Biking with Raynaud’s syndrome

I have Raynaud’s syndrome. The body’s normal cold response of reducing circulation to extremities is exaggerated in Raynaud’s sufferers, resulting in loss of blood flow and heat transfer in fingers in conditions that don’t warrant it.

Keeping your hands warm when biking can be difficult in general, but for Raynaud’s sufferers it’s much harder. I started training for the 2013 STP in February of that year and it was really rough. I had to stop all the time to try to figure out how to warm up my hands and went through many many glove strategies. Riding in the rain was especially difficult. Even with waterproof gloves my fingers would become an awesome combination of numbness and agony, leading to it being hard to use shifters and brake levers. I had some very miserable times. What finally worked was wearing mittens with HotSnapz hand warmers. I found that it was crucial to keep my fingers together to share heat. Mittens aren’t exactly safe to wear on a bike, but so are unusable fingers.

This year, I kept commuting to work by bike throughout the winter and wore lobster claw gloves. They were much better than regular gloves but not as comfortable as the mittens. However, my ride is only 2.5 miles each way these days so it wasn’t too much of a problem. I was off my bike through most of February and March so didn’t go on long rides in the coldest part of the year.

The temperatures on my rides have been in the 40s-60s so far, and my current strategy seems to be working. I’ve only had problems once, and that was during heavy rain when I hadn’t gotten my rubber gloves on.

  • Take amlodipine the night before the ride.
  • Warm my fingers up with mittens and handwarmers before the ride starts, and carry the mittens just in case.
  • Wear rubber gloves over my gloves in case of rain.
  • Carry handwarmers to warm up my hands at rest stops.
  • Just plain not riding when it’s cold or rainy.

I’ll need to invest in a new strategy for next winter. First, I’ll need to replace the lobster claw gloves I lost earlier this year, probably with this waterproof model from Terry. I’m considering Bar Mitts, but I’m concerned about being able to get my hands out in time if I fall. Something I do not intend to try is battery-operated heating gloves, since what would I do if the batteries give out and I’m not able to replace them?

Raynaud’s isn’t curable, but with some planning it should be tolerable.