Most, but not all, cyclists wear gloves in the summer. If you're newish to cycling, you might wonder why – it can't be because they have cold hands, right? The reasons are generally to ensure a good grip on the handlebar even when sweating, improve hand comfort and to help reduce superficial injury in the event of a crash. Fingerless gloves, or mitts, don't do a lot to help keep your hands warm, unsurprisingly. These Specialized Body Geometry Grail mitts keep things simple, with a padded synthetic leather palm and a mesh back, and I found them comfortable on and off road.
- Pros: Hard-wearing palm should last well; breathable back lets sweat escape; padding was generally comfortable; no Velcro to attack your washing; reasonable price
- Cons: A bit more fiddly to put on and take off without a Velcro tab; may be more padded than you need if you already have cushy bar tape
For years now, Specialized's Body Geometry brand has offered a range of cycling attire and accessories that are designed with the help of doctors to help keep you comfortable on the bike. Here, Dr Kyle Bickel, a hand and wrist specialist from San Francisco, has designed the Equalizer pad which is located in the centre of the palm, and Speciaized says that it is "scientifically tested to help reduce hand numbness by improving circulation and equalizing pressure in the soft tissues of the hand".
There is, it's fair to say, quite a wide divergence of where (or indeed if) you should have padding on your cycling gloves. A quick scan of mitts reviewed recently suggests that most gloves with palm padding tend to locate it on the heel of the hand (i.e. near your wrist) and under the knuckles, like these Castelli Espresso gloves. Others, like these from Supercaz, eschew padding altogether.
Interestingly, even Specialized's thinking on glove padding has changed significantly since 2012, when we reviewed its Gel Mitts, which had no padding in the centre of the palm, and gel under the knuckles and the heel of the hand. In reality, and as with all cycling contact points, there is no single right answer, and what works for one person will not suit another. Your preference will also likely vary depending on how much cush you have in your bar tape.
These mitts don't have a Velcro tab to open up the wrist and facilitate access, so they are a little bit tight to pull on. This had me wondering if the stitching could cope with the stress, but they've survived ample use with no evidence of it coming undone. Removal is also tight, and if they're wet from sweat it can be tighter still. Happily, there are a couple of little "pull pockets" on the middle finger and ring finger which help pull them off. Again, these could be a point of failure as they are quite highly stressed, but in my testing I found the synthetic leather material and stitching held up impeccably.
Once on, they fitted brilliantly and were plenty comfortable; I wore them for a 9.5-hour ride without giving them a second thought, which is about as good an endorsement as I can give (seeing as I am not going to be riding the Transcontinental any time soon). I think the absence of a Velcro tab on the back and the resultant reduction in bulk and number of seams gives a small improvement in comfort.
I got on well with the Equalizer pad too – finding that my hands were comfortable whether on the hoods, drops or tops, and also when riding a bike with a flat handlebar. If you have very cushy bar tape or grips then you may find that additional padding on the gloves isn't required, but for me it did the trick. The palm is made from synthetic leather with some perforations where the padding sits. The pad also has perforations, but I found it can move by a millimetre of so meaning that the holes might not line up. With your hands wrapped around taped handlebars, you obviously don't get masses of airflow into the palms anyway, and if you find your palms do sweat then you may be better served by gloves with mesh sections in the palm.
The back of the gloves is made from what Specialized describes as a "high stretch mesh". I think mesh is perhaps overdoing it, but it is amply breathable for warm summer riding. There are good sized snot-wipe sections too.
In the past I have bought gloves having been seduced by features like extensive mesh venting, lots of pads on the palm, snazzy logos on the Velcro tab and so on, and compared to some of the competition the Grail gloves look quite simple. I found that the fit was bang on, and probably because of this they remained comfortable for the longest rides I do, so I really liked these mitts.
Before I tested these, my go-to mitts were these ones from Kalf, which I really like and are a couple of quid cheaper too (and regularly in the sales at Evans). The padding design is totally different! I would say the Specialized Grails are maybe slightly more comfortable than the Kalf ones, and they cope a bit better with washing as the palm is synthetic rather than real goat leather, which can go a bit stiff after a wash. For a few quid more, George really rated these GripGrab mitts, whereas these slightly cheaper mitts from dhb didn't do it for Liam.
I'd end by reiterating that gloves are a personal preference – I know that some people are instantly infuriated if they can't get their gloves off quickly at the cafe, and if you're one of them, you'll be better served by mitts with a Velcro opening. I'd place a higher weight on comfort once I've got them on, so for me these gloves from Specialized are a winner and I like them a lot.
A bit more fiddly to put on and take off, but very comfortable indeed once they're on
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Body Geometry Grail Gloves
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Specialized says: "Featuring a proprietary pad system designed by Dr. Kyle Bickel M.D., our Grail gloves are ergonomically designed for the best possible fit and protection. They're scientifically tested to help reduce hand numbness by improving circulation and equalizing pressure in the soft tissues of the hand. Even further, you'll find a durable synthetic leather palm, breathable mesh at the top of the hand, and our acclaimed Equalizer gel padding at the palm."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Internal Body Geometry Equalizer™ padding was developed by Dr. Kyle Bickel M.D. to fill the recesses of the palm in order to create an even surface over the hand. This comes with the positive result of unrestricted bloodflow, which will greatly reduce numbness and tremendously enhance overall comfort.
Bonded palm pad; taped cuff opening edges.
Synthetic leather palm is both supple and durable.
High stretch mesh is placed at the top of hand for its soft, breathable qualities.
Absorbent Microwipe™ thumb surface for wiping away sweat.
Easy slip-on wrist cuff fits comfortably without inhibiting movement.
Good strong stitching and nice comfy materials.
Breathable back, reasonably hardwearing palm, these work well.
No issues observed.
Once they're on, the fit is very good indeed.
As per the sizing chart.
Not that it really matters, but these are somewhere in the middle of the available weight range for mitts.
Generally really comfortable in use. I found the palm padding worked well in a variety of hand positions.
It is cheaper than most of the last dozen or so mitts we've tested, with only dhb and Galibier gloves coming in at less. At this price point, if it is comfortable and lasts for a couple of seasons of fairly intensive use (which I would expect it to) then it's worth the money.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed fine, had no issues.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – kept my hands and wrists comfortable for long days' riding.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Excellent fit once on.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A bit more fiddly to put on and take off than some.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Simple, well fitted and very comfortable when they're on. If you don't mind the minor fiddliness in putting them on and taking them off, these are a great pair of mitts.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.