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Product review: SealSkinz Fingerless Cycle Gloves

At the beginning of summer, the kind folks at SealSkinz offered us a pair of their new summerweight cycling gloves to try out. You may know SealSkinz as a maker of waterproof socks, hats, and gloves for outdoor activities such as hiking and hunting, but they’ve also got a number of cycling-specific pieces in their lineup.

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The SealSkinz gloves are lightweight, with a lycra back and a synthetic leather palm that is textured for grip. The middle and ring fingers have extra material at the tops that are fashioned as “pull tabs” to get the gloves off easier. There’s a hook-and-loop wrist closure, and reflective accents on the back of the glove.

The pair I tested is a size Large. They felt true to size, but with a small amount of bunching between the fingers (we’ll get to that in a bit).

The padding on the palm is rather thin, and at first I thought I’d have issues with that — my own hands are not particularly padded, and prefer a glove with dense padding in the palm, where possible. The SealSkinz gloves, despite the thin padding, didn’t let me down in terms of comfort, even for longer riders of 30-40 miles. Beyond those distances, I think I’d rather have something with more padding.

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For those who have read glove reviews I’ve done in the past, you may remember that the nose-wiping area of a glove is VERY important to me, summer or winter. The SealSkinz didn’t let me down there, either — the entire thumb is made of a soft microsuede material, with no protruding seams to rough up the sensitive nose area. I can wipe all day in comfort!

The grip is fantastic with the gloves, as is overall durability. I wore them all summer and racked up serious miles with the SealSkinz, and they still look pretty new, even after a couple of washings. The stitching and seams remained tight throughout the testing period.

The reflective accents on the backs are a nice touch, but I don’t know how effective they might be. The reflective effect is pretty subtle, and I was unable to get a good nighttime photo of the reflective bits in action.

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Perhaps my only gripe with the SealSkinz gloves is the cut of the fabric panels prior to sewing. I did notice a lot of extra material, especially between the fingers. I can’t help but think that the cutting patterns could be refined a bit to reduce some of this excess, helping to streamline them a bit and reduce bunching between the fingers. Since the material is naturally stretchy, this excess material isn’t needed to accommodate wider fingers than my own, either.

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The SealSkinz fingerless gloves retail for $35, and are available directly from the SealSkinz website. As of this writing, they are not in stock and do not appear on the company website even though they ARE a current product. I checked with their PR person just to make sure they weren’t discontinued for some reason. That $35 buys a well-constructed, lightweight glove that is ideal for warm-weather riding. The gloves are 100% designed in Great Britain, with much of the manufacture occurring in Great Britain as well. Take a look at the SealSkinz cycling lineup for a wide range of products to suit any rider at any temperature.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Review: Bluff Works commuter pants

Over the winter, Stefan Loble, the founder of Bluff Works, reached out to us to see if we wanted to try out his company’s pants. As it was still brutally cold where I lived, I agreed but knew it would be a while before I could give them a proper on-bike shakedown.

Well, many months later and we’ve finally gotten a good bit of use out of the pants. RL and I teamed up to offer our thoughts and observations of the pants for your review.

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First off, the pants themselves. Here are some details straight from the Bluff Works website:

* 100% technical, breathable quick-dry polyester. Nylon pockets.

* Zippered front hidden internal security pocket to deter pickpockets. Large enough to hold your passport.

* Rear zippered pocket sized for an oversized travel wallet.

* Discrete side pocket phone storage to keep you from sitting on it. Fits an iPhone or a Galaxy S4.

* Hidden loop to clip keys or a security badge inside your front pocket.

* Nickle-free jean tack closure.

* Interior pocket images made to inspire.

* Designed and manufactured in New York City, of imported fabric from Taiwan.

* Machine washable. Line or tumble dry.

One thing to make clear right up front: these pants are not marketed for bike commuters, nor do they have any bike-specific features. The features the Bluff Works DO have turn out to be great for we bike commuters, even if they were not specifically intended for us.

The stitching is tight and even, and the fabric feels like a very quality material. The Bluff Works are put together very nicely. They come in four colors: charcoal, classic grey, velvet brown, and light khaki. I got a charcoal pair to wear, and RL got khaki.

The zippered pockets and key-hanging tab are great for an active lifestyle. You don’t have to worry about items falling (or being lifted) from your pockets on the subway or the bike. The soft nylon inner pockets feel great against the skin, and are roomy enough for pretty much anything you need to carry. Best of all, the care instructions are printed right on the pocket liners!

