26 November 2007

bikefix Exclusive Review: Craft Siberian Glove

Craft, the Scandinavian clothing company, is best known in the cycling world for it's base layers, which are well made, popular, and a little on the pricey side. Being from Scandinavia and having a quite strong presence in the Nordic skiing world, they certainly know cold weather gear. Here we have their some of their coldest weather cycling gloves, the Siberian.

As cool- and cold-weather cyclists know, it's not so much insulation that keeps you warm as wind blocking. Furthermore, all the insulation in the world won't help if you've squished the air out of it- remember that time you squeezed thee pair of socks into your riding shoes? That sucked. With that in mind, the $59 Craft Siberian are built largely of wind- and water-resistant, breathable fabric, even under the terry thumb wipe. The palms are a durable synthetic leather (multiple layers in places) with grippy dots in the palms and on the first two fingertips. The cuff is elasticated at the wrist and the gauntlet bit is about 2in long with a Velcro closure. Reflective logos are unobtrusive but positioned for maximum visibility on both flat and drop bars. On first inspection, they don't seem particularly well insulated, with just a moderately dense (but thin) fleecy layer inside.

Having learned from experience, we decided to try one size larger than we would have in a summer glove, in this case 11/XL. For riders with anything but the chubbiest fingers, this will feel a bit loose in the fingers, but leaves enough room that the insulation isn't compressed. It also leaves a bit of room to wrap your hands around the bar without your fingers pressing against the ends of the glove. The gauntlet bit [is that the correct term?] flares enough to keep jacket sleeves in place and provide for a nice windproof seal there.

While Siberian may be a bit of an exaggeration, we've ridden these gloves in pretty damn cold
weather and have been largely happy. As intended, wind is kept at bay. The extra room in the palm and fingers, while compromising grip a bit, warms up quickly and kept us warm on road rides down to about 35 degrees and mountain bike rides a bit cooler than that. Any colder than 35 on the road, though, and fingers would start to get uncomfortable after 15 minutes or so, particularly pinkies, where the minimal blood flow just couldn't keep the cold off. We've been meaning to try some silk-weight glove liners, but don't know how much they would help. Thicker knit glove liners seem to compress the insulation too much and actually made us colder. The insulation under the leather palm and (especially) fingers makes a difference as well- fighting off the chill from frozen brake levers. As far as the looseness compromising control, especially off road, that may be the case, though the grippy dots do help. We're not sure if it's more of a psychological thing, either- we haven't had any problems, it just doesn't feel like we have as much grip as we'd like.

After a winter's worth of commuting, plus the odd snowshoeing and Nordic ski outing, the Siberians have held up very well. Some of the grippy dots on the fingertips (not so much the palms) are wearing down, and some cracks have appeared in the printed-on reflective logos. There have been cold mornings when we've wished for more warmth, but from 45 down to 30 or so, these have been great. Though we've never tried them, Craft have a new-for-2007 lobster style split mitten [2-finger glove?] that looks quite similar and may be worth a shot if you're truly hardcore.



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