Ridden & Rated: 5 Women's Gloves for Shoulder Season
It's shoulder season for the vast majority of the mountain biking world, and the weather has no idea what it's going to do from moment to moment. Today may be sunny and warm, but that pre-work pedal could be a hair above or below freezing. Nor is it uncommon to get hit with sleet or hail during an afternoon lap on your local goods. Bottom line? It may be mid-March, but conditions can still call for frozen digits, both above and below the equator.
Finding a comfortable and technically proven glove for this season is no easy task. There are dozens of brands and dozens of models of gloves available, all with different features, different temperature ratings, materials, and thickness. For this review, Pierce and I choose a temperature range that was consistent with the weather we would be testing in (30-50°F/0-10°C), and then asked each company to provide us with what they felt was the best glove for the task. You can check out Pierce's feedback on the five gloves he tested here.While some of you may bitch that the gloves we tested wouldn’t keep your balls (or nipples) from freezing off, let alone your fingertips from getting frostbite, or that they're overkill for conditions you're experiencing, they were Goldilocks perfect for those of us within a few hours drive of the 45th parallel. The weather here cooperated just fine for testing and up until this past week we still had near-zero temperatures and snow covered trails.
About This ReviewFor this review I tested gloves from Gore, 100%, Pearl Izumi, Handup Gloves, and Madison. I typically wear a women's size large glove (or men's medium), with my hand measuring 7 1/8 inches (18.1cm) from the bottom of my palm to the tip of my middle finger, and 3 1/4 inches (8.3 cm) across my palm. It is important to measure your hand and review sizing charts as sizing between companies isn't always comparable.Testing was done by myself and another local rider/gear tester, Bekah Rottenberg, who helped me log approximately 3-4 hours of riding time in each glove. Bekah suffers from Raynauds, a vaso-restricting disorder where her hands get cold easily and quickly, so having her feedback was valuable. According to the Raynaud's Association, 5-10 percent of the US population have Raynaud's with the vast majority, 90% being women. Worldwide, the statistics appear to be similar, although it was hard to find actual data. The Brisker glove is a low profile glove designed with just enough insulation to keep your hands warm and dry in cooler shoulder season weather. The Brisker is available as a unisex branded model or women-specific model and comes in a variety of fun colors. I tested the Women’s Brisker in size large. It fit my hand comfortably snug, but not so tight that it was restrictive. The fingertips were just a tad bit too long, which is par for the course with my hand measurements. The glove features a slightly lengthened neoprene cuff with a Velcro closure, an insulated soft-shell top that provides added warmth and wind protection, a thin single layer Clarion palm with silicone print for a good, grippy bar feel, and the handy-dandy phone compatible fingertip threads. I tested these gloves on a handful of cold damp day in temps ranging from 36-40°F - cold but not sub-freezing temps. They had a nice feel on the bar and just enough silicone grip to mitigate the small amount of precip. The insulated top shell kept my hands warm, but not sweaty even after climbing for a good hour. With the exception of the first 5 minutes of riding and warming-up, my fingertips felt warm--even when descending. The quality of the gloves was good; I didn't have any issues with the threads coming undone or unusual wear after a couple hard rides and heavy wash cycles. For $29.50, the Brisker gloves are a solid and affordable glove with a party in the front and business in the back attitude - just right for keeping your hands warm in cooler temps.
The Women's Escape Softshell glove from Pearl Izumi is a versatile fleece-lined windproof glove that is designed to keep your hands comfortable and warm in 35-40°F temperatures while enjoying your outdoor pursuits. Even though Pearl Izumi's site labels this glove as a "road cycling" glove it was sent to me to test for this review. But after checking it out, I had had no reason to think it wasn't going to work. I tested the women's size large and it appeared to have a true to size design, consistent with the size chart and fitting my hand like, well, a glove. The Escape Softshell features a simple elongated elastic cuff with a pull-on design, silicone striping across the palm for enhanced grip, a touchscreen compatible fingertip, a soft windproof fleece wiping surface for a runny nose, and a lightweight, softshell fabric that offers both wind and water protection. The glove is also available in an "Escape Softshell Lite" option for $10 less, with no fleece lining and a lighter softshell material for warmer temperatures. Both Bekah and I tested this glove in temps ranging from 37-46°F and we agreed that in general it performed well. The softshell material provided functional wind and water protection and the gloves kept our hands toasty at the targeted ride temperatures. The digital touch finger worked great and Bekah was ecstatic that she didn't have to take the gloves off in order to take copious amounts of selfies during her ride. The fleece lining gave the gloves a kitten fur soft and comfortable feel on the inside, yet the fabric was breathable enough that neither of us had any issues with clammy hands. The silicone strips on the palm provided ample grip. Overall, we both were impressed and happy with the design of these gloves: they worked perfectly to keep our hands warm and dry for the recommended temperature range.
