Ridden & Rated: 5 Gloves for Shoulder Season
For me, once the temps start to drop below about 60˚F the first thing to go is my fingers. I suffer from Raynaud's syndrome, and my hands go from toasty to a frozen Tauntaun booger in less than twelve parsecs. Trust me, I know gloves.This spring, if you can call it that (most of our local trails have mostly been slumbering under a blanket of white since January), we have been testing men's and women's gloves from a variety of brands. We targeted these gloves for more moderate shoulder season riding, rather than the dead of winter. Temperatures during testing ranged from 22 - 64° F (-5 to 18° C).In addition to testing these gloves mountain biking, I have used them for bike commuting, skate skiing, running, and keeping my hands from freezing to the steering wheel. Each has been surprisingly versatile, but some will perform better in different areas than others. Fit was a challenging aspect throughout the review, so be sure to measure your hands accurately before ordering, or better yet, head to your local shop to confirm sizing. Last, although some of these gloves are listed as touch-screen compatible, it was difficult to use my phone while wearing any of them. I wouldn't, however, let that detail sway your decision on which glove to buy. These gloves from Bontrager are marketed as being windproof/water-resistant and good down to freezing. For lower temperatures, Bontrager recommends you use their S2 gloves instead of the S1.If you are looking to channel your inner Batman, these are the gloves for you. They are made from a faux black leather-ish material that is super stiff, but looks ready to take on the Joker. They never really broke in for me (despite my cross training efforts), but seem like they will be super durable over time. The material also developed weird folds right at the base of the fingers when I gripped the bars, which was pretty uncomfortable at times.S1 gloves feature Profila windproof fabric on the back of the hands, combined with Thinsulate insulation for excellent thermal protection in cold and windy conditions. There's also an "Inform Fusion" gel foam layer for reduced hand fatigue, and silicon on the palms for a secure grip, even on wet days. Bontrager also added a bit of fleece inside for a nice, plush feel.Fit was a little strange, with the fingers a bit too long for my somewhat stubby digits (the fingers were definitely longer than the other size medium gloves I tried). Due to the stiffness of the glove material, finger dexterity was not the best, but they are probably the warmest glove in this test. Due to my Reynauds, I wasn't exactly sweating, but I could feel the heat, so to speak. In the few times I had them out in the wet, the softshell/p-leather combo easily kept my hands dry, but on the warmer days, the breathability was pretty poor, leading to wet, clammy paws on the climbs.
The majority of Fox gloves are targeted for warm weather riding. However, in the past couple years, Fox has pushed for more cold weather options in their apparel, and more importantly, their gloves. The Attack Pro Fire Glove is one of those newer options. It's on the lighter end of the cold weather spectrum, making it perfect for shoulder season riding. The design is fairly minimalist and it almost offers the lightness and dexterity of a standard summer MTB glove. I find myself grabbing these for midday spring rides when the sun is giving everyone a false sense of warmth, but I was searching for the nearest geothermal vent to warm my frozen digits when the temperatures started to drop.While the design appears "fairly minimalist," it's a bit more complicated when you check out the details. The svelte profile of this glove utilizes a DWR treated 3-layer softshell fabric to keep cold and wet out and heat in. It utilizes an AX suede waterproof palm - something a lot of gloves for these conditions lack. It also features a longer Neoprene cuff on the wrist to keep drafts and moisture out of the vulnerable hand/wrist juncture. Silicon grip for bar feel and conductive thread for (hit and miss for me) touchscreen compatibility round out the construction of the Attack Pro Fire Glove.The material of these gloves is comfortably soft, with excellent breathability. The DWR did a good job at keeping light drizzle out, but since it's a treatment, not a layer, durability could be an issue in the long term. Sizing is definitely svelte too. I wore a size large in these, compared to size medium for the rest of the gloves in this test. The glove is designed to be a more form-fitting glove, so if you prefer a roomier feel, size up like I did. Overall, the fit and feel was excellent, but the performance in lower temperatures was lacking. Ultimately, this glove is more of an early fall or late spring option, and based on performance as compared to others in this review, the price pushes it out of top contention.
