14 December 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Exustar CG510 gloves

Regardless of the home country of brand name they bear, some of the (and some would argue the) best bikes, accessories and apparel are now coming out of Taiwan. While Boulder, Milan and Morgan Hill (and to a lesser extent Waterloo, WI) could be argued to be homes of the cycling industry, virtually nothing that we ride, carry or wear actually comes from these places. Giant and FSA are some of the best-known Taiwanese companies to have made their own name at retail, but a number of other overseas manufacturers are looking to follow in their footsteps. Almost 20 years ago, Exustar began life as VP's high-end pedal arm. Ten years later, the brand broke off from its parent and was reborn as Exustar. Now diversified considerably into shoes, accessories, tools and apparel, the brand (through distributor Q Cycle) is making a push into the US market.

Seeing as they're right down the road, we stopped in on Q Cycle and had a great talk with owner and industry veteran Bill Imielski. He and his team have a lot of experience working with vendors to build and improve products that most of us are familiar with and are excited enough about Exustar's product to ask us to reveiw a couple- the first of which are these gloves. Though they're described by Exustar as "full finger winter gloves," the CG510's are what most riders would consider spring, summer and fall mountain bike gloves. They are no thicker than anything but the thinnest full finger gloves from other brands and are not warm enough for riding in temperatures below 50 degrees. In fact, I find the CG510s comfortable for riding into the low 80s and above- so will be reviewing them as full-finger summer mountain bike gloves.

The CG510's feature single-layer breathable fingers, largely single-layer synthetic palms and a full-terry thumb. The back of the hand is an open, breathable fabric. The protective bits are molded rubber and those over the knuckles are mounted to a cool floating neoprene panel, which allows them to be fairly substantial without being uncomfortable or interfering with dexterity. There is some thin gel padding under the black panels on the palm and a good-sized Velcro closure under the wrist. Though hard to see in the photos, there are the obligatory (but rarely durable) grippy patches on the thumbs and first two fingertips.

Like most 'serious' cyclists, I tend to recoil a bit when I hear that gloves have gel padding. Everyone's tried on (or owned) gloves with thick gel padding that make holding the bars feel more like holding on to slippery fish- they may be comfortable to some people, but have never done much for me in the way of bike feel or control. Exustar have made sure that this is not the case with the CG510s. The gel padding, while identifiably "gel" is extremely thin and provides very good bar feel and bike control, while making them some of the most comfortable gloves I've worn. With no other changes, I find my hands far less tired after long rides wearing the Exustar's than when wearing any other gloves I own. I know that the current fashion is for unpadded gloves, but for riders whose preferences tend toward longer rides, a bit of well-placed padding goes a long way.

My complaints with the CG510's are few and relatively minor. The fit is generally excellent, but the thumb seems cut a bit short- a problem I've never noticed elsewhere (and I wear size Large gloves in almost every brand I've tried). It's not particularly uncomfortable, but is noticeable when the seam works its way under the thumbnail- another 1/8in would be nice in my case. When riding, the floating knuckle guards seem to fall a bit high- more on top of my knuckles than in front of them. Again, it's not by much but should be an easy fix. A bit more protection for the smallest knuckle would be nice, as mine tend to hit trailside branches much more than my larger, inboard knuckles and the floating panel could probably handle more protection without being uncomfortable. Again bucking mountain bike fashion (this time for earth tones or more 80s-influenced colors), the CG510s are only available in red, which will unfortunately rule them out for a lot of riders. Finally, covering a good deal of the (much appreciated) terry thumb with armor is silly and makes it uncomfortable to use. I'd suggest just leaving it off (and removed mine with my handy seam ripper), providing plenty of absorbent fabric for hot or cold rides (right thumb sweat, left thumb snot).

After several months of constant use, the $40 Exustar's are holding up well. I am amazed that the grippy patches on the fingers still look new, as do the back of the gloves. There is a bit of pulling on the terry thumbs and the palms are pilling a bit- but there's nothing to suggest that they won't last for at least a season of hard riding. Striking a great balance between comfort and control, they're very comfortable for even the longest rides. Exustar have clearly put a lot of experience to work here and put together a very good product. With a couple of minor tweaks, they could be as good as, if not better than, anything else I've tried. If the gloves are any indication, Exustar will be a brand to watch.

marc

www.exustar.com (International)
www.qcycle.com (US)

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