Happy Hands: Lizard Skins Gloves

Happy Hands: Lizard Skins Gloves

In my personal use, long-finger gloves were something I wore in cold weather and at cyclocross races. At least, that was my practice for a good 20 years.  I didn’t wear them for mountain bike rides. More recently, however, I’ve begun wearing them for gravel rides as well as mountain bike rides, and pretty much all of them—the rides, not the gloves, that is.

For all the gloves I’ve tried in the last three years, only a handful have had a fit good enough to be worth owning. Despite the variance in hand size, we are expected to fit our mitts into usually no more than three sizes. That’s not a problem for gardening gloves or some winter warmers, but when you need sensitivity and fine control for shift and brake levers, loose material around your index finger isn’t just inconvenient, it can be dangerous. Have your finger slip off a brake lever because it either doesn’t grip well enough or is too stretchy and … well let’s not go there.

This summer I’ve been wearing four different gloves from Lizard Skins. The company is best known for its grips, and to a lesser degree for its bar tape. The gloves are part of their Monitor line: the Monitor, Monitor SL, Monitor AM and the Monitor SL Gel. The only one not part of this review is the Monitor HD, which is more of a downhill glove.

Let’s cover some specifics and then I’ll cover my broader perspective.

Monitor
In many ways, though it is the simplest glove of the bunch, it’s my favorite. The Monitor has no buzzers, bells or whistles. It’s a padless, closure-less glove with a mesh back for breathability on hot days. The palm and fingers are cut from a synthetic suede that resists stretching—even when wet. The thumb is backed with Terry cloth so you can wipe whatever happens to be dripping. Silicone grippers are printed on both the index and middle fingers and a slightly thinner material is used on the fingertip of the index finger to allow you to operate your smart phone without having to remove a glove. The gloves present a snug fit for excellent articulation; I’ve managed to sign a release form while wearing these and have my signature look authentic. The Monitor comes in six sizes: XS-XXL, literally the only line of gloves I’ve encountered to come in so many sizes. I wear the medium; I’m relatively fine-boned but my fingers are long enough to reach a ninth on the piano. They also come in six colors. Suggested retail is $24.99. Temperature-wise, I’d wear this anywhere from up into the low 80s (F) down into the mid 60s.

Monitor SL
Need a bit more durability and comfort for slightly cooler temperatures? The SL uses a textured knit on the back of the index and middle finger for more durability along with Lycra behind the ring and little fingers (plus silicone hits) to keep breathability high. It also uses TPR wrist closure for a more adjustable fit. Like the Monitor, it comes in six sizes; it’s available in five colors. Suggested retail is $29.99. It’s a good choice for someone who needs a little stretchier fit. I have worn these into the mid-50s.

Monitor AM
As in All-Mountain. This glove adds two pads near the heel of the hand to reduce shock from impacts or just a long day. It also changes the back of the glove to a tougher knit and adds lightweight padding behind the knuckles, and keeps the TPR closure. It’s nice for branches in singletrack or when the thistle gets tall, or frankly, some of the bar bumping I’ve experienced in crits. Six sizes and four colors; $31.99. It’s not a winter glove, but it performs better than the others on a cool day.

Monitor SL Gel
This glove is virtually identical to the Monitor SL except that it adds three pads. The pads are gel, and firmer than those used in the Monitor AM. Two pads are located along the outer edge of the glove, like the Monitor AM, plus one more just under the base of the thumb. I’ve got a two-day Grasshopper coming up and I plan to wear these for it. Like the others, these come in six sizes, plus three colors. They’re only $34.99.

One of the hallmarks of the Lizard Skins gloves is the way they cut the sythetic suede in the fingers. There’s more material where you need it—at the fingertips, but narrows where articulation is needed, particularly at the second knuckle.

When it comes to sensitivity and full-finger gloves, I’ve realized there is a dividing line for me, one that is bright and clear as the sky over the Mojave, and that can be summed up thusly: Di2. Shimano’s two-button electronic shifter is the quickest way to find out if a glove doesn’t offer enough sensitivity.

