made?
They’re made in China. I had a lot of concerns about having the work done in China but the company in Toronto who handled the production assured me that the factory was in a city and monitored by the government so that no children can work there and so that workers are paid and treated well. I guess there’s a worry with everything we do as far as product creation is concerned. Any part of any product we buy or manufacture could come from a place where people are mistreated. It could be that one component on your bicycle came from a bad place. Even when we were manufacturing them in my home there was always the concern about the thread, machine oil and the fabric. It’s very hard to be one hundred per cent positive, but we did the best we could do in confirming that no one was being mistreated in the production of our Handlebar Booties.
What other winter cycling gear would you say is essential for cycling in Toronto?
For a damp climate like Toronto? Gortex socks.
Handlebar Booties are sold for $60 dollars and can be bought at the following cycle shops: La Carerra, Dukes, Hoop Driver, Cycle Solutions (Beaches and Parliament), Urbane, Spokes and Sports, Dave Fix my Bike and Westside Cycles.