Gloves gloves gloves gloves

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Circle of gloves

More bike gloves than we can use.

Leaky gel pads

Last fall my trusty winter cycling gloves finally went squish. The gel pads on the palms started leaking. I didn’t want to give them up, but they were putting slimy goop all over my grips.

The glove is alive

They were Altura Shield winter gloves. Between us, F and I have gone through a bunch of pairs of this same model over the last few years, since we decided cheapo gloves weren’t going to cut it anymore for cold, wet rides. I believe we reached that conclusion when we encountered a heavy thunderstorm while descending Mont Salève on our first cycle-camping vacation and couldn’t feel our fingers on the brake levers. I had a pair of neoprene-backed gloves from Halford’s; the palms were made of something soft and absorbent. Toilet paper, I think. I don’t know why they made them like that and I must have taken leave of my senses to purchase them. In my defence, I distinctly remember a sense of urgency to find something with long fingers, just in case, for our imminent summer trip.

Phew! I’m still cold from that and it was almost a decade ago. I also still remember the headlights of the post van swinging into view as it careened maniacally up that winding little road in the driving rain. Between that and the lightning, we were pretty happy to make it down unscathed. When we got to the bottom of the hill we found a bar that served the best hot chocolate we’d ever had (French hot chocolate, made from melted chocolate, can be very good, even if you’re not freezing and wet), then we moved to the restaurant part of the same bar and ate pizza (French pizza can be very good too) until we found the strength to creak into Annecy, still damp, and follow the tourist signs until we located a hotel.

Anyway, at some point after that we felt rich enough to try out a pair of real winter cycling gloves. They were good, and when more were needed, we kept buying Altura Shields.

Two pairs have leaked goo from the gel pads after a respectable length of service, and two have gone missing. Once, at work, I left mine on the rack of my bike. Went out to get them. Gone. I even checked the lost and found. F left his in the men’s room, again at work. Went back to get them, gone. I don’t know why anyone would steal someone else’s sweaty, stinky cycling gloves; I suppose the other possibility is they were so offensive somebody threw them out. Not sure how mine would manage to offend anyone from atop my bike rack, though.

We were up for new pairs this past winter, mine doing the aforementioned leaking, and F’s doing the aforementioned disappearing.

At the start of the season we had three kinds of gloves: Old Altura Shields, new Altura Shields, and new Endura Strikes.

The first gloves I ordered were Altura’s current version of the Shield. It was pretty disappointing. Really didn’t stack up against my previous pair. The reflective piping was missing from the back, the reflective logo was printed on rather than the robust 3D version stitched onto the old ones, the pull-tab was now a thin flap of fabric with some dots printed on, for grip. Problem is, the dots are flat and pretty slippery.

There’s no longer a gel pad at the base of the fingers. There is a padded region on the inside of the thumb where there wasn’t before, though. The wear panels on the gripping surfaces are gone, and, well, I think they’re ugly, but that much I knew before purchase. I came away with the impression that there were a lot of changes made to the design of the glove and that almost every one of them was in order to make them cheaper to manufacture.

So for the second pair, after poring over internet reviews, I ordered Endura’s Strike winter glove. I read recent reviews that mentioned they were a bit snug, but I didn’t pay too much heed to that. I usually wear men’s medium gloves, but a smallish medium should still be fine for lady hands.

Still life with bike gloves

I even ripped the tags right off when they arrived, forgetting to try them on first. They were too small. My fingers were going to get cold from simple lack of circulation. I thought the gloves were really nice to look at though, and soft inside. I ordered the large size and tried to sell the mediums locally. No bites at all. A cursory look on Ebay revealed two pairs being sold because they were too small and the tags were already off. Older reviews compained that the Strike gloves fit too large. I guess Endura remedied that.

As you can see, the new Altura glove (Men’s M) is a bit of a floppy fit on me.

The Endura Strike (Men’s L), on the other hand (OK, it’s obviously the same hand), is very snug. It’s almost on the small size, as far as finger width and length go. The palm is big enough.

These are much nicer-looking gloves, as far as I’m concerned. There are three gel pads on the palm (like the old Shields) and the velcro on the wrist fastening is less snaggy, although the edges of the piece are roughly cut and sharp.

Don’t mind me.

This winter, I wore the Enduras and F wore the Alturas. They both work OK, although I’ve had cold fingers a lot this year when the temperature’s been within a couple of degrees of freezing. This may be because the gloves are less insulating than my old Enduras, or just because they do fit a bit snugly and we’ve had a lot of freezing temperatures this year.

The Endura Strike pull-tab feels safe to pull with teeth, due to the raised rubbery grip pattern, and is long enough to grab with gloved fingers too.   I thought the integral, padded and stitched protrusion on the old Altura Shield was better, but the thin, slippery flap on the new Shield was just scary to grab with my teeth.

The rubbery honeycomb pattern is beginning to wear off on the forefinger of the Enduras after a season’s commuting. Almost all of those “grip” dots on the fingers of the Altura are gone too.

The Altura lining is sloppy and tries to pull out with my fingers, even when dry.  The Endura ones stay put.

Both get wet through the seams if it rains (never had a pair that didn’t; I suppose Altura should get some points for removing that irritating, overconfident “Waterproof” label from the back of the glove).

Now of course all this information loses some of its cogency coming in the spring, and in fact on the very day that I first broke out the fingerless mitts.

Speaking of which…