Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gloved up

Ever go into your LBS and leave with what you came for, and only what you came for? Thought not.

I went in the other day to get a sprocket changed (the 15 was killing me) and ended up picking up a pair of these on sale.

No, they really are cycling gloves. Specialized Neoprene gloves and despite looking like something you'd find in a triathlon yes they really, really are cycling gloves and yes, they'd be illegal in a triathlon.

I'm not sure Specialized still sell these, I got them in Hub's bargain bin, but there must be something to be said for them as I've seen them on pros hands, most recently in the last picture I saw of the late Frank Vandenbroucke.

I've always had a soft-spot for Frankie but not because I think he was a great cyclist. Well in a way he was because, as he himself said, in a perverse way there was a level playing field at the '99 LBL. They were all doped up. When we saw him accelerate away not once but twice from Michele Bartoli on La Redoubt we all said "wow, what a guy" which morphed into "yeah, but what was he on" which has subsequently become "well they were all on it so perhaps he was still better but I still won't, can't, 100% believe in the athleticism per se".

Rather the soft-spot is because Frankie was on the cover of the last Cycling Weekly I ever bought.

It was 1998 and I was flying to the States for the first time to do a postdoc (March 17 1998 if anyone is counting). I needed something to read on the flight and loaded up on magazines at LHR. Frankie had just stamped all over Paris-Nice and was stamped all over the cover. He was seen as the next big thing in the Classics (or more). It was a strange time for cycling. It was post Indurain, pre-Armstrong. We all thought Ulrich was going to be the next dominant stage-racer, figures like six Tours were bandied about. Armstrong was just some one-day dude who'd won Worlds once and was trying to come back from cancer. If memory serves, '98 PN was his first big race back and he packed, making everyone think his comeback was over already. We were naive enough to think that drugs weren't a problem, I mean they were getting tested now and how hard can it be to find Belgian Pot? Phil and Paul's commentary was still quite balanced (if you don't believe me, check out Fat Cyclist's "Armstrong Drinking Game Equals Certain Death"). Cinelli's Spinacis (in effect very short ITU draft-legal tri-bars) were legal in mass-start racing. Lotto were still riding steel framed Gazelles and socks were still mostly white and ankle length.

And I thought I was only popping over for a post-doc and would be back in a year or two.

Times really have changed.

But back to the gloves, for now. They're certainly snug, but for one I like tight gloves. The loose, flappy ones tend to get caught and your hands squirm aound inside them, making it hard to get a good solid hold on the bars. My wind- and rain-proof overmitts are way too baggy and this makes it hard to change gear, brake or even get a grip (I'm often asked to "get a grip" and at least on the bike I can sometimes blame it on the gloves. If only it was this easy in life!). It's not just cycling, I'm like this in the lab too where a lot of guys automatically use medium or large gloves even if they're clearly too large. I think it's a macho thing; "it's emasculating to use any latex product marked 'small' " they think as their gloves get pulled into a pipette or trapped in a lid. Certainly riding them home from the shop they seemed plenty grippy enough and in terms of feel they felt more like liner-gloves than even regular mid-weight gloves.

These gloves also go way up the arm overlapping with your sleeves, helping to keep away those drafts that always find that one square millimetre of exposed skin at the wrist. Being 3mm neoprene they're totally waterproof, as you'd expect. I've not been out for an extended stay in a torrential downpour yet so I can't say how they stand up to a real-world road-soaking, with spray coming at you from every which way. I rather suspect they'll behave like my neoprene socks, which although initially waterproof eventually become wet on the inside, but because water ends up soaking down my legs into the socks rather than taking the direct route through the sock! I wonder how long this impermeability phase is. For the socks it's about 30 minutes, which is long enough for the rest of you to get thoroughly miserable before your feet go too! There should be a slight warming effect then as the trapped layer of water is warmed by your skin, just like a regular wetsuit, but I wouldn't recommend peeing in them to get them warm first as I know some of you do in your wetsuits before a tri (don't deny it, I know you do).

I'll keep you posted on long-term performance; I'm eyeing that glued seam on the middle two fingers with interest. In the interests of science I'll also see how cold you can go. It's one thing to be kinda warm and wet but around zero, totally rugging up with the baggy gauntlets may be the way to go. I'll let you know.

It looks like Specialised have realised that no matter what, your hands are going to get wet, so they produced gloves work with that, not against it. So much for theory, now lets go practice.....

1 comment:

  1. Too bad you were not in HRM today, you could have done a solid test on them. It was certainly pouring...