17 March 2010

bikefix Exclusive Review: Fox Dirtpaw gloves

Damn. Fox sure know how to make a glove. While the trend in mountain biking has been away from padding in gloves, when headed out for a long day in the saddle I tend to reach for something with at least a bit of cush between my hands and the bars. A little over a year ago, and several weeks before my annual attempt at endurance racing, I picked up a pair of Fox Dirtpaw gloves at a local motorcycle shop. The Dirtpaws' fit, light padding and well thought-out construction have made them my mitts of choice for over a year- not bad for $22.

Those who advocate thin gloves point to increased bike control and a reluctance to add to the thickness necessitated by Lock-On grips' plastic inner sleeve. While never a fan of diaper-y feeling gel padded gloves, as a rider who leans toward longer rides, I've had a hard time lately finding gloves with a just right amount of padding- enough to add a bit of comfort without feeling bulky. Nothing at any of the local bike shops looked or felt quite right son a whim I dropped into a local motorcycle shop (Fox and other companies' glove lines often overlap between the moto and mountain bike worlds) and found a pair of Dirtpaws.

A moderately light 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 Troy Lee Air gloves they replaced, the Dirtpaws are much, much cooler than Fox's heavy duty, carbon-knockled Bombers and well suited for cross country and trail riding on all but the warmest days. The fleecy padding sits inside the glove, eliminating the need for a second layer of leather to enclose it. When new, the Dirtpaws plain feel fantastic- soft and lightly padded yet providing plenty of trail 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 (why can't companies provide a bit of extra loop Velcro to accommodate multiple wrist sizes?). The hand section is just right and the fingers are all correctly proportioned.

The gloves' Neoprene knuckles imply protection without providing much (if any), but are do allow for plenty of stretch where its needed most. The nubbly rubber bits on the tops of fingers are probably more for looks than anything else but haven't either caused irritation or fallen off. In fact, the Dirtpaws have held up very well. I certainly didn't expect a pair of such inexpensive gloves to last as long as the Fox's have. The stitching is all intact and several mild to moderate spills haven't managed to cut the palms. The Neoprene is torn from an encounter with a trailside branch, but the tear hasn't spread at all. The only indication that the Dirtpaws are fourteen (rather than four) months old is palm padding that has largely packed down and is no longer as comfortable for long rides as it was when new.

$22. I've owned gloves that cost twice as much that haven't lasted half as long. They're not my favorite gloves for 80+ degree days, but for all but the hottest days of summer, they're just fine. The full-finger protection is appreciated and the fit, function and comfort are perfect for 90% of my riding. A terry thumb patch would be nice for hot or cold days, but beyond that, I can't think of anything else to ask for. For anyone looking for a moderately-protective cross country glove and appreciates a wee bit of padding, they're certainly worth a look and have earned their bikefix Pick status.



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