Review by Courtney Steen // Photos by Brandon Turman
You know the point when your riding gloves are either so worn and so dirty no washing can get them clean, some of the fingers are torn, or the palms are full of hard little pills rubbing your hands raw on long rides? Well, all my gloves have reached some combination of these stages. My “this pair isn't so bad yet, I’ll keep it as a back up” gloves don’t even work as back ups anymore. Who’s got two thumbs, eight fingers, and is ready for a new pair of gloves – me.
One of the popular names out on the trails these days for components as well as clothing is Race Face. Designing and testing their products on Vancouver’s infamous Shore, touting durability under some of the most abusive riding conditions, I figured a pair of their gloves may be a good replacement for my other, retiring gloves. Designed for women riders, the DIY Women’s Gloves certainly looked like they would fit the bill, or at the very least the hands. The real test however would be seeing how they hold up under my often abusive riding conditions.
Women's DIY Glove Highlights
- Back of hand and wrist extension feature ultra-lightweight stretch mesh
- Durable spandex through fingers
- Reinforced finger caps
- Finger expansion gussets
- Highly absorbent micro-fiber wiping surface
- Lightly padded palm offers optimal hand-to-bar contact
- Low-profile grab tab and Velcro wrist closure
- Sizes: XS – XL
- Colors: Black
- MSRP: $35.99
The first time I put these gloves on, I liked their snug fit. Designed for a woman’s hand, pardon the turn of phrase, they did really ‘fit like a glove.’ The fingers are plenty narrow for a nice tight fit, and all of my fingers reach the ends of the glove's fingers – probably a first for me. And though they are snug, they are very flexible: stretch spandex runs down the sides of the four fingers, and the pointer and middle fingers each have an expansion gusset over the main joint for further flexibility. The pointer and middle fingers also have reinforced tips of polyester faux suede and, for extra grip, a printed rubberized ‘R’ and ‘F’ respectively on the finger pads. The back of hand is covered with breathable mesh and the palm is made of polyester faux suede. And for wiping hard earned sweat or nose dribbles on a chilly day, the thumb is covered with a nice and soft micro-fiber surface. Lastly, so your hands have no chance of escaping, these gloves are finished off with a wide, neoprene wristband with a Velcro closure.
Turning the gloves inside out, all the stitching looked neat with no unraveling or loose strings. The amount of fabric left by seam allowances that can make gloves feel crowded, particularly in the fingers, was minimal. The palm area features a thin layer of foam padding with a soft surface layer facing the skin, which I was a little apprehensive of. In the past, I've experienced arm-pump and nerve twinges when riding in padded gloves although they were maybe five-times thicker than these DIY gloves. Well, any shortcomings would be quickly revealed once I hit the trails...
On The Trail
I first started using these gloves for trail riding in the heat of Southern California's summer, and the first thing I noticed was that they can get a bit toasty. The stretch spandex on the fingers and the stretch mesh on the back provide some ventilation, but the palms felt a bit muggy in the heat. The black color also contributed to absorbing heat when hit by the sun for any extended period of time. Come July, when Southern California was just about to get even more unbearably hot, I took these gloves to Oregon. Ahhhh… relief. The gloves were much more comfortable when the daytime temperatures weren’t in the 90’s and were perfect for riding during the cooler evenings. After Oregon, I migrated further North to Whistler, Canada, where these gloves were thrown in the ring with a big bike for a few rounds of downhill.
As previously noted, the padding in the palm area was initially a concern for me since in the past, I had experienced issues with other, albeit more heavily padded gloves. I am happy to report that with the thin layer of padding in these DIY gloves, I had no issues at all. On the smoother trails I was riding in California and Oregon, I didn’t quite appreciate the padding as much as when I started downhilling in Whistler. Oh boy. The little bit of padding absorbed some of the trail vibrations in the bike park, and the snug, tailored fit reduced additional friction from my hands moving around inside the gloves themselves. For comparison, I did a couple runs in my old gloves with no padding and a less snug fit and then switched to the DIY gloves. It was a world of difference. My hands felt less beat, and my grip on the bars felt so much better in the DIY gloves for the following runs.
The snug fit in the fingers is also great for dexterity needed off the bars – i.e. buckling helmets, adjusting shoes, getting into your pack, putting on or taking off valve caps, etc. I went all summer with an untarnished record for flats until this fall in Utah when I ungracefully hit some square rocks and got a pinch flat. Maybe I was feeling lazy, but I left my gloves on for the tube-swapping procedure and had no issues getting the job done. Though a snug fit, the gloves are plenty flexible with the spandex, finger expansion gussets, and the stretch mesh on the back of the hand. Those expansion gussets also reduce the resistance of the fabric to bend your braking finger, whichever one of the two is your favorite for the job.
A final item worth noting for you Instagramers or Strava enthusiasts is that I am able to navigate my iPhone while wearing these gloves. It is a bit hit or miss and seems to get better the more I wear the gloves, not sure how that works, but it does.
Things That Could Be Improved
My biggest beef with these gloves is the thick wristband with Velcro closure - it is too thick and feels uncomfortable. It comes up just over the pointy bone (head of the ulna) in my wrist