Over the past three years, Bontrager have worked hard to dial in their extensive clothing line, using feedback from their sponsored riders. While there are still a few products that miss the mark, many are now better than those produced by some standalone clothing companies.
For winter 2010/11 Bontrager have no fewer than six gloves (they sent five for testing). Except for the lack of an extreme cold weather glove for sub-zero Fahrenheit (<18°C) temperatures, they seem to have covered all of the bases.
The eyecatcher: Sport Windshell
The glove that immediately tips us off to the potential of the line is the US$34.99 Sport Windshell glove. This is a replica of the Gore Windstopper gloves made by Giordana, Capo and others, which have a design that’s rarely seen outside of the pro peloton.
It’s a simple piece made out of thin windproof and water resistant material that offers incredible dexterity and surprising warmth – especially in the wet – given that it doesn’t have any thermal properties.
Bontrager’s unassuming sport windshell may be the highlight of the line:Matt Pacocha
Bontrager’s unassuming Sport Windshell may be the highlight of the line
Bontrager add panels (for a better fit), silicone palm texturing and an ultra-soft fleece nose wipe to better the aforementioned competition. This style glove is a staple in our cyclo-cross and spring race bags, and we look forward to testing Bontrager’s version.
The Sport Windshell splits the group of five test gloves we received from Bontrager. To the right of it, you’ll find light gloves that can be used alone or as liners and to the left you’ll find two insulated gloves that still keep finger dexterity as a key feature.
One rung to the right of the Sport Windshell and priced at $10 less ($24.99) is the Race Thermal Fleece glove. This can be used as a liner or alone and offers greater thermal properties than the Windshell, but no protection from wind or water.
While this hurts the glove for standalone use, it makes it great for use as a liner as it should be very good at transferring moisture. We estimate it’ll be useful alone to about 45°F (7°C) in the dry on a slow cyclo-cross course. It also seems like a nice piece for cross training or just driving to an event on a cold morning.
Like the sport windshell the race thermal gets a palm full of silicone for grip:Matt Pacocha
Like the Sport Windshell, the Race Thermal gets a palm full of silicone for grip
The glove is finished with the same features as the Windshell, including a fleece nose wipe and silicone grip. It looks like a perfect mate for the bar-mounted over-mitts that are the go-to of those riding in the most extreme conditions – for example, at Alaska’s Iditabike event.
The lightest glove offered by Bontrager is the RL liner ($19.99), and while some riders may try to use it alone, its lack of silicone on the palm may make it too slippery to be useful. While we’d use the Race Thermal as a standalone glove, we can only see ourselves using the RL as a liner or for running.
The super thin rl liner glove could benefit from more silicone on its palm: the super thin rl liner glove could benefit from more silicone on its palmMatt Pacocha
The super-thin RL liner glove could benefit from more silicone on its palm
When the weather gets frightful: Race Windshell and RXL Thermal
Bontrager offer two gloves for colder conditions: the Race Windshell and the RXL Thermal. The Race Windshell at $39.99 – $5 more than the Sport version listed above – is built with what appears to be an upgraded material along with a Fusion GelFoam pad, synthetic leather palm and heavy-duty silicone grips. It also features a Velcro closure, whereas the Sport glove is a slip-on.
The bontrager race windshell:Matt Pacocha
The Race Windshell upgrades to a Velcro closure and Fusion GelFoam pad
The Race Windshell is a nice looking glove, but we’d be hard pressed to choose it over the Sport because of the luck we’ve had in the past with that design (from other manufacturers); both gloves fill a similar temperature range of roughly 35-55°F.
Bontrager’s big gun, the RXL Thermal ($59.99), is windproof, waterproof, seam sealed and lightly filled with PrimaLoft insulation. On top of that, it incorporates the bells-and-whistles features of the Race Windshell, including the Fusion GelFoam padding, synthetic leather palm, heavy-duty silicone grip and Velcro closure.
The palm of the rxl thermal glove sports all of the brand’s bells and whistles:Matt Pacocha
The palm of the RXL Thermal glove sports all of the brand’s bells and whistles
Overall first impressions
You’ve probably already figured out that we have high hopes for the Sport Windshell and believe it’ll do well. We’re also impressed with the Race Thermal Fleece, which will surely be competitive against other, similar designs.
The RL liner, Race Thermal Fleece and Sport Windshell all fit fine – we received the large size for testing and our hands measure to the smallest size that Bontrager recommend for this size – but when we jump to the more fully featured models, the Race Windshell and RXL Thermal, we fear that the un-articulated cut of the gloves paired with a tighter fit could work against their overall performance and ultimately cause cold hands and fingers.
Even though we’re at the smaller end of the sizing scale, we can’t fit a liner in either of these models. Upsizing to the extra-large would solve this problem. However, those with larger hands may not be able to get a Bontrager glove that fits properly as the line tops out at the extra-large size.
It’s important to keep circulation in mind when trying on any winter glove. You should look for one that doesn’t tighten, especially around your fingers, when grabbing the bar, but still offers an acceptable level of dexterity.
Luckily, Bontrager offer an unconditional comfort guarantee with all of these gloves. The fine print says that you can return them within 30 days (with your original receipt) for a different size or for store credit for the amount of the purchase price.