The Bike List

Pearl Izumi PRO Softshell gloves £60

Tested by Ped Baker, tester for The Bike List

Winter cycling gloves are a bugger to get right. It’s a fine balance between making them warm enough for sub zero rides and not too warm, so that when you start pumping the pedals hard they don't become soaked in sweat.

The PRO Softshell gloves feature an insulation called Primaloft, a product woven from a fibre that’s claimed to be finer than cashmere. The insulation's fine weave gives it a water resistance that helps keep its tiny air pockets intact – crucial for insulation to work effectively. In the PRO Softshell the Primloft is sandwiched between stretchy nylon on the backs and Pittards leather on the palms. The glove is lined with fleece and a waterproof membrane is in there somewhere too.

As usual with gloves, sizing is a real issue. I have largish-sized hands and in the past would buy Large or Extra large gloves but, increasingly (and this is the case with the PRO Softshells), I’m having to buy size XXL. Something to consider if you’re buying gloves on-line.

The first thing you notice after slipping the gloves on is how soft and luxuriant they are. The fleecy lining is instantly cosy and a great encouragement to venturing out in bad weather. The cuffs are long enough to tuck inside the sleeves of a waterproof jacket for a draught-free fit. There’s a Velcro closure on the wrist but it’s very short and a little pointless.

Warmth is always going to be down to personal preference and depends on factors such as blood circulation, how hard you’re riding, the other clothing you’re wearing or the conditions you’re riding in. I found the PRO Softshells to be at their best when the temperature was close to or below freezing and riding at a spirited pace. When the temperature gets above 5°C they become a little sweaty. This is probably more to do with the waterproof membrane than the amount of insulation. I’ve yet to find a waterproof membrane in a glove that breathes well enough for anything but gentle riding. Riding at a slower pace they’re OK up to 10°C.

The biggest issue with the PRO Softshells is the palms. The leather is supple and grippy enough but the layering of materials means it’s difficult to get a good purchase on the bars. When riding off-road or standing out of the saddle your hands slide about on the layers and the effort to maintain a good grip quickly leads to fatigue or cramp of the forearms. A fix would be to stitch through all the layers on the palms to prevent the lateral movement, although this would damage the waterproof membrane. If your riding position puts much weight on your palms it’s worth noting that there’s no additional padding here either.

The next model up in the Pearl Izumi glove range is the PRO Softshell WXB3X1. They feature a breathable membrane that is bonded to the external layer of the glove, cutting down the amount of layers between hand and bar. Probably a better solution.

Compared to similar competition such as the Extra Cold Weather glove from Seal Skinz (£45), the PRO Softshells are on the expensive side. The Primaloft insulation performs well and the construction of the glove is excellent but details such as the short wrist strap and the ill-thought out construction of the palm let the glove down.

At a glance

Verdict Warm and waterproof winter glove, good for commuting or cold weather training. Layering of materials on the palm interferes with grip.
Value
Performance

Pearl Izumi says:

Our classic cold weather glove has been updated with Primaloft® insulation for optimal warmth without bulk.
  • P.R.O. Softshell provides optimal wind and water protection
  • Fleece lined
  • Pittards® WR 100X Natural Carbon Leather palm provides superior softness and durability
  • Hook and loop closure
  • Anatomic fit maximizes finger dexterity for shifting and braking
  • Reflective elements for low-light visibility
  • Soft fleece wiping surface on thumb
  • Waterproof insert provides an extra degree of warmth and weather protection
  • Primaloft® insulation provides optimal warmth without bulk