Living in Port Orchard, Washington, as I do, if one doesn’t ride in wet and/or cold weather, one does not ride. Even though I’m fully equipped with heated jacket liner and gloves, once the gloves get wet there’s not much warmth available for the hands. On a recent four-day solo ride on some of my favorite northeastern Oregon roads, temperatures ranged in the low- to mid-20’s, and that, too, overwhelmed the capability of my heated gloves to do their job even while dry.
At one stop the John Day River was frozen nearly completely across as I parked alongside and pondered a better way to maintain warmth and the necessity of warm fingers for safety’s sake. Hard to make a safe emergency stop if the fingers can’t respond!
Upon my return I began researching handlebar gauntlets on the Internet, figuring if law enforcement riders used them they must be effective. A few days later I saw a pair of oddly-named “Hippo Hands” on a bike near mine in the staging area for the annual huge (approximately 9,000 bikes this year) Olympia Toy Run.
In contacting Dan Klestorny at Hippo Hands, I learned their $79.95 price was somewhat higher than other products I’d found online, but liking what I’d already seen on that other bike, I decided to pony up the money and thus ordered a pair. Shipping from Ontario, Canada, (where they are made) added another $21.50, bringing the grand total to (gulp) $101.45. Six days later they arrived at my door.
The quality of materials and workmanship is first-rate, with some sort of soft, fuzzy inner material permanently bonded to a tightly woven, weather-resistant outer shell. The install on my ’08 Harley-Davidson Road Glide took all of 10 minutes, most of which was spent finding the correct Allen wrench for removing my handlebar-mounted cup holder. There is some adjustability built in to provide for variations of mirrors and other hand-control locations.
I set out on a test ride in 38-degree weather under threatening skies. I’m a big guy (6’4″ and 320 lbs.) with large hands so I began by wearing my XXXL fully-insulated non-electric gloves, wanting to see if the relative bulk of the gloves inside the gauntlets would hamper operation of the hand controls in any way. No problem, except one. About 10 miles down the road my hands were uncomfortably warm! I pulled off the road, switched to my unlined deerskin summer gloves with no insulation… problem solved. With the thinner gloves my hands were quite comfortable, temperature-wise, and manipulation of brake and clutch levers was unaffected. And if your thumbs can’t differentiate between your now out-of-sight right-turn signal switch and the engine cut-off switch without you looking at them, well, you’re probably not riding enough.
It was not a long ride; only a couple hours and about 100 miles total, with no rain. Certainly not a comprehensive test. Nonetheless, the one nitpick I would offer up is that there is no built-in way to close the hand-insertion opening in the event of rain while the bike is parked—a very real probability here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m thinking a couple of small strips of Velcro-type material sewn in the openings allowing them to be pinched shut while unattended in the weather would be a simple and inexpensive fix. (Given the various heights and angles of handlebars on different bikes, this may not be an issue for some.)
Overall I’d rate this product a 9 out of 10—a winner in my book. Odd name, funky look, high price, but spot-on for my desired result and easily removed and stowed when not needed. Check ’em out at www.hippohands.com.
Hippo Hands Handlebar Muffs