Note: see the bottom of this article for additional thoughts on these gloves…
Yesterday we got a broad overview of what cycling gloves are all about, and today we’ll take a look at some new ones I have just got my hands in (ha).
Northwave has been around since 1993, starting up in Italy’s Montebelluna shoe district, making, what else, but shoes. In 2000 they added a clothing line (and now eyewear and helmets) and have had a long list of cycling legends spruiking their wares, starting from day one with the MTB world champion Alessandro De Bertolis, Mario Cipolini, Cadel Evans, Tom Boonan, mountain biking legend Gunn-Rita Dahle, and many others. They were a bit rock and roll among the cycling brands, doing things a bit differently and not afraid to innovate – they were the first to introduce a Gore-tex cycling shoe and the only sole to incorporate a layer of wood in it (meant to improve comfort).
Ok, so that’s probably more than enough background – on with the gloves. The Extreme Graphic’s are a new addition to Northwave’s range of gloves, and are the raciest of the bunch. These aim to give you everything you want out of a road glove in the lightest possible way.
When you really look at these gloves, there isn’t much to them. It’s really just a large piece of polyester stitched to a microfiber palm with three light pads in it. Add some loops to get them off, and you’re done.
Pretty simple, but there’s more to them than the sum of the parts.
The back side of the glove is a really light and very stretchy polyester material that is extremely comfortable on the skin. The seams are kept to a minimum, with the edges of the gloves being laser-cut. These aspects make the gloves virtually disappear on your hands – you really can’t feel where the gloves start and stop. The Extreme Graphic gloves are the least intrusive glove I’ve ever worn.
The palms are made of a soft microfiber material that is equally as comfortable as the back. The three pads are stitched to the inside of the palm and although it doesn’t look all that flash when you turn them inside-out, you can’t feel the seams at all. The pads themselves are a light foam, which doesn’t interfere with the grip on the bars but provides enough comfort even after a really long day on the bars.
The pad location is pretty typical, with one long one across the inside of knuckles, and one on each side of the heel of the palm. The gap in between these lower pads provides a channel for the median nerve, which, if it becomes inflamed from too much compression, can lead to Carpal Tunnel syndrome. The bottom-inside pad hits just the right spot for the hoods and drops.
Between the fingers is a lighter, mesh material that serve as vents, according to Northwave, but whatever their purpose, and probably because of the stretchiness of the rest of the materials they are attached to, they never cut into the… finger pits? (syndactyly, actually)… when your hands are pressed into the bars. A few of my other gloves tend to do this, and it gets a bit annoying after a few hours on the bike.
Not unique to these gloves, but highly useful nonetheless, are the loops between the fingers to make removal of the gloves no problem. This is particularly helpful on the Extreme Graphic gloves because of their second-skin-like fit. There are no straps on these gloves, and to help them stay firmly in place there is an silicon band impregnated into the inside of the wrist, both of which serve to give these gloves a very close fit. I am always a bit hesitant when pulling on loops, but so far they have shown no signs of separating from the fingers. We’ll see.
Being a glove that has done away with anything that is not strictly necessary, these don’t have a nose-wipe section on the thumbs, as is pretty much standard on most cycling gloves. These are far too light to be used in cold temperatures, so mostly, this is not an issue. It hasn’t been for me, thus far.
The Extreme Graphic gloves are available in a number of different colours, none of them all that subtle. That’s not how Northwave rolls. I chose the black ones because they are the most subdued, but if you want bright, Northwave certainly has you covered.
Price-wise, they sit somewhere in the middle of the average glove range (excluding the super expensive, gloves, like anything made of real leather…). At $39.95AUD a pair, they won’t break the bank, and are great value for money.
Get these if you are looking for something to race in, to ride hard in, to stay cool in, if straps irritate you but you don’t like it when the elastic looses it’s shape, want something really comfortable, or don’t like wearing gloves full-stop. For me, these were neither too hot, nor too cold, but were just right. Aside from winter weather and blending in with normal commuting attire (as much as any glove can), these tick all the boxes.
Since writing this review I have used the Northwave Extreme Graphic gloves on the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek ride last weekend. If a piece of clothing is going to work for you over 10 hours of continuous riding, it should work for you on any ride. Here are my thoughts from the ride:
Yep, still comfortable. These gloves performed as well as can be expected. The light, form-fitting back was extremely comfortable for the entirety of the ride, the second-skin like material never making itself known. Probably my favorite feature. The extra length on the wrists performed two tasks. First, it kept any seams off of the wrist, which can get annoying. Second, it kept any gap between the gloves and my arm-warmers at bay, which means no weird tan lines, which I usually get with normal gloves and arm-warmers.
The pads. I keep thinking that the pads could be a little more dense, or maybe a gel instead of a foam. I wouldn’t want them any thicker, as that starts to affect your grip on the bars. The fact of the matter is, my palms were comfortable until the end. That’s about all I can ask for, but I still can’t help thinking that a gel padding would provide a slightly better padding effect than the foam, but the foam is lighter, which is one thing this glove is all about. You can’t have everything.
Pull tabs? Still attached.
Final, post-3 Peaks verdict: the Extreme Graphic gloves are a winner, and something I will still recommend.