09 October 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Troy Lee Air glove

While I enjoy big descents as much as the next guy, I've been an XC (or what's now being called Trail) rider for most of my mountain bike career. As a result, knee/shin guards are the only body armor I own, none of my helmets cover my chin, and (until recently) my warm-weather gloves haven't featured fingers. Of course, as time goes on, I've adopted things that would have surprised an earlier version of myself- helmets with visors (nice in the desert), uncut riser bars (the spacing between trees out here can at times be measured in miles), and full-finger gloves, even in the middle of summer.

I'm not sure if it was a conscious change on my part, but a couple of years ago, I purchased these (very reasonably priced) $26 Troy Lee Air gloves. Very simple as far as modern gloves go, the Air's largely consist of a single-layer (unpadded) Clarino leather palm, a mesh back, and some stretchy (though not terry) material on the thumb. There's no closure (they slip on), and the rubber Troy Lee Designs script is (rather optimistically) claimed to provide knuckle protection (it is in the right place for maximum visibility- um- protecion). The Clarino forms three sides of the first two fingertips and there are minimal seams. The silicone grippy bits printed onto the palms and fingers disappeared almost immediately.

In use, the Troy Lee Air's are very cool for a full-finger glove. While they won't be nearly as cool as a half-finger gloves, they are very close. The reason that I continue to choose them is that it feels like dry leather provides better brake and shifter control than sweaty skin. Also, in the event of a crash, I feel marginally better protected from trail rash. Unfortunately, the simplicity that keeps these gloves cool and inexpensive is also their downfall. The lack of a closure means that the cuffs of the gloves can be a bit loose on my small-ish (for large hands) wrists. The feeling that the gloves aren't secure can be a bit disconcerting at first, but doesn't seem to impair my control of the bike.

It may be because the palms move a bit while riding or because the palm can bunch a bit near the outside of the palm, but as I wear the Air's more and more, I've developed a strange new callus about an inch below the usual one at the base of my pinky. On longer rides (3+ hours) in these gloves, it tends to get angry and fairly uncomfortable. This creature has been a recent development- I have a feeling that as the gloves have broken in, they've loosened up a bit- something that wouldn't have been noticeable had they a wrist closure. Overall, the Air's are very well made and well thought out for such a minimalist piece of gear. The materials are fantastic and have held up very well. I honestly don't believe that riders with average-sized wrists would have the same problem- for them, the Air's are certainly worth a look. I, on the other hand, will have to be retiring mine fairly young.

marc

www.troyleedesigns.com

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