Mention the name Alpinestars to mountain bikers of a certain vintage and you can watch in dread, as they go slightly misty eyed and start babbling on incessantly about watching Mike Kloser ripping up the trails in Rothiemurchus at the Grundig World Cup Mountain Bike Race in 1990, on his Aluminium Alpinestars race bike while wearing his ever so fancy Alpinestars Disco Slippers which came in one colour: John Travolta white.
If you are really unlucky, they’ll start telling you about how they always wanted an Alpinestars Ti Mega, an elevated chainstay frame made by Litespeed which, if the adverts were to be believed, offered the ultimate combination of power climbing, traction and ground clearance. The reality was something different, with a bottom bracket that was more flexible than your flexible friend (younger readers may wish to go ask their Dad about that vintage reference) but at least they looked nice. Since those halcyon days though, the brand has been off my radar until a flash-looking pair of the Stratus Gloves landed in my hands.
Looking at its website, Alpinestars markets the gloves as “a durable yet lightweight glove constructed to optimum control on all-weather ascents”, and as a “mid weight, technical glove constructed from water-resistant and windproof softshell textile for superb all-weather performance”. In my book, that is pretty much the perfect combination of qualities that I look for in a glove for autumn to spring rides where the thermometer is still a few degrees above zero but where riding conditions are on the moist side.
Putting the gloves on for the first time, I was impressed by the quality feel of their construction and some of the finer design details. On the thumb and two adjacent fingers, there is silicone printing, designed to increase grip levels. Coupled with the reinforced, double stitched palm at the high wear points in the heel of your hand and below the knuckles on the palm side, the gloves do an effective job of remaining grippy on brake levers and handlebars even when the rain is coming down.
The thermal lining on the softshell back of the gloves gives an instant feeling of warmth when pulling them on over chilly fingers. To stop the gloves from moving about, particularly when wet, there is a secure Velcro wrist closure which enabled me to cinch the gloves down on cold and wet rides, giving a real feeling of secure control. If my hands were to slip off the bars, it would certainly be down to rider error and not the gloves.
On the back of the gloves, there is reflective brand detailing which gives a small degree of extra visibility in traffic. Meanwhile, there is a microfibre backing to the thumb which can be used to wipe off sweat and dirt (marketing speak) or phlegm and bogies (those of us who ride in the real world). Despite being washed a number of times after rides to avoid the overwhelming stench that you only really get from grubby gloves, the Stratus gloves still look to be in remarkably good condition. There is no visible wear other than on the forefingers, where there is a bit of fabric pilling. All the stitching is intact and the reflective logos have come out unscathed so far.
With a hand circumference of just over 21cm, I opted for the large size, which covers a 21 to 23cm range. Fit is close as described without being overly tight on my admittedly un-sausage like fingers, with space at the tips when gripping onto the bars. If my fingers were fatter, I would definitely want to size up though.
So: good fit, comfortable, well made. What’s not to like? I should at this point admit that the Stratus gloves have left me somewhat perplexed. On paper, they are terrific but after a number of rides, I’ve come to find them a bit nigglesome when used for their intended purpose.
The close fit delivers an appreciable level of control but the trade-off is that there is a loss of warmth compared to similar gloves. The softshell backing does a good job of keeping the wind off. However, it doesn’t appear to breathe particularly well, meaning that even on dry rides, I have come back with damp-feeling hands. On one particular ride on a sunny day a few degrees above zero, the damp in the air was sufficient to make my fingers feel really cold. Although I do regularly experience cold hands below zero, it was the kind of day that I would normally be happy to wear long fingered summer gloves. I’ve experienced this a couple of times now, with the problem being exacerbated when the gloves get damp from the rain.
For me, the Stratus gloves just don’t work as well as I had hoped. However, there is still a lot to like about them and I intend to keep wearing them on drier spring and autumn days, to which I think they may be better suited. I suspect that they are simply designed for more temperate riding locations than the UK.
|Tested:||by CJ for 10 weeks|