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When I first tried on the Rapha Souplesse Mitts I thought they were going to be too small and uncomfortable, but I was wrong. They do come up short, with the soft pseudo suede palm finishing on the heel of the hand, but it's deliberate – to stop you overheating at the wrist. And although they're unpadded I can confirm that they're comfortable for at least 84 miles of cycling along bumpy backroads.
Last year, Dave interviewed Ian Walker after his epic 4,300km North Cape winning ride, and one of the things Ian said that caught my attention was to do with gloves. Rather than use padded gloves, he said, let your bar tape provide the cushioning and that way you'll avoid having pressure from gel/padding just on the same parts of your hand continuously.
My hands suffered a bit in the damp and cold of 2017's wettest-ever Deloitte Ride Across Britain, and Ian's advice made me think that I've been wrong in always seeking out mitts with padding.
And... so far so good. I've tried these Rapha mitts and some similar unpadded ones from Supacaz and both have proved perfectly comfortable – and issue-free – after hours of riding.
I've used these Souplesses on rides into work, and short and long training rides at the weekends – 84 miles being their longest tour of duty so far – and can report no problems.
The 'AX suede' (80% polyester, 20% polyurethane) palms are seam-free and soft, providing enough protection in combination with my bar tape (old and new). I can also – sadly – report that they're grippy in torrential rain as well as the dry.
The backs are stretchy, with a subtle dotty pattern I really like ('Urban chic'), and mould tightly to the hand without putting pressure between your fingers like some can.
I tried both the medium and large, having consulted the old Souplesse Mitts size guide initially... Both fit well, the medium not too tight and the large not too loose, so the difference is minimal. Both sizes come up quite short on the heel of the hand, but as I said earlier that's deliberate, to stop your wrist overheating. And while it feels a bit odd off the bike, you don't notice when riding.
They're also easy enough to get on and off, with a grosgrain pull at the wrist and on two fingers, though I've not really bothered using those.
For a £50 pair of mitts, the stitching on the inside leaves a little to be desired. It seems strong enough but is quite untidy looking, as are the raw seam edges. It's all meant to be very minimal, though, so maybe flatlock stitching wouldn't have been appropriate. (I asked and was told that flatlock stitching isn't possible with most seams in gloves.)
On the inside, the stitching where the puller on the wrist is attached can irritate, and I also found one finger end a bit scratchy where the seam ended – but happily, I couldn't feel either once I was riding. Maybe the angle they sit at changes how they rest against the skin, I don't know, but it was a good thing to discover.
That £50 price tag marks them as the most expensive of the last 20 mitts we've tested on road.cc – by a penny – and only three are above £40. But if you've been struggling to find unpadded gloves that don't leave your hands sore and blistered, it could be a price worth paying.
Comfortable and classy looking unpadded mitts – on the outside at least
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Souplesse Mitts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says, "A lightweight, comfortable mitt for high-intensity training and racing.
"Your hands are a key yet often overlooked contact point between rider and machine. The Souplesse Mitts have been upgraded to balance comfort and dexterity whether you're in the drops or on the tops, shifting gear or braking hard.
"The palm is made of water-resistant, resilient suede material that provides grip on the handlebars but is soft next to the skin. A subtle heat embossed logo is positioned just above a grosgrain pull at the wrist which, together with two more on the thumbs, makes getting the mitts on and off much easier. On the back of the hand, we've used a breathable fabric with excellent mechanical stretch and an embossed polka dot pattern. The amount of seams has been minimised for comfort in any position on the handlebar. The thumb panel is pre-shaped for improved articulation while a double layer of fabric at the wrist creates a rolled cuff rather than a seam that could cause irritation."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Designed for racing and training in all conditions
Raised rubber Rapha logo
Minimal seams for a frictionless fit
Stretch fabric creates a secure fit at the wrist
AX suede palm provides grip in the wet
Grosgrain pullers for easy removal
A little untidy looking inside, and nothing to shout about, but they're holding together just fine.
Slight irritations you can feel off the bike disappear while riding. There's no padding so they're not hugely cushioning, but the soft suede palm does provide a pleasing degree of comfort and I had no problems/issues/blisters after an 84-mile ride on bumpy back roads.
All fine so far, though it's fairly early days. The stitching doesn't look that robust but it's holding up, so my fears remain unfounded.
I tried both the medium and large, having consulted the old Souplesse Mitts size guide initially... Both fit well, so the difference is minimal. They do come up quite short on the heel of the hand – but that's deliberate (to stop your wrist overheating). And while it feels a bit odd off the bike, you don't notice when riding.
See above re medium and large...
Some of the stitching – at the ends of the fingers and at the underside of the wrist – can irritate when off the bike, but oddly (happily) it's unnoticeable when riding.
Nearly twice the price of the similarly minimal Supacaz SupaG mitts I've also been testing. I'd like neater stitching for the money. They are comfortable, though.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy – in the wash with the rest of your sports kit. No Velcro to worry about.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
In terms of comfort on the bike they're really good. At first I thought they were going to be too short and cause a problem on the heel of my hand, but they didn't.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The smooth palm without any seams to cause rubbing or blisters.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The slightly irritating stitching when you're not riding, and the price.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Expensive – the Supacaz SupaG mitts are £29.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're very good, but they're expensive for what they are – and the stitching quality leaves a little to be desired for the price, even if it doesn't affect on-bike comfort. Overall that says 7 to me, rather than 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Venon My best bike is: Paulus Quiros
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: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding
Tass is our production pedant, who boldly goes hunting for split infinitives, rogue apostrophes and other things up with which she will not put. She joined road.cc in 2015 but first began working on bike magazines way back in 1991 as production editor on Mountain Biking UK, then deputy editor of MTB Pro, before changing allegiance to road cycling as senior production editor on Cycling Plus. She's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.