Testing and comparing 13 minimalist riding gloves from as many brands is basically akin to testing a baker’s dozen domestic beers: They’re good on hot summer days. And while all taste very similar, there are a few minute but sometimes distinguishing details that can make or break them. After months of rotating back and forth between this, differences and nuances became clear as, well, light beer. One such nuance was just how bad a lot of them are for use on touch screens, despite direct compatibility claims.
Like with most apparel, fit is very subjective. If I say something has a “good” fit, I mean it is form-fitting. Many lightweight gloves are so flexible that they can feel almost baggy. For clarity, I generally ride a size large glove, and have long slightly slender fingers and smaller than average wrists. Given that all of these gloves are stretchier than average, though, a good fit on me will be a good fit on you. Beyond that, the differences are subtle, but spending all season wearing one type of glove, you learn a thing or two.
Fox Flexair $35
- Amazing ride feel on bars and brakes.
- Good Touch Screen Sensitivity.
- Not as breathable as some.
The Fox Flexair has the best ride feel of the bunch, or really of any glove I’ve owned. These are what I reached for more often than any of the others in this group. I like Fox’s TrueFeel system, which puts little grippy studs on the inside of the fingers for a more tactile feel. I don’t know if there is a tangible performance benefit here, but they feel great. If you’re not a fan of silicone fingertip grippers, Fox’s approach may convert you. Fit wise, the Flexair worked well with my long fingers, and didn’t bunch up when gripping the bars. Also, the touch-screen sensitivity is quite good on these, bested only by the Troy Lee Designs’ Ace 2s. The back paneling on these isn’t quite as vented as many others in the test, but they didn’t trap heat either; the open-mesh finger gussets really help keep these gloves at a good temperature while riding. Long-term durability is a concern of mine: the palms and fingertips are showing a bit more wear than I’d expect despite the extra miles put on these.
Troy Lee Designs Ace 2 $36
- Best touchscreen sensitivity I’ve experienced.
- Light, and breathable.
- Large terry cloth panel.
- I wish they fit my particular hands a little better.
Quality and attention to detail is what we expect from Troy Lee Designs’ products, and the Ace 2s live up to these expectations. They are light, breathable, and really comfortable. The fit was good, but not quite as snug and form-fitting as some of the others were for my particular hands. Length felt true to size, so I wouldn’t have gone for a medium. These may be best suited for anyone who tends to find today’s mountain bike gloves a little tight. But the touch-screen sensitivity on Aces was the best of the group: I could basically operate my iPhone as if I had no gloves on whatsoever. Overall I was really impressed by these. Aces, indeed.
Giro Rivet CS $36
- Almost impossibly lightweight and breathable.
- Great fit, and dialed palm shape.
- Can slightly feel the three-piece-palm seams.
Giro’s Rivet gloves have long been one of my go-tos for lightweight gloves, and for good reason: They feel impossibly light, and breathe incredibly well. The CS stands for Cool Skin, which refers to the ultra vented palm material. I liked the shape that the three-panel palm offers, but could feel the seams through the palms. This is something that I got used to though, and over time basically forgot about. The rest of the fit is nice and snug and form fitting.
100% Sling $40
- Fit, feel, and breathability are great.
- Super stylish.
- No sweat wipe material.
The Sling’s were a real sleeper in the group for me. Overall fit and finish were tip-top, and I really liked the venting on the back (though I imagine it could make for some weird polka-dot tan lines). The palm material is “Cool Skin,” akin to Giros’ Rivet CS. Aesthetically speaking, I find the slings to be the best of the group. They feel like the future, if the future didn’t have sweat/nose wipes on its gloves.
Tasco Fantom Ultralight $38
- Fit is fantastic.
- Super breathable.
- Large terry cloth panel.
- Touchscreen sensitivity is spotty.
- Tend to get cosmetic snags.
The Fantoms are fantastically light and breathable. The fit has that slim, second-skin feel, and they are some of the best-looking gloves of the dozen. Better touch-screen sensitivity would push these gloves way up the list for me. The terry cloth thumb panel takes up almost the whole thumb. Enough to soak up a cool morning’s worth of snot, or even to get a semi streak-free quick wipe of the glasses … but probably not both, I suppose. Abrasion resistance on the backs could be better as they have a tendency to get cosmetic snags.
RaceFace Indy $50
- Very comfortable.
- Lightweight and breathable.
- Unique seam shapes fingers are more noticeable against the skin.
- Better touchscreen sensitivity would make these standouts.