The Ion Haze Amp gloves are a warm glove with a unique twist. These gloves have a stowable lobster claw rain cover that you can pull on when the weather starts to turn for the worst. Not only does the claw provide rain protection, it also works great for blocking the wind. The Amp glove utilizes all the features you'd expect on a glove of this type: light insulation, water/wind resistance, and silicon treatments for enhanced grip. Then there's the sneaky lobster claw rain cover stashed in the wrist cuff. During my test rides I would pull the stowable lobster claw guards out and put them on for the longer descents. Typically, my hands would start to get cold, but the added layer was able to keep my hands warm and the wind chill at bay. I also performed a few tests with the cover only applied to one hand, and noticed that the lobster hand was the warmer hand at the bottom. The single finger worked great for braking, although with the cover on, my brake "feel" was a bit more slippery.In terms of the glove itself, the soft-shell material is nice and supple and also contains it's own dose of Ion's "wind-hater" technology so wind chill was never an issue. The palm is lightly padded for good bar feel and the silicon grippers on the fingers helped with bar/lever grip. The fit on size medium was excellent, and the performance and versatility of this glove made it my favorite of the test.
The Blaze 2.0 Gloves from Giro may be marketed towards urban riders, but they have been working great for me on the MTB side of things. They are optimized for use in cool and damp conditions, but there's no temperature range listed on their website so, "individual results may vary." I tested these in temps from the upper 30's to upper 40's (˚F) and they seemed to do well, but were chilly for temps below 40˚F.Giro utilizes a three-piece palm construction to reduce bunching and enhance bar feel. Additionally, the glove uses DWR treated softshell material on the back of the hand, and an AGRID thermal fleece lining inside for insulation. Touchscreen compatible as well as reflective details for visibility in low light round out the details.I can agree with Giro's three-piece palm construction claims; The fit was perfect and the dexterity was excellent. The palm is also nice and grippy and does a great job on wet brake levers, even though there's not a touch of silicon to be found there. These gloves are slightly warmer than the Fox gloves, yet a little colder than the Ion gloves. The soft-shell outer is supple and kept my hands dry in the drizzle, but from a breathability perspective, they got a little sweaty on the warmer days. As has been my typical experience, touch-screen compatibility was spotty. On a plus note, these gloves helped propel me to a 3rd place win in Category 3 (in a field of small children and old men) at the Echo Red to Red race in eastern Oregon, So, yeah, they have real world racing clout.
The Crosspoint Knit gloves from Showers Pass are a little different from your standard MTB Optimus Prime affair. They look more suited to an afternoon grouse hunt at the Downton estate. That being said, these versatile gloves covered a wide range of activities from shoveling snow to flipping burgers, post ride on a cold, blustery evening in the backyard. The construction has three layers: the outer layer is a wear-resistant knit, the middle layer is an Artex waterproof breathable membrane, and the inner layer is a comfy merino wool lining. That's it - simplicity is in the details.I felt that these were not the warmest gloves of the tested; my fingers felt OK down to about 40˚F - then things got chilly. I will attest these gloves are completely waterproof. I dunked my hands in a stream or two to test this feature and, although the outside got wet, my hands stayed completely dry - but there's a ying to that yang. Waterproof? Yes. Breathable? Not quite as much as my hands would like, as they did get a little soggy on the inside during high exertions. From a fit perspective, those with ET fingers will want to size up: I have stubby fingers and the fingers on the Crosspoint were even a little short for me (as evident in the photos). Once my hands were wrapped around the bar, however, I didn't notice a thing. For the budget conscious, these gloves also come in a non-wool (Coolmax anti bacterial) option for $5.00 less.
SummaryFor warmth, I would rate the gloves in the following order (from warmest to coldest):1. Bontrager Velocis S12. Ion Haze Amp3. Giro Blaze 2.04. Showers Pass Crosspoint Knit5. Fox Attack FireThere is a trade-off, though, with warmer gloves being less dexterous. If I had to choose one glove, I would likely pick the Ion Haze Amp due to its excellent fit, good balance of warmth and dexterity, and the removable lobster claw rain guard, which is there just in case you need it. That said, the other gloves are almost as good, with the only questionable feature being the Bontrager's faux leather material.
About the Reviewer
Stats: Age: 30 • Height: 5'11" • Inseam: 32" • Weight: 160lb • Occupation: Desk Jockey • Industry affiliations: None
Regarding fit, I would say I have a pretty average hand, with maybe slightly stubby fingers. A medium glove usually fits great for me across most brands. My hands get cold pretty darn quick, so I usually err on the side of over-gloving.