Assos Early Winter and Insulator Gloves

In the winter of 2000, I was standing in The Gap, trying to pick out a belt to go with some shoes I’d recently purchased when I ran across some microfleece gloves. They were on special for $7, because winter ends sometime in mid-January, and that old, unseasonal stock has to be cleared out, right? The material was thin by fleece standards, maybe five very compressible millimeters. I had some team gloves that were stretched out and I slid the microfleece beneath them, so that I had full-finger gloves with the grip of a traditional cycling glove while avoiding the liability of the bulky fingers that come with so many full-finger gloves. Here’s the thing: That combo kept my hands happy into the mid-40s, well below what I would have imagined I might tolerate.

Alas, the gloves wore out after six or seven years of use and I had to move on to other solutions. I’ve been searching for something as useful ever since. Or perhaps I should say I was searching for something as useful until I tried the Assos Insulator Gloves. I’ve been through gloves from a number of companies—seven at last count—basically anyone who offered something lightweight I tried. It’s not that the gloves in question were lousy, but either they weren’t as warm as what I’d had, or they were as warm as what I’d had, but were bulkier, so they reduced dexterity. The frustration has run for years for one simple reason—I’ve never been able to find microfleece gloves of quite the variety I purchased all those years ago.

I reached a point where I simply became curious about what was out there because I was so dissatisfied with everything I’d tried and that dissatisfaction metastisised to my wallet; I became willing to pay a king’s ransom just to get the glove I wanted. Even at full retail, the gloves I’d gotten from The Gap had only gone for $24; at that price I’d have purchased a couple of pair—if I could find them.

Enter the Assos insulatorGlove L1_S7. These are hands-down the lightest full-finger glove I can find. Unlike what I used previously, these feature a smooth polyester finish on the outside dotted with Assos’ silicone ProGrip to give your fingers a solid purchase on control levers, something I admit the original gloves lacked. At first glance, the suggested retail of $49.99 may seem pricey, but a quick review of some similar gloves shows they are going for $40 to $45. I prefer the Insulator Glove over other options for two reasons; first, due to excellent patterning resulting in very few seams, there’s a good deal less spare material inside the glove than I’ve found with competitors’ products. More seams increases bulk and decreases dexterity and sensitivity. Second, the glove has an exceptional fit, which owes something to the fact that it comes in a whopping seven sizes; I wear medium, the same size I wear in Assos jerseys and jackets.

These gloves have kept my hands warm into the low 50s. When combined with a slightly stretched out short-finger glove, they’ll keep me happy to the mid-40s. Life in Southern California means I don’t often encounter conditions colder than that. But I recently spent nearly three weeks in Memphis and that gave me the chance to try out the earlyWinterGlove_s7.

Most of the glove is constructed from a fleece-lined polyester; it’s surprisingly flexible given its weight. A second panel cut from a more durable polyamide, dotted with silicone grippers, is sewn over portions of the palm, as well as the thumb, and the middle and index fingertips for excellent grip. A long gauntlet ensures that the glove won’t leave your wrists exposed to the elements and a final gripper panel is sewn onto the inner side of the gauntlet to help you pull the gloves on. And as you can see from the photo, the way the glove is constructed, the thumb is articulated outward to make gripping the bar more comfortable.

While I Memphis I rode in temperatures ranging from the mid-70s all the way down to the mid-30s. On those mid-30s days I’d combine the Insulator Glove with the Early Winter Glove and stay fairly comfortable. Assos indicates the Early Winter Glove can be used in temperatures ranging from 43 to 54 degrees, Fahrenheit. Honestly, I’ve never worn the Early Winter Glove alone. I stick with the Insulator Glove until conditions are just too cold for it, and then I add the Early Winter Glove. Carrying a retail price of $139.99, this glove is definitely on the expensive side—I’ve seen gloves using similar materials for $100 to $130—but like the Insulator Glove, there are very few seams on the glove to help reduce excess material, and it is cut in seven sizes.

Think about it: Most manufacturers usually offer gloves in four or five sizes at best. A very few offer six sizes in gloves. When was the last time you ran across a manufacturer that offered gloves in seven sizes? In my experience, the effectiveness of a pair of gloves has more to do with patterning (how many pieces of material are used—more pieces means more seams) and sizing. I’ve yet to encounter any gloves cut from similar materials that fit as well or offer as much comfort.