When I think about what we will spend on a. great pair of bib shorts, and how important our hands are to our riding, I’m genuinely surprised to think that a great pair of gloves can be had for less than $100.

The challenge in reviewing gloves is the knowledge that they have to be as snug as a skinsuit to do their job well and even a minor variance in hand size or finger length can cause a glove to fall short. Even among the various models of the Monitor the fit varied some, with the Monitor AM offering the snuggest fit, followed closely by the Monitor and then the Monitor SL and the Monitor SL Gel presenting a fit that was a bit more forgiving.

And while it may seem a silly thing to cheer, the Terry cloth on the thumb is a feature that is more valuable than a shower beer. The use of ultra suede or something even less absorbent is a trend that needs to be stamped like an outbreak of Ebola. I’ll stop feeling silly about this the next time sweat is running down my face.

Final thought: Cheaper than a good lunch and lasts a lot longer.

 


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6 comments

  1. Road Mike

    I bought a pair of Lizard Skins gloves based on good experiences with the brand, but I was disappointed with the strange fit and poor durability–mine lasted less than a full season. They were affordable (on sale) so it wasn’t an expensive mistake, but I won’t be buying them again.

  2. Gustavo

    What a well-timed article. For many years, as in decades, I remained gloves-free. I even bragged that I’d wear gloves once temps go under 5C/41F. I live in the Boston Metro area and learned to go without it.

    On the other hand (pun intended), for a lean guy I do *sweat* a lot. In our hot muggy New England Summers, I saw myself sometimes struggling to control the bike on fast rides, local training races or just reg rides due to slippery sweat. As a result, bartape would smell bad, handlebars would get pitted after 1 season, and levers would gunk up if bike was not washed frequently (which I did anyway). A trackie friend of mine turned me on to summer, full-fingered gloves. I got myself 2 pairs of *very light*, no padding, 100% gloves, and never looked back. No more smelly mess, full control of the bike, and just like wearing a light poly hat under helmet, full fingered gloves are measurably cooler than no gloves or no poly hat under helmet. I can’t ride without gloves now, and am better for it.

    I’ll take a look at those gloves, but it’d be worth noting that summer gloves are worthy of reviews too. That is, if your summers are muggy and/or HOT.

    Thanks for the article,

    Gus

  3. Rick Tan

    I used to only wear non-full-fingered gloves such as the old Specialized BG gel gloves, after that, it was a Pearl Izumi, all of which were open-fingered gloves. The glove material was a mesh-material and it helped with cooling. These were nice because there was no need to remove the gloves in order to operate a touch-screen iPhone. But these were terrible on descents and you’d get numb hands fairly quickly.
    Then I gravitated towards full-fingered gloves, still with the mesh-material for cooling. Not as convenient because it required removing the glove to operate a touch-screen iPhone, but thankfully, my Element Bolt is not touch-screen, and I use that for the GPS/route guidance. However, the mesh-material is a shortcoming during a 30+mph descent on a long ride far from help/support. While the mesh-material kept my hands from freezing, it did not prevent a bee from hitting my glove and the bee getting stuck in the mesh-material. The bee managed to sting me through the mesh-material and thankfully, I did not crash in the process of getting my hand stung. Luckily, I’m not bee-sting allergic.
    Now, I’m using full-fingered Gore Windstopper gloves. The material should stop a bee sting and it has been cool enough to ride in 100degree temps. Still no solution for a touch-screen, though.
    Thankfully, I haven’t had a bee/wasp get caught inside my helmet through the air vents and sting me. (Knock on wood).


    1. Author
      Padraig

      The alternative to taking off your glove when the touchscreen won’t recognize your touch is to lick the tip of your glove. I don’t know why it works, but it does.

  4. Hautacam

    Maybe I am just a paranoid old dude but I wear full fingered gloves on all surfaces on all but the hottest of days (85 + degrees). Because, crashing. When you make your living pecking at a keyboard and your family needs you to use your hands to do family stuff, you really don’t want to lose a bunch of skin and dexterity for an extended period of time. It felt weird the first summer but not after that. Now I feel naked if I ride without gloves. Regular shorty gloves are for the hottest days and nice summer event rides.

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