It's around now that you don't want a full winter but it's certainly not quite time to be exposing your fingers to the cool air. Sportful WS Essential W Gloves are a great solution; they offer excellent wind protection with hardly any bulk and are impressive when it comes to breathability, with no overheating or sweaty palms.
The backs are made from Sportful's Gore WindStopper 4 Way Warm material. The '4 Way' refers to the way that the fleece-backed fabric stretches four different directions to ensure a snug fit around the hand regardless of its position. It's great stuff, warm but breathable.
The Sportful Essentials don't have the bulk you'd associate with a winter glove, but the fleece lining gives a cosy feeling. The inside cuff is made from Sportful's Thermodrytexplus, a thin, stretchy fabric that sits snug to the wrist and is just as breathable as the main body of the glove.
I am always sceptical about gloves without Velcro adjusters or fasteners but these have convinced me that they can be just as good. The material stretches and compresses to fit as required and has not deteriorated with washing or wear. The lack of Velcro has obvious advantages: less abrasion against other fabrics, and fewer seams and stitched parts to show signs of wear.
Gloves without Velcro wrist tabs can be a bit difficult to get on and off but the soft lining means that these slipped on just fine and, thanks to effective breathability, there was no moisture to make removal a struggle. The long, slim cuff sits perfectly under a jersey sleeve.
The synthetic palm has a soft brushed inner surface and the outside provides decent grip against bars despite there being no additional silicone patches. That's another spot where Sportful has eliminated a potential wear problem.
The synthetic fabric did not offer the friction against levers that it had against bar tape, though. Some additional grippers on the first two fingers and thumb wouldn't go amiss.
Sportful have kept padding to a minimum in an effort to strike a balance between 'protection and control/contact with the bike'. Unfortunately I didn't find the padding meant for the heel of the palm to be in the right place. I admit to having large hands but the pad sat way too high up the palm to serve its purpose effectively. I'd be interested to see how the men's glove fitted.
The gloves look the part. The blue is fresh and striking and the reflective S is a nice addition. The Ultrasuede nose wiping strip on the top edge of the thumb feels like natural suede and is fab for quickly whisking away snot trails.
In addition to keeping the wind chill at bay, feeling cosy, not being too bulky and looking the part, the gloves can hold off light drizzle pretty well. They will not stand up to consistent rain for too long though.
The price tag is not excessive considering that these gloves perform brilliantly in temperatures from 5 to 12 degrees. Just be careful with sizing and perhaps even opt for the men's version if you have larger than average hands.
Surprisingly outstanding wind protection and breathability without bulk, let down a little by poorly positioned padding
road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful WS Essential W Glove
Size tested: Medium ,Blue/Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Sportful says that it's 'the essential winter riding glove with warm Windstopper® back, fleece-lined palm, and dialed-in fit. This glove is suitable for cooler (5-10 degrees), dry weather days...'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*Gore WindStopper® 4 Way Warm back of hand.
*Synthetic palm with light padding and fleece lining.
*Ultrasuede® wipe strip on thumb.
*Thermodrytex Plus inside of wrist for great fit.
*Reflective S outline logo.
Really neat seams with minimal potential for fraying.
Certainly stopped the wind without allowing the palms to become sweaty. The synthetic palm material provides good friction against the bars but the fingers lack grip against the levers – Sportful hasn't used any silicone gripper at all.
No signs of wear at the tips like many gloves can be prone to. The gloves could be considered featureless but Sportful has omitted things that tend to wear quickly or accelerate wear – Velcro straps, silicone gripper, excessive padding with associated seams...
A snug fit and a great feel – really cosy. I found them short in the palm, though – the little bit of padding that was built in did not sit over the heel of my hand; it needed to be larger to offer full protection. I do have large hands but the gloves definitely fell short here. The finger length was about right.
I tested a medium and it only just fit; the sizing is more like petite sizing. Might be even worth going for the men's version if you have larger hands.
Felt great on – a snug fit and fleecy lining. Despite my grumbles about the palm padding I never really felt sore on the heel of my hand, even after a long ride.
There are certainly cheaper options out there but they may not look so good or offer protection against the wind with the levels of breathability that these do in such a range of temperatures – 5-12 degrees accounts for a large proportion of average days in the UK! In short, you'll get your money's worth in the long run.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
An excessively large label told me to wash it at 30 and not tumble dry it. The gloves came out just fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Top rate protection against the wind with excellent breathability.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The excellent protection against the wind without excessive bulk and no sweaty palms.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The padding being poorly proportioned and no lever finger grip.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? The men's glove, yes. The proportioning of the women's does not suit my large hands.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, with a warning about sizing.
Use this box to explain your score
Excellent wind protection and breathability without excessive bulk, slightly let down by strangely proportioned palm padding which wasn't really suitable for women with larger hands.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…