Because these cycle mitts are from Rapha they're much much more than just cycle mitts, obviously. They're Grand Tour Gloves for a start. Made from African Hair Sheep leather, which is the finest available apparently, the leather isn't just put together in a hand shape, it's cut by skilled craftsmen and worked by hand for its characteristic texture and suppleness. That padding on the palm is 2mm pads from army sniper gloves, well, what else did you expect, none of that common gel or dull foam here. And the price is to Rapha's own exclusive standards too.
Initially they're almost fetishistically tight and tricky to pull on and take off, especially the latter, but a couple of rides in and they soften up and mould perfectly to your hand, actually fitting better the more you wear them to become like a second skin and supremely comfortable. They don't bunch or wrinkle like other gloves can which means absolutely no rubbing points or sore patches and century rides can go past without any palm grief at all.
Being leather they're breathable, wick sweat away, delightfully grippy, aren't bothered by rain and they don't get stinky if you have to wear them several days in a row. Being well perforated on the back of the glove, with a row of extra bigger reinforced knuckle holes keeps them breezy too, and you get a bonkers tan with these mitts. The Rapha embossed Velcro closure round the back of the hand is large and secure.
That sniper padding on the palm is a thin but firm universal thickness high-density foam without the random lumps and bumps of 'Ergo' gloves, but they do have subtle extra sections of padding around the thumb and forefinger to bolster those wear points. They're all the better for this simple approach, allowing just the right combination of comfort and road feel. The gloves are double stitched at key wear points for reinforcement, and having had decent road mitts start to unravel after just one ride in the past this is a Good Thing. After quite some mileage the Grand Tour's are still in one piece with no flailing panels or loose threads anywhere.
Wonderful to wear that they are there's a handful of things that make the Rapha gloves a bit of a pain. There's no snot-wipe on the thumb, which isn't a necessity but it's absence is an annoyance, you can wipe goo and sweat away with the back of the thumb out of habit but it's slimy and mostly horrible and doesn't absorb. The Grand Tour gloves don't respond well to the day-to-day realities of cycling either, they don't like getting dirty, or like getting dirty too much actually, should you puncture or have a mechanical and have to wrestle with road grime they grubby up alarmingly quickly, which leads on to the next issue; they can't be casually thrown in the washing machine with the rest of your kit like most other gloves. Rapha recommend hand-washing, that is, washing them with your hands still in them, which again is almost fetishistic, and then finishing them off with some leather treatment cream. This can be a faff, although if you've spent that much on some gloves it's probably the least you can do, bar sending them away to some specialist glove cleaners.
Finally there's the look, some really liked them and their classic styling, others wondered if they were golfing gloves, or asked if the Frogeye Sprite would be taken out for a spin to a country pub after the ride. Such wags on the Sunday ride.
It takes a few rides to break the Rapha Grand Tour Gloves in but once they've moulded themselves to your hands they'll be the most comfortable gloves you'll ever wear. Really. They form perfectly to your hand so don't get the wrinkled rub points that some other gloves can gift you half way through a long ride, are hard wearing, breathable, shrug off rain and give you a tan of some pride. The downside to all this is nowhere to wipe your nose, they get filthy dirty stupidly quickly and then they'll need delicate washing, which almost becomes a post-ride ritual. Are they worth up to four times as much as other quality road gloves? That's a tough one to justify, the fit and comfort and the feel is certainly worth some premium over more affordable gloves, and their construction would suggest that they're going to still be going long after other gloves have disintegrated. You could whinge about the price, and people will do because it's the standard knee-jerk reaction to Rapha, but buying them isn't mandatory. I wonder if those same people hammer on the windows of the Aston Martin showroom shouting that a Kia does the same job for a fraction of the price. Probably.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Mens Grand Tour Gloves
Size tested: White - M
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?
Rapha say their Grand Tour Gloves are the ultimate glove for the serious road cyclist. Made from super soft and breathable African Hair Sheep leather, they offer the confidence and feel of cycling bare-handed but with the highest levels of protection and comfort. The leather is cut by skilled craftsmen, worked by hand for its characteristic texture and suppleness, the gloves have road-specific padding with extra padding around the thumb and forefinger, slim and unobtrusive, this high-density foam offers excellent shock absorption and control. Double stitched at key wear points for reinforcement they're fastened at the cuff with a velcro strap. Leather gloves look and feel beautiful and get better with age. Buy them slightly tight and they will stretch to the shape of your hands for a perfect fit.
The 'ultimate' glove? Yes; in that they're the most comfortable road glove I've ever worn and in that they have a few issues that ultimately let them down.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
African Hair Sheep leather, hand stitched with double stitching at key wear points, road-specific pad design using 2mm pads from army sniper gloves, knuckle holes, Velcro fastener with stamped Rapha logo.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For a pair of cycling gloves they did their job perfectly; making riding a bike comfortable on the paws, they were let down by their inability to cope with real world situations.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit, the comfort, the longevity, the look.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The cost, lack of a snot wipe, and the cleaning rigmarole.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? I couldn't justify that spend myself, plenty could though, but if someone were to buy them for me as a present I certainly wouldn't slap them in the face with them.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? I'd recommend them for their comfort, and then I'd caveat their flaws.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 180cm Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he’s not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he’s not doing either of those he’s pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he’s agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours doesn’t. He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.