Glove v. Glove
If the one’s getting paid to write reviews are too lazy, then the ones paying to write reviews must step in
I swore I’d never do product reviews on this blog, but I find myself distrustful of any review other than those written by us mere mortals. Why? Case in point: In the September issue of VeloNews, they featured their recommended apparel for autumn. (Autumn, incidentally, won’t come to my location for another 4-5 months.) The “article” was little more than artistic, ad-like photos of cyclists riding in eye-catching gear. The photos were accompanied by very expensive shopping lists and little to no actual review of the products. It was pretty, but worthless.
What, in their editorial minds, makes them think that is acceptable? I’m paying them money to impart to me useful and valid information, not to advertise for the companies that send them free stuff. (There are already enough ads in the mag.) I can barely afford cycling gear, so I want a really good reason to spend money on the high-end products, not just pretty pictures.
Cyclocosm made an interesting observation that cycling is thought to be an elite sport in the U.S., populated by wealthy consumers purchasing fancy gruppos for both their bikes and bodies. In reality, most cyclists are “scrappy,” flipping wistfully through the Performance Bike sale catalog. I’m definitely the latter. My bike is worth about two-month’s salary, which is not to say I have a really expensive bike, but rather a low-paying job.
I recently bought a new pair of cycling gloves and was struck by how different they are from my old favorites, which had to be set aside for the summer because they’re black. (I didn’t realize the tops of one’s hands could burn and sweat so badly in the sun.) Therefore I bring you Capo v. Mavic, expensive v. cheap, black v. white. Both are fairly minimalist, so if you prefer to rest your hands on mini mattresses, you won’t be interested in the review. (Click on images to enlarge and clarify.)
Capo Atlas Summer Gloves (men’s) – $45
Since last fall, I’ve done most of my riding in a pair of Capo Atlas summer gloves (last year’s model unchanged this year). The padding (my favorite feature) is uninterrupted and smooth across the palm, meaning there are no ridges or bumps to make you unsure where to place your hands, lest they rest off-pad. Without palm-bulge, I feel that I can grip the bars more confidently and “become one with the bike.” The gloves are less awkward and akin to a more streamlined chamois pad.
The padding extends to the area between thumb and pointer finger for cushioning while riding on the hoods. The padding is also coated in a sticky silicone substance that helps prevent frequent dropping of water bottles while riding.
Two small gaps at the thumb and no-man’s land of the upper palm are vented with mesh, as are the fingers. I used to be a non-believer because your hands can’t breathe when they’re gripping handlebars anyway, but in comparison with gloves sans mesh palms, it does seem to make a difference. Also featured on the inside of the fingers are two, very handy pull tabs. When you hastily yank the gloves off after a long, hot ride, they won’t crumple into a wet, inside-out ball.
I have thin hands, but the men’s small fits just right. The construction feels sturdy (some cycling sites disagree), with extra stitching around the fingertips (where tearing often happens) and a neoprene wrap on the thumb for added durability and comfort. The sweat rag is ample and soft, but will pill after washing like anything else.
The back is soft lycra-spandex with a small triangle of a more breathable weave directly above the wrist. Speaking of wrist, there is no velcro strap (I hate them) allowing the palm padding to extend down to the wrist. I’ve never understood the virtue of wrist padding, but it’s there if you prefer and makes pulling on the gloves easier as the wrist is a bit tight.
Forty-five dollars is quite a bit for short-finger, minimalist gloves without freaky palm features, though it’s their streamlined simplicity that I love. If you can get them on sale, like I did, they’re totally worth it. Otherwise, the color options might be more unique than most prefer. They’re a bit garish if you don’t like to advertise brands so obviously.
Mavic Sprint Glove (men’s) – $25
My poor, delicate hands couldn’t tolerate being baked in black gloves, so I shopped around for an affordable, summer fix. My parameters were these: they had to be white, have minimal to medium padding, a decent-size sweat rag and no velcro strap. I chose the Mavic Sprint glove for $25. I considered their all-mesh option, but decided to save the extra 20 bucks for a couple pints at Kennedy’s.
Note: The Mavic Pro glove with “aerodynamic close fitting,” at $50 appears to be the dedicated TT glove, so I’m approaching these as intended for regular riding.
As you might expect, the glove is no-frills, consisting of three main pieces of fabric. The sweat wipe is integrated into the glove, but the palm and extra thumb padding are sewed onto the nylon/lycra/spandex. Because your palms are resting on a very slippery fabric instead of the actual padding, your hand slides around inside the glove when gripping the handlebars. Turning the glove inside out, I could see why: The palm padding (which is only padded very lightly at the base of the glove) is stitched to the fabric only by its perimeter. A vast space of untethered lycra is left to slide all over the pad. Because the men’s small is still a bit too large for me, the slippage is rather annoying, although I’m not sure an ultra-tight fit would completely solve the problem. (I tried to shrink them in the dryer after washing, but no luck.)
The edges of the finger fabric are laser cut, as most gloves now are, but the openings are disproportionate in size (especially when compared to other brands and models). While my pointer finger was snugly cocooned, I could fit three fingers into the next opening. If it weren’t for the delightful microfiber sweat rag, which wicks and dries as quickly as a travel towel, I’m not sure the gloves are worth their price.
Despite having no mesh on them, the gloves are indeed extremely lightweight and airy. The wrist band isn’t too tight and pointer-finger pull tab gets the gloves off somewhat neatly with a single yank. The Sprint gloves have less going on than many other brands coming in at or under $20. Their zen-like simplicity would be more appealing if the construction were better. If Mavic would just sew the pad TO the lycra and not ON it, the gloves would move much closer to being the ideal minimalist pair.
And … So What?
Indeed, a more fair comparison between cheap-ish and expensive would be between the $25 Mavic Sprint and the $60 Mavic Infinity. I couldn’t find a non-computer drawing image of the Infinity that was clear enough to inspect the construction, but the glove design is basically the same.
Both of these gloves earn their ratings despite their prices, both being a bit too much for what they are. Regardless, I love the Capo glove and disagree with CyclingNews that the pair’s value is only in completing your Capo Atlas kit.