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Verdict: 
Comfortable and classy looking unpadded mitts – on the outside at least
Weight: 
18g
Contact: 

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.

  • Pros: Seamless palm, soft fabrics, subtle dotty design
  • Cons: Price, untidy stitching

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.

> Buy these online here

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.

Rapha Souplesse Mitts - palm.jpg

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.

Rapha Souplesse Mitts - back of hand.jpg

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.

> Read more road.cc reviews of cycling mitts

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.)

Rapha Souplesse mitts seams and stitching.JPG

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.

Rapha Souplesse Mitts - detail.jpg

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.

Verdict

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?

Rapha lists:

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

Main

Polyester 86%

Elastane 14%

Palm

Polyester 80%

Polyurethane 20%

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
6/10

A little untidy looking inside, and nothing to shout about, but they're holding together just fine.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

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.

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

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.

Rate the product for fit:
 
9/10

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.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
7/10

See above re medium and large...

Rate the product for weight:
 
10/10
Rate the product for comfort:
 
7/10

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.

Rate the product for value:
 
4/10

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.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 54  Height: 169cm  Weight: size 10-12

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's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.

6 comments

Avatar
deanj [9 posts] 1 week ago
4 likes

Many years ago there was a middle manager so exceedingly fond of new cycling gear that he spent all his money on it. He cared nothing about going for a ride except to show off his new gear. He had a gilet for every hour of the day.

One day a swindler came to town. He let it be known that he was the purveyor of the finest cycling gear. Not only were his colours and patterns uncommonly fine, but his gloves had a wonderful way of providing comfort without any padding.

"Those would be just the gloves for me," thought the middle manager. He paid the swindler a large sum of money for a pair. Fifty bleedin' quid.

"How comfortable your gloves look. Aren't they becoming!" he heard on all sides. "That pattern, so perfect! Those colours, so suitable! They go really well with your £200 Castelli bib shorts ."

So off went the middle manager with his friends on their Pinarellos and Canyons. Everyone in the streets said, "Oh, how comfortable are those new gloves! Don't they fit him to perfection? And they look very aero as well."

"But those gloves haven't got any padding" a little child said.

"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said the child's father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "Those gloves have no padding. A child says they haven't got any padding."

"But those gloves haven't got any padding" the whole town cried out at last.

The middle manager shivered, for he suspected they were right.

Avatar
Xenophon2 [40 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

I'm waiting for Rapha to bring out a 100 quid pair that are so light and transparent that you can't feel nor see them at all, yet are wonderfully comfortable and get glowing reviews.

50 pounds for a piece of poorly stitched, designed in the accounting department and made in China fabric....

 

Avatar
Zermattjohn [329 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

'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.'

So what exactly is the purpose of these gloves then?

Avatar
Tass Whitby [82 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
Zermattjohn wrote:

'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.'

So what exactly is the purpose of these gloves then?

I think (can't remember) Ian didn't wear gloves at all - or maybe just ones for warmth. I don't like not wearing gloves at all. If I fell off I'd rather scuff gloves than skin. And they provide just a little extra comfort, all over the palm, without particular raised/squishy bits. If that makes sense.

Avatar
CAF2012 [11 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

For the OMG-how-much brigade, you can try these: https://www.evanscycles.com/fwe-bkb-mitt-EV321607

I have both, and prefer the Rapha (which admittedly I got on sale as I had a bit of an attack of the OMG-how-much) but not sure I prefer the Rapha by £40. As with Tass, I prefer to scuff gloves and not skin and I find I get fewer blisters with these gloves than without, and a lot fewer blisters than with padded gloves.

ETA: oh yes, the other reason for wearing gloves: exercise-induced rhinitis (which these deal with just fine).

Avatar
Xenophon2 [40 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

It's not the price that I mind, simply that you don't seem to be getting a lot in return (not taking into account the intangibles associated with the 'Rapha' badge).  My personal worst value glove purchase ever are a pair of Assos Evo 7 raingloves.  Fingers become numb, they offer next to no thermal insulation and even worn with a liner, become wet from transpiration and take a hell of a long time to dry out.  After a week they smelled like something died in 'em.  I hope you don't get to prove my  point but I'm not too sure that the Raphas would offer a lot of protection in case of a fall.  But I hear you on the rhinitus thing.