18 May 2009

bikefix Initial Review: Fox Dirtpaw gloves

Over the past several years, there seems to have been a widespread shift away from padding in technical mountain bike gloves. Those who advocate thin gloves point to increased bike control and a reluctance to add to the thickness (if not comfort) necessitated by Lock-On grips' plastic inner sleeve. While never a fan of diaper-y feeling gel-padded gloves, as a rider with a leaning toward longer rides I've had a hard time lately finding gloves with a just right amount of padding.

This spring, an unfortunate fall meant the end to my lightweight Troy Lee Air gloves and I was back in the glove market. A pair of Race Face gloves looked good until a freakishly short pinkie made them painfully unwearable for any period of time and as February's 24-hour race approached I started to get desperate. Nothing at any of the local bike shops looked or fit quite right and on a whim I dropped into a local motocross shop (I knew that Fox and other companies' glove lines covered both in the moto and mountain worlds). There, I found a pair of Fox's Dirtpaw gloves.

A moderately-protective glove, the Dirtpaws do a good job of keeping the potentially irritating molded plastic bits away from joints. While nowhere near as well ventilated as the Air, the Dirtpaws are miles cooler than Fox's heavy duty, carbon-knockled Bombers and well suited for cross country and light freeride on all but the warmest days. The fleecy padding sits inside the glove, minimizing added bulk and is outlined by contrast stitching on the palm. When new, the Dirtpaws just plain feel fantastic- soft and lightly padded yet providing plenty of trial feel through the bar. The Velcro-closed wrist is a bit big for my spindly little wrists- but that's a running complaint on my part, the hand section is just right and the fingers are all correctly proportioned.

Over the past several months, the Dirtpaws have been great. The padding is no longer as fleecy as it was when new, but still quite comfortable. The Neoprene knuckles provide a bit of padding and plenty of stretch where its needed most. The nubbly bits on the fingers are probably more for looks than anything else but haven't caused any problems at all. While a bit dirty and salt-stained, the Dirtpaws are holding up very well and have withstood several minor offs without damage.

Time will tell, but for $22, the Dirtpaws are well on their way to becoming a bikefix Pick. They're not going to be my favorites for 80+ degree days, but the protection is appreciated and fit, function and comfort are perfect for 90% of my riding. For anyone looking for a moderately-protective cross country glove and appreciates a wee bit of padding, they're certainly worth a look.



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