The work of propelling a fat bike through the snow is usually enough for me to work up a sweat and be riding gloveless when temperatures are above 30 degrees. At most, I'll wear something along the lines of Dakine's White Knuckle gloves. But my fingers receive the circulation of a print magazine for VCR enthusiasts once temperatures drop into the 20s. That's when I whip out the Bontrager OMW gloves.
"OMW" stands for Old Man Winter in Bontragerspeak, though my phone won’t stop telling me that it's shorthand for "on my way." The Bontragerspeak on the packaging refers to the OMWs as a "glove system," which, ridiculous as it may sound, kinda makes sense. Rather than a just a single pair of gloves, the OMW "system" is actually two pairs: an insulated inner glove and an outer shell mitt.
Depending on conditions, the inners are worthy as standalone gloves. They're packed with 200-gram insulation from Thinsulate, which, combined with the windproof fabric on the back of the hand, is sufficient for riding in the low-to-mid 20s. The palm is a fancy-feeling leatherette-type material with gel cushions that aren't really noticeable through the insulation. The fingers are touchscreen-capable, which is a relief when it's cold and you need to text your riding partner to let them know that you're "OMW." Of course, like any winter gloves worth their salt, the Bontrager OMW gloves have a large fleece panel on the thumb for snot wiping.
Dexterity has to be discussed relative to the amount of warmth provided. In that sense, these are very nimble. The inner gloves do not hinder operation of the controls whatsoever, and are even flexible, precise and grippy enough to leave on when using tools to make adjustments mid-ride. There are some trail sensations lost in the insulated palm, but you’re probably going to be riding on snow with these anyways, so there’s not much trail to feeeel, man. The cut is just right for my hands, which means that I don’t wind up thinking about the gloves while I’m riding.
You can push the inner gloves' warmth capabilities a little further by inserting a hand warmer into the zippered pocket, though I can't say I've ever tried this, probably because the outer mitt is no hindrance to riding. Slide it on and you've got hand protection for single-digit temperatures, and maybe lower if your fingers aren't made of kitten whiskers like mine. They hold up against wind and water, too, though you won't encounter much liquid at the temperatures the OMWs are made for. The outer mitts feature a cinch closure that tightens the cuff to help seal in heat.
Inspired by the second-tastiest part of the tastiest crustacean, the lobster-mitt design allows for full use of your thumb and forefinger, while the remaining three get to keep each other warm. Operating controls with the full OMW system equipped is certainly more difficult than with a normal pair of gloves. Lifting a finger isn't as effortless as usual, and it's a little harder to tell what your thumb is touching.
The outers are tough. I've used them to cut and stack wood, along with a wide range of other rugged tasks which I expected to rip the palms, but didn't. The only thing that's gone wrong with the outer mitts is that one end of the elastic cord that tightens the cuff popped out of the tab that keeps it from pulling through the cinch. I knotted the cord to keep it from disappearing into the cuff. The inners haven’t fared quite as well. I recently noticed a blown-out seam on the middle finger on the right glove. To be fair, though, these gloves have seen a lot of unintended uses over the past two winters. I’m sure that these Old Man Winter gloves would still have their best days ahead of them if I’d only used them to make fists around handlebars.You can find gloves for less money than this, but no one pair will cover the range of conditions that the OMW system can. Whether you use them for riding or for everything will dictate how long they last. Choose wisely.
You can buy the Bontrager OMW from any Trek/Bontrager dealer stocking them, or directly from Bontrager’s website here for $180.