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  1. Ashley

    I recently picked up a pair of women’s Pearl Izumi Cyclone gloves that are meant for similar weather, and I love them. They were only $40 at REI and work for me down to 40 degrees or so. They have great grip for riding, are compatible with touchscreens and I think are a good alternative for those with short-fingers 🙂

    – Ashley

  2. wade

    I have a pair of Manzella Power Stretch gloves I got on sale from the Clymb last year, and they are thin, windproof fleece with grip dots. Works all the way down to 40. Awesome and cheap. I think I paid $12. Just got a pair of Gore lobsters, but not cold enough yet to need them.

  3. tinytim

    Nice, seven sizes! I can’t argue with anything Assos. I have been using the lowest end bibshort they make for the last 4 years and they still are holding up well. Assos stuff can be expensive, but if you look at the online retailers from the UK, the prices become competitive with stuff of lower quality found in the states. Also, while I’m on the subject of UK e-retailers, I just purchased two new Campy groups; a silver Veloce 8-piece group for a new winter trainer for $450 and a 8-piece Athena group ($750) for a new steel road frame from waterford, a R-33.

  4. Walt S

    Hi All,

    I have, like Padraig, tried numerous pairs of gloves over several years. I even have a pair of the early winters gloves from Assos. The problem I have is that I have relatively large fingers but not necessarily large hands. The Assos gloves were too tight and eventually my fingers went numb. I have also tried the Pearl Izumi gloves mentioned above from REI. Same problem. To complicate things, wind is a huge problem in New Mexico, where the temps regularly dip into the 20’s in winter with 15-20 mph winds to make things even more frigid.

    If anyone has any glove suggestions, I would really appreciate your input.



  5. Wsquared

    A few months ago I picked up a pair of Castelli Super Nano gloves. Ultra light & they fit like they were painted on (note that they run pretty small, smaller than their sizing spec chart measurements suggest. I’d go one size larger.) Best transitional gloves I have ever owned, comfortable from about 40-65 degrees. Very supple Pittards palms with Castellis proprietary windproof backs. Though not “waterproof,” they still manage to keep my fingers warm when wet. I got caught in a driving rain, temp 50 degrees. After an hour, they were soaked, but my hands were still warm enough to ride without thinking about it. For me, warmth when wet is a key requirement for these kinds of gloves. Unlike some gloves that stay wet, they breath well and dry out pretty quickly on the bike. They are a bit pricey at $60 list, but you can find them discounted. I paid $45 and they are worth every penny.

    1. Author

      Andrew: Fair enough; its reputation is more for BBQ than arctic gear. Living in SoCal for the last 16 years, my trips back to Memphis are the best I can do. Mid-30s does register as cold for most of the U.S., but I respect that if you’re in, say Minnesota, almost no place else in the U.S. will register as cold. What qualifies as cold does get recalibrated for those northernmost states. Robot is in Boston and we plan to start funneling more cold-weather gear his way.

  6. Andrew

    I was, of course, teasing. Yes, MN does sort of change your perspective on cold weather gear. I had a funny ride last January in Scottsdale- I was in shorts with a silkweight shirt under my jersey. Several of the guys I was with were in parkas, as near as I could tell… : )The flipside of this is that I just die in the heat.

    FWIW- I’m a big fan of the Patagonia Expedition weight liner gloves. You can wear them alone under regular bike gloves down into the 40’s or 50’s, and they are awesome layering items under heavier riding gloves. I haven’t found anything better than the Pearl Izumi Amphib gloves for temps down into the 30’s (with or without the Patagonia liners), and then the Amphib lobster mitts for anything down into the teens (with the liner). Below the teens, I like a climbing mitten shell over other mittens. Bar end shifters are very helpful when you have mittens on, although you can sort of work regular shifters. In all honesty though- below 10F, and I start to think about doing stuff other than riding- it’s just too hard to deal with hands and feet. So much easier to ski or snowshoe.

    For feet- I’ve been happy with the Northwave winter boots I bought last year. A single pair of wool socks is good down to freezing. A thin pair of wool liner socks takes them into the 20’s. Below that, I add a pair of goretex sock liners I’ve had forever. Those make a big difference. Never had to go with another shoe cover over the winter boots, yet.

  7. Terry

    It’s nice that Assos has seven sizes but their sizes are smaller than equivalent American Sizes. Since I wear XXL Gyro gloves I doubt these gloves in an XL would be big enough for me.

  8. Scott

    A little grist for the mill. My first pair of early winter gloves were replaced under warranty after 3-4 months of use. The seam on several fingers split. Thinking that maybe the first pair were a bit small, I went up to the next size for the replacement pair. The second pair split on a finger seam; I conjured my sewing skills and repaired. I will not opt for a 3rd pair. I’ve had the best luck with Planet Bike’s version of a lobster glove and their liners. When temps are below 20F, I wear a polypro liner inside the liner glove. I live in Wisconsin so have some experience with cold.

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