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.
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.
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.
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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