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As part of my duties as a member of the Ergon USA 2011 Commuter Team, I get to try out some brand-spanking-new products from the Ergon lineup. A few weeks ago, Ergon sent me a pair of their new HC1 gloves from their “Performance Comfort” series of products.

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Here’s a bit about the gloves directly from Ergon USA’s website:

The new Ergon HC1 is a short fingered glove, especially designed for use with the Performance Comfort series of grips. The glove features flexible yet robust mesh material for ventilation of the back of the hand. The thinly padded palm and fingers allows for increased feel and the benefits of Ergon grips not to be restricted. The ball of the hand has a slight increase in cushioning material for better pressure relief of this sensitive area.

The gloves retail for $35.95 and are available from Ergon’s online storefront.

As mentioned, they are made primarily of a lightly-padded mesh material on the top and a leather palm. The thumb area is made of a suede-like microfiber material. The mesh tops are not unlike the material used to make modern running shoes…and the mesh does a pretty good job at ventilating the hands, even in the heat.

Despite Ergon’s description, I can detect no padding whatsoever in the palms. Some portions of the palms have doubled material for durability, but as far as I can tell, that’s it. As they are designed as a system to be used with Ergon’s ergonomic grips (such as the GP1 BioKork grips, reviewed here), padding really isn’t needed. With those grips, the HC1 gloves are supremely comfortable. I often ride drop-bar road bikes for recreational and commuting purposes, though, and although I experienced no hand discomfort on rides up to about 30 miles, some people with more sensitive hands may want a bit more padding to protect delicate nerves.

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Unlike a lot of other gloves on the market, there are no “grippy” parts (silicone strips and the like) on the gloves, save for tiny strips at the tips of the fingers. The gloves are slightly scalloped here, creating little “tabs” at the ends of the fingers. Those tabs and silicone strips are there presumably to aid removal. That’s rather handy, too, as these gloves are a bit snug. Word to the wise: if you look at Ergon’s sizing chart and are right at the cusp between sizes, go for the next larger size. Ergon makes sizes to fit a lot of hands, from extra-small all the way through XXL.

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The gloves stay on with a simple hook-and-loop wrist closure. The strap is slim and unobstrusive, something I greatly prefer in a cycling glove as I move my hands around a lot. I do NOT like to get hung up on bulky straps. You can see in the picture just above how narrow and simple the strap is.

Do you get a runny nose when you ride? I sure do…even when it is super hot out. And I sweat a lot, so I really value gloves that have a decent “wiping surface”. This, perhaps, is where the HC1 lets me down. The thumb is made of a soft, nose-friendly microfiber…very “suedey”. But the area is cut a bit narrow for my tastes, and on either side it is bordered by a woven nylon material that is much rougher to the touch. The seams connecting these two materials are scratchy, too. Wipe with caution, or your nose and lips will be sore. I’d like to see a revised seam layout for this area, a more generous wiping area, or even a different choice of material (terry rather than microfiber). This is a pretty big deal for me; while it doesn’t ruin the overall picture for me, it makes these gloves not be my first choice when I am going out for a serious/strenuous ride. I’d still choose these gloves for shorter rides or for trips not requiring much in the way of sweat or effort…you know, like my commuting trips. Gotta protect those hands on the way to the workplace!

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My overall impression of these gloves is fairly favorable — they are well-made from good materials, simple, and effective for those of us who don’t need a lot of padding (or who are already using Ergon’s excellent grips). But, they’re not for everyone…the lack of padding and the nose-wiping weakness might be a deal-breaker for some. Be careful choosing the size, watch those seams against your noses, and things might just work out.

Be sure to check out Ergon USA’s website for information on their many other products, and stay tuned for further adventures with new goodies I will hopefully get my hands on to test.

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