Bike gloves – hide the liver spots

Wherein I review all the warm weather, fingerless gloves I've ever used and wrecked. Including some I hope I don't wreck for a long, long time.
Bike gloves: Rapha Classic Mitts one of my two favourites
Rapha Classic Mitts: pull the white loop and one of their domestiques comes and pours you a drink.

Apart from the post finish line triumph and the victory lap, your hands spend a lot of time on the handle bars when road riding. Your hands will take less impact from your average pothole, road fjord or spiderweb pavement than your butt, it’s true. But you still pick up vibration in your hands and they still bear weight. And bar tape won’t do it all. So there’s bike gloves.

Fit, for me is more important than anything. Too loose and you get skin abrasion and blisters. Too tight and you can experience tingling and numbness.

Padding is also important. I think what you’re looking for is low volume and firm. Thick, squishy pads wear down faster, don’t actually provide a whole lot more cushioning and will squidge around on you, which is great if you’re staring down a 21km stretch of straight, flat road and need distraction, but otherwise will just be a tiny irritant that will make you lose focus.

I also like bike gloves that I can use to wipe my nose and eyes repeatedly without irritating my eyelids and nostrils.

Bike Gloves: Assos S7 summer gloves - my go-to gloves
Assos S7 Summer gloves. Note how they are snug around the wrist.

The most comfortable bike gloves I’ve got are the Assos S7 summer gloves. They’re priced like it too. But despite not having a velcro tightener around the wrist (which I like) they fit snugly from end to end and put padding in the right places. I did, however, manage to find a way to hold my hands on the bars during a recent long ride, that irritated my skin a bit. A few more hours and it would have been a blister. Of course I would likely have died of exhaustion before that so it hardly seems worth pointing out.

They are extremely comfortable. And they have a fuzzy bit over the heel of the hand I can use to wipe my nose and eyes.

Nose wipe? I ask you
Rapha Classic Mitts: Nose wipe? I ask you

This is where my other favourite bike gloves, the Rapha classic mitts come up a bit short. Where the Assos gloves, my favourite modestly-priced Bontrager gloves, some Gore gloves that I liked for a bit but found they fell apart too quickly to recommend, beat the swish gloves from England, is in the nose wipe department.

Mind you, having a beach towel on the back of your hand isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Once it dries the absorptive material is scratchy and salty. Just the sort of thing to irritate your skin if you use it.

The Rapha gloves are slick – leather palms, lycra backs. With a slightly less slick bit over the side of the thumb. Sort of like a cross between a chamois cloth and a pack towel. You’re supposed to be able to wipe your nose on it, and there are no fibres to stick up like toothbrush bristles once they’re used and have dried out.

What I find, though, is that the Rapha nose wipe doesn’t absorb snot all that well.

Bontrager Race Gel Gloves - good in their time, but now too stretchy.
Bontrager Race Gel Gloves – good in their time, but now too stretchy.

I also have Bontrager Race Gel gloves. Two pairs of them in fact. Because they work so well. And they’re about a third the price of the Rapha gloves. Half the price of the Assos S7s. And for most rides they’re fine. The fabric is just a bit too stretchy now after a couple of years’ use and so the padding doesn’t stay in place and the whole ensemble generates blisters after more than two or so hours. So I mostly use them on sub 80km rides. But the heel has a nose wipe that could absorb an ocean of snot. Allergy sufferers who ride in the country take note.

Taking up the rear are my MEC Bolt gloves. They’ve got the Rapha look (complete with pull loop near the wrist) and these tiny fabric finger pockets that you can grab to pull the gloves off. But for $25 there’s no way they are going to be the full Rapha. The fabric isn’t nearly stretchy enough, so to let you take them on and off they leave the wrist hole really wide. Too wide. Slip slidey around wide.

MEC's $25 gloves look slick, come up short
MEC’s $25 Bolt gloves look slick, come up short, or wide rather, at the back.

And to keep them on your hand they stay narrow. Too narrow. Squeeze your knuckles together narrow. Which I blame at least partially for numbness on longer rides. I wear them when I’m doing intervals and more focused efforts where I tend not to notice minor discomforts. The MEC site claims they have a nose wipe, but I have yet to feel evidence of that.