The Indy gloves check the boxes: Light weight: Yep! Breathable: Yes! Comfortable: You betcha! The vented synthetic leather palm is also very breathable and offers a good close feel when throwing shapes on the bike. Like a lot of the other gloves here, better touch-screen responsiveness would really make these shine. Also, the $50 price tag is a bit on the loftier side, though the wrap-around palm material on all four fingers is doing its best to address a common failure point.
Chromag Habit $36
- Simply comfortable and reliable.
- Large terry cloth panel.
- Literally cool.
- Not quite as refined as others.
The Habits are basically exactly what you’d expect a glove made by Chromag to be: Simple, functional, and well-built. These weren’t the lightest, or most refined in the test, but I found them to be comfortable and reliable. The Habits are cool in both form and function. I did wish the touch-screen sensitivity was a bit better. I also think that, over time, the chromag bear logo on the back may start to flake off, but that’s a minor complaint.
Dakine Vectra $30
- Reinforced fingertips to prevent blow-outs.
- Great breathability.
- An almost gloveless bar feel.
- Palms can get just a little bunchy.
Overall a really solid glove. Great breathability. I appreciate the wrap-around reinforced fingertips, as this is a common spot for a glove to blow up. Fit-wise, the fingers were a bit wide, but the length was great (I probably have more slender fingers than average). The silicone-mesh palm was offered great breathability and bar feel, but I found myself wishing it were a bit more rigid.
Specialized Trail Air $25
- Nice palm material.
- Well built.
- Not as breathable as others tested here.
Not the lightest or most breathable of the group, but the Specialized Trail Air’s fit and finish are top-notch. Specialized’s “Body Geometry” fit is generally great for me, but I don’t like how the big red S often pads its gloves, so I was glad to see these were sans padding. The palm-material was the most leather-feeling of the synthetic leather gloves in this roundup, which I really appreciated. Overall a quality minimalist glove, that’s likely more durable than all the others touched on here.
POC Essential Mesh $45
- Crazy light and breathable.
- Large terry cloth panel.
- Sizes smaller than others.
I’m generally a large size glove, but had to opt for an XL from POC. This wasn’t much of a surprise, as I’ve found that I have to up-size most of POC’s apparel. The tighter fit was in length, not girth, so upsizing the gloves got me the correct length but they were perhaps a touch loose around my fingers. The palms are synthetic leather with plenty of holes for ventilation. I appreciated the generous terry wipe zone on the thumb on these as well.
661 Raji $25
- Super Breathable.
- I like the purple.
- Closure strap started coming apart during testing.
The breathability of the Raji gloves is great, with a super light back material, open-mesh finger gussets, and tons of holes in the synthetic leather palm and fingers. The 661 Raji was the only glove in the bunch to sport an adjustment strap. This normally would have disqualified the Raji from this list, but it’s one of the original minimalist gloves, so I wanted it in the mix. I’m generally not a strap guy for a few reasons: I have tiny wrists, so straps don’t fit me well, and this seems to be where my gloves usually fail. The strap on the Raji’s is very low-profile, and has a nice stretch to it, so it was easy for me to ride and ignore it. I was bummed, however, to see that stitching holding the hook-and-loop element to the strap itself started coming undone.
Leatt MTB 1.0 GripR $30
- Secure-feeling wrist closure without a strap.
- Happy-medium level of stretch in palm.
- A small terry cloth panel is better than no terry cloth.
- Seams along fingers are noticeable against the skin.
Given that the name “Leatt” is synonymous with protection, it may be a surprise to see them on a list of paper-thin gloves. The 1.0 GripR does feature some rubberized panels on the outermost fingers, and a couple on the back of the hand, but they’re mostly for protecting the fabric, not the skin beneath it. These are no more reinforced than any other gloves on this list, though the palm walks a perfect middle ground between too stretchy and too stiff. And despite the name “GripR,” there’s no silicone panels in the palm of fingertips. The fingers are especially form-fitting thanks to the “wave” seam along the inside edges, though you can feel those seams more than other gloves.
Gore C7 Pro $50
- So light and so thin.
- Super breathable.
- Palm material is a bit too stretchy for my liking.
- Huge, difficult to remove tag.
These are the lightest and airiest in the group. You can basically see through them if you hold them up to the light. They almost disappear. In fact, they may already have. One of the first gloves I tested, the C7 Pro is on closeout for $35 everywhere you look right now. Really, the tags inside the glove almost feel heftier than the gloves themselves, which is also, weirdly, a legitimate gripe about them because that tag is remarkably tough to cleanly cut completely out. Some might even say that Gore’s approach is actually too lightweight. On the bike, I found the palm material to be a bit too stretchy, as it would bunch up a bit when I was twisting on the grips or throwing a bit of body English into corners or off jumps.
Photos: Chris Wellhausen