The Handup Winter "Sweater" Glove is the next best thing to your ugly Christmas sweater -- designed to be wind-proof, water-resistant, and warmly insulated, these gloves will keep your hands warm on those cold but above freezing morning rides. (Note: You can upgrade to the Burrr Snow Camo gloves for the sub-zero days.) I tested the unisex size small. Handup has a different size chart than what I typically see--I sized to be a Small, surprisingly enough, but it fit me reasonably well. The glove features a stretch neoprene cuff with a slip-on design, a fleecy inside for added warmth, a single layer Clarion leather palm for optimal bar feel, silicone graphics on the palm and fingers to enhance grip in the wet, a touchscreen compatible fingertip, and soft nose/sweat/foam wipes on the thumb panels. Oh and the best part ... each glove has a creative silicone slogan across the palm that keeps us all entertained on and off the trail. Testing was done in cold, dry weather with temps ranging from 37-45°F. At the beginning of each ride my fingertips were frigid, but once I started climbing and my body warmed up, my hands felt warm and toasty (even on long descents, when my fingertips typically get cold again). As the day warmed up the gloves maintained good breathability and I never felt like my hands were imprisoned in a vacuum pack. The single layer Clarion palm allows for a close and comfortable relationship with your grips, while the top part of the glove offers that "just right" amount of non-bulky insulation. I could easily wiggle my fingers and I still had the dexterity to grab keys or a bar out of my pocket. As for the palm slogan, I think I met my soul mate - I am all about "Ride & Chill" as opposed to "Netflix & Chill."
The Winter Storm Softshell glove is a windproof, waterproof, breathable glove that keeps your hands protected from the elements. While the glove includes "Men's" in the title on Madison's website, I opted to think of them as a unisex option, and choose to test the size medium "Storm" gloves over the women's specific Avalanche waterproof glove, which felt a bit too bulky for my riding style. Maybe it was the extra insulation? Other than the fingertips being a touch long, the gloves had a nice overall fit, a little roomy but ample dexterity. The Winter Storm features a Velcro cuff adjuster, has a pre-curved shape with a "tailored grip palm", a padded but low bulk palm with minimal stitching to limit irritation, a large sweat wipe, and a micro-fleece lining to keep your digits warm. The gloves are fairly thin as compared to the other gloves I tested and offered excellent movement and articulation. I tested these gloves on some of the coldest of recent riding days, with temps hovering just above freezing. I didn't see any temperature ratings on the website, so given these gloves' overall thinner profile as compared to others I tested, I knew I was gambling a bit. But in general, the gloves kept my hands and fingertips acceptably warm, although like most gloves tested here, the closer I got to actual freezing temps, the more I wanted hand warmers stuffed inside to keep the edge off. Or a hot toddy. The soft fleece lining offered a respectable amount of insulation while the outer fabric kept biting cold wind at bay. I did notice that my hands were getting sweaty while I was climbing midway through my ride - it could have been that I was pushing extra hard because it was freaking cold, or it could have been that the material used is just not as breathable as some other gloves we tested. My takeaway with the Winter Storm Softshell is that from a performance perspective it's a good option for slightly above freezing temps with brisk wind, and it's priced competitively with the Brisker and Winter Sweater glove.
The Gore C5 Gore-Tex Thermo glove is a versatile unisex glove that is designed for long rides in wet winter weather. I tested the glove in size medium. It was the correct size, but based on the size chart I would have been on the tail end of a size small (i.e. try before you buy if you can). The glove comes in two colors, black, which I really wish they had sent us, and the so 80's painful Hi-Vis Yellow (which I tested) that would be ideal for use road cycling or during hunting season. Retina melting color aside, the glove features a Velcro wrist closure, foam padding on the synthetic leather palm, Thermo lining, and (of course) the use of Gore-Tex fabric for waterproof, windproof and extremely breathable performance. Bekah and I each tested this glove in temps on the lower end of the testing spectrum (approximately 33°F). They impressed both of us with their overall performance - Gore definitely puts a lot of effort into design and quality. Bekah noted that while her hands stayed warm enough (i.e. they never went numb), she had to stop multiple times on the descents to warm her hands back up before continuing on. While I didn't get to that point, I did notice I could feel the wind piercing through the glove's breathable fabric slightly more so than with some of the other gloves tested. But we did test these at the very edge of freezing--any colder and we'd have opted for skate skiing vs. riding. From a form follows function perspective, the velcro closure strap allows for a secure fit, and the additional padding on the palm at the handlebar contact point is a nice touch. And considering the temperature and wind exposure during testing, I was satisfied with the quality of the gloves.
SummaryFor warmth I would rate the gloves in the following order from warmest to coldest:1. Handup Winter Sweater Glove ($32.00 USD)2. 100% Women's Brisker Glove ($29.50 USD)3. Gore C5 Gore-Tex Thermo Gloves ($79.99 USD)4. Madison Winter Storm Softshell Glove (£24.99 GBP)5. Pearl Izumi Women's Escape Softshell Glove ($45.00 USD)My personal favorite of the group was the Handup Winter Sweater. The fit was right on the money and the cost is very reasonable for the quality. The gloves are comfortable, stylish, they allow for good dexterity, and like the 100% Brisker glove, the single layer Clarion fabric on the palm allowed for exemplary bar feel.
About the Reviewer
Stats: Age: 37 • Height: 5'5" • Inseam: 30" • Weight: 135lb • Occupation: Pixel Counter • Industry affiliations: Pivot Cycles/Smith Optics
Typically wear women's size large glove.