13 April 2010

bikefix Initial Review: Specialized BG Radiator Glove

Once again looking for a bit of extra comfort for my annual stab at 24 hour racing, I set out last winter to find replacements for my well-worn Fox Dirtpaws. A cross country rider who likes big days on the bike with plenty of technical riding, I've gradually moved away from the fingerless gloves of my racy 1990s to gloves with a bit of protection and a bit of built-in padding. Still, it can get pretty toasty out here in the desert and I've found finding gloves with the right mix of ventilation, protection and padding (to say nothing of fit) surprisingly difficult.

After almost a month of poking around local bike shops and asking friends about their handwear, I came across Specialized's $45 BG Radiator glove. Like the Exustar GC510 gloves I reviewed last year, BG Radiators feature well-placed gel pads in the heel of the palm. Like most of us, I'm still a bit leery of gel padding- all too often, it is used gratuitously and does more to spread pressure from where it's OK to where it certainly is not. In the case of the BG Radiators, Spez have exercised considerable restraint with the magic goo, following the guidance of one Dr. Minkow to protect the ulnar nerve and reduce numbness. Though I haven't noticed a reduction in the occurrence of finger numbness while wearing the BG Radiators, they are certainly no worse in that department than either the Exustar or Fox gloves that preceded them.

Of course, the BG Radiators have the same sort of finger 'protection' as most gloves of a certain price (little welded-on nubbins between the knuckles). Most useful is the well-ventilated O-Foam pad protecting the outermost knuckles. Protecting the two smallest fingers' knuckles makes a good deal of sense as those are the ones most likely to catch trailside trees and rocks. Limiting heavy padding to the outer fingers, which don't move much at all while riding, leaves the index and middle fingers the ability to brake and shift without chafing. Happily, I haven't once noticed the knuckle padding while riding. The raised dots on the fingers are more styling than protection, but at least they haven't fallen off.

After several months' and 50 or 60 hours' riding, I'm really liking the BG Radiators. Yes, my hands can still go numb after 4 or 5 hours' riding- but they're not the only thing. The articulated fingers move very well and the gloves haven't caused any rubbing or irritation on even the longest riding. My biggest complaint is the not particularly soft nor particularly absorbent Micro Wipe thumb. Specialized claim that the material is intended to "brush away sweat" and sure enough, it just doesn't have terry's snot carrying capacity. Of course, being white, the BG Radiators get dirty and so are washed far more than other gloves. This is probably a good thing, but a black/slate combination is available for those who don't want to be mistaken for a cycling mime. Stains aside, the gloves are holding up well and have remained very comfortable as the spring has warmed. Look for a final review next fall.



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