Zippered inner pocket:
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Key tab:
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Instructions:
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Jack’s thoughts:

The polyester fabric is soft, and has a slight sheen. My wife didn’t care for the sheen, but I rather liked it. I think these pants make me look pretty good, and I think they make RL look good, too. As you may remember from our previous review of the Levi’s commuter pants, I think commuter-friendly pants should actually look the part of business-appropriate attire, not dolled-up jeans. The Bluff Works answer my prayers in that respect! I felt perfectly comfortable in casual situations as well as more formal events. Hell, I even wore these beauties to a memorial ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery, and a couple people remarked on my snappy duds.

The cut was overall pretty perfect for my body. I did find the waist-to-crotch measurement a bit snug, and you’ll see that RL did too. Otherwise, the pants were comfortable and stayed looking nice — no ironing needed after a wash.

As I mentioned, the pants aren’t geared specifically toward cyclists, so all the seams and whatnot are just where you’d expect them to be in a pair of regular street pants. That being said, I didn’t notice any discomfort riding with the Bluff Works pants on. They stayed nice, too — with the fabric warding off splashes and stains and staying wrinkle-free, you really could go directly from bike to boardroom in these!

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I give the pants a solid thumbs-up, but I’d love to see perhaps a reflective inner cuff or something to make them a little more bike-friendly for our purposes. And, at $88 for a really nicely-made pair of pants, designed AND manufactured in New York City, I really applaud that. I’ve spent more for lesser pants that didn’t look (or perform) half as nicely.

RL’s thoughts:

I liked the way they fit, a bit more slim than my other slacks, but they’re nothing like skinny or hipster jeans. It’s super hard for me to find pants with a 29″ inseam…yes, I’ve got short legs. When I received them I wore them to various holiday parties and events without having the need to iron or even wash them. Yes that’s correct, I didnt’ wash them for about 3 months! During those 3 months, I wore them about 5 different times. I didn’t have to iron them either. Basically after I wore them, I hung them on pants hangers, the kind that you clip the waist to. That allowed the fabric to relax and not get wrinkled.

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The material used isn’t as soft as some of my other slacks,but it is more durable. With that said, it’s thicker and rougher to the touch. They almost remind me of a better quality of Dickies work pants, but much more stylish. I dug the zippered pocket in the rear and the other in one of the side pockets. Speaking of side pocket, the right side had this cool loop that you can clip your keys onto for safe keeping.

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Surprisingly the Bluff Works pants never caught a stain nor did any of the stitching come undone. I wear these pants anytime I am going to a business meeting, church, or on a hot date with my wife. She actually likes the way these fit on me. One thing you have to look out for, MOOSE KNUCKLE. That’s the boy version of Camel Toe. Ya these pants are notorious for showing off your package especially if you’re sitting down. I noticed this when I was at church. I was sitting and when it was time to pray, I looked down and WHOA! I had to use my Bible to cover up and be modest!

Other than the Moose Knuckle, no complaints about these pants. They wash easily, wrinkles come out if you just let them hang, doesn’t stain and no odor! Yep, even the most humid of days that produce the worst swamp balls/ass, no stank.

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Again, the Bluff Works might not have any bike-specific features, but that shouldn’t deter you from checking these out. Outstanding fit and finish, smart features, and a polished look are worth the price of admission. Bluff Works is planning other products in the future, so keep your eyes out. In the meantime, swing over to their website, where the pants are available for online purchase.

Review: Bikie Girl Bloomers Skirt, Shorts, & Skitch

Hey Cycle Ladies. Last fall, I received a Bikie Girl Bloomers Trio Set: a hitchable flounce skirt, a pair of wild ride bloomers, and a skitch to review. However, due to crappy weather conditions, only just recently was I able to take full advantage of this fantastic product and take the women-specific bike commuter gear for a ride.

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Bikie Girl Bloomers Wild Ride shorts colors are extra visible and attention-grabbing!

Now, I must say, upon first impression, I was taken aback by the bold pattern and color choice of almost all the Bikie Girl Bloomers “Wild Ride” options – not my first choice. However, over time, and as the weather brightened in the Pacific NorthWet, I found myself conjuring up any excuse to wear those lacy, purple, green, and teal, leopard print spandex bloomers! Definitely a cycle ladies brightest moment of a summer day: pulling on a pair of these hot pants!

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Mir rockin’ the leopard spandies with no shame.

Product Specs:

Bikie Girl Bloomers Skirt, Shorts & Skitch Trio

Be comfortable, both on & off the bike, in a lightweight, unpadded bike short and a flowing, soft knit skirt.
Bike gorgeous in a smoothly draping skirt while your underside is covered with a colorful print.
With our Skitch, you can hitch up the skirt while riding, and let it down upon arrival.
You are ready for the bike ride, ready to twirl on the dance floor, and ready for whatever blows your skirt up!

Description:

  • Flouncy and light skirt with smooth drape (no pockets or zippers)
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Hitch up the skirt with removable Skitch
  • Shorts feature comfortable stretch lace waistband and hem
  • Lined crotch is unpadded for all-day comfort
  • Great for cycling around town, or whatever blows your skirt up!

Fabric:

  • Skirt: 67% Modal/28% Polyester/5% Spandex; 19-1/2″ length
  • 1-1/2″ elastic waistband can be worn high or low on waist
  • Dry clean recommended (may be hand washed) Shorts: Polyester or nylon (varies with print) and Spandex
  • Hand wash, line dry recommended
  • 9″ inseam on M size
  • Made in USA

Additional Information:

No need to choose between a skirt that works for cycling and a skirt that looks nice at the office or out on the dance floor.  The Hitchable Flounce Skirt flutters just above the knees with a smooth drape and a flouncy bit of spunk.  When paired with the Wild Ride Bike Shorts, no slip is required.  Use the included Skitch to hike up the hem when you can’t resist the urge to allow a peek at what lies beneath.  Let the skirt down when you arrive and want to keep your wild side hidden.  The skirt features a decorative coconut button on the waistband for securing the Skitch.

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Mir peacin’ out with the skirt & bloomers combo – in fall weather.

My impressions: It took awhile for me to mentally break myself in to the idea of the Bloomers & Skirt combo, however, it is all about the weather! Now that it is warm and sunny out, the Bikie Girl Bloomers & skirt trio set is really a go-to for a comfy, easy, breezy ride. They are now my favorite shorts to pull on any day that you want to wear a skirt to work and naked legs.

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The spandex is comfy and is paneled nicely, so that there isn’t a seam right in down the crotch. Also, the lace keeps it from sliding around. Surprisingly, the lace doesn’t rub or itch, either. I wasn’t a huge fan of the skitch, and just preferred to ride with the skirt down. I’d even wear the whole outfit to the office, then bike to yoga after, and strip off the skirt to reveal some sweet leopard print at the yoga studio!

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Someone even said to me, as I was getting dressed after yoga class: “Please don’t put that skirt back on, those shorts are amazing!”

So, bike ladies, if you are feeling like a bold commute is in your future, I’d highly recommend you invest in a soft skirt and bloomers for your summer rides. You won’t be disappointed. The high waistline and flattering flouncy skirt looks great with a tank top or fitted dress shirt. If your office is a little on the casual side (read: no skirt suits required) you could pull this off for your 9-5. The price is pricey, but the quality is handmade and handsome for $125 for the set. If that is beyond your price point, try the shorts only for $55.

From the Bikie Girl Bloomers website – the Hitchable Flounce Skirt, Skitch, and Wild Ride Bloomers.

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Review: More of Swiftwick’s socks

Remember last week, when we posted our first review of Swiftwick’s socks? I mentioned that there were two more pairs to check out, and here they are.

First up, the Swiftwick Sustain One in black:

From Swiftwick’s site:

The only sock on the market created from post-industrial recycled nylon, the SUSTAIN Line is our finest tribute to our commitment to the planet and the earth-conscious athlete in us all. From our refusal to use chemicals to wick away moisture, to our commitment to being made in the USA – we strive to be carbon neutral in our approach. Our philosophy is to conserve and recycle, while creating the best products you will ever wear, guaranteed.

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Of the Swiftwick socks I received to review, these were my favorites — the fabric is super-soft against my skin, they wick sweat perfectly, the cuff was just the right length, and they are thin enough to fit nicely in tight cycling shoes. I was a bit skeptical about the recycled nylon material at first, but it has proven to be incredibly durable…although it does collect static electricity and attracts dog hair and fuzz in droves when I’m padding around the house. The Sustain’s compression helped cradle my foot arches and helped prevent cramping (as I mentioned in the previous review).

Next up is the Vibe One in black/red/grey:

From Swiftwick’s website:

Unique in the Swiftwick family, the VIBE line is a little more plush, and a lot more colorful. Using a half height terry loop throughout the footbed, the VIBE offers a highly consistent, thicker feeling with linked toe construction and slightly less compression. To carry the color, it’s flat knit, super thin upper is smooth and snug.

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You may have remembered I mentioned in the first socks review that the no-cuff or “Zero” cuff size of the Swiftwick socks wasn’t to my liking? The “One” cuff length, on the other hand, is perfect…nice low tanline and no “Lance’s tall black socks” feel here:

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The footbed area of the Vibe socks is a bit thicker than the other pairs, but not unreasonably so. It’s very comfortable, and the thin upper ensures they will fit nicely into the tightest, low-volume cycling shoes. That extra cush is perfect for hike-a-bikes and for rides that include a bit of standing around or walking (my typical commutes, at least). Again, the compression features really do make a difference, even if the Vibe socks don’t have as strong a “hug” against my feet. And, they look great.

The Sustain socks retail between $11.99 and $16.99, depending on cuff length. The Vibes retail for $12.99 to $14.99, depending on cuff length. All in all, the Swiftwick socks are a great value and their features really make a difference on bike rides. Anytime I can avoid foot cramping makes me a happy cyclist!

Check out Swiftwick’s full line of socks for a variety of sports by visiting their website.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Review: Swiftwick’s Aspire and Pursuit Socks

A couple of months ago, I received a treasure trove of socks to test from Swiftwick‘s PR person. We got four different styles to try out, so for today’s review we’re going to start with the shortest and longest of the four pairs.

First up, the Swiftwick Aspire Zero in red:

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From Swiftwick’s site:

The ASPIRE™ Line is thin and light for serious runners, cyclists and athletes of any sport. We eliminated the toe seam using linked-toe technology, which means no bunching in the toe box.

Made of a thin synthetic, the Aspires are available in 9 colors, 5 cuff lengths (Zero, 1″, 4″, 7″, and 12″) and four sizes. There is even a military-compliant version, which means (I think) no visible logo on the cuffs.

The Aspire Zeros fit my feet great. I have an unconscious tendency to curl my toes inside my shoes when I am battling up a hill or really putting down the tempo, and that leads to cramps in my toes and foot arches. The compression nature of the Aspire socks helped keep me from doing that. See the whitish band visible under the surface on the photo above? That’s additional elastic that helps support the arch of my foot. That and the ribbing make for a very comfortable, supportive fit, indeed. My foot felt like one solid “unit”, if you can imagine that.

The omission of the toe seam means that even in snug shoes, there is no painful chafing. I think we’ve all experienced socks with pronounced seams in that area, and that’s no fun, especially when you’re out on your bike.

As far as for the cuff length, it’s just a hair too short for my taste — I prefer low cycling socks, but the Zeros were a little too close to the mouth of my shoes, and if they slipped down, there was a bit of chafing around my ankle. I think the Aspire Ones would have been perfect. Still, these lightweights are great on really warm days!

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Next up is the Pursuit Seven in black:

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From Swiftwick’s website:

Socks born from the same technology and spirit of our synthetic lines with two key differences: The PURSUIT(TM) line comes fused with the natural and thermal properties of super fine, 36 micron Merino Wool sourced from farmers right here in America AND is the only 200-needle compression wool sock on the market. In short, these socks are built of the finest, by the finest.

The Pursuits are made from a blend of Merino wool and synthetic (64% Merino wool, 29% nylon, 7% Spandex). That lends them a luxurious feel against the skin, and makes the socks thicker — perfect for cooler days, but plenty fine for warm days, too, as wool helps regulate the temps. They are available in four sizes, six colors, and six cuff lengths (Zero, 1″, 2″, 4″, 7″, and 12″). The Sevens have a bit of an unappealing “Lance Armstrong’s tall black socks” feel when worn with shorts and cycling shoes. However, the Pursuits in this length are PERFECT for wear with your office attire and regular shoes — they look, but certainly don’t feel, like regular old black socks. All the compression benefits of Swiftwick’s other sock lines are here, and the material feels great against my skin. I’ve been wearing these socks on cooler days and with regular street attire. They’re not bad on hotter days, either, but I like a thinner sock on the truly hot days.

The Swiftwick Aspires range between $12.99 and $35.99, depending on length, and the Pursuits range from $15.99 to $34.99, depending on length. That represents a pretty great value, as both pairs are made from great materials and have the advanced compression and anti-chafe features baked right in. Swiftwick makes a huge variety of other socks, too, all in a host of colors. Check them out by visiting their website.

Next week, we’ll have a review of the other two pairs of Swiftwicks. Stay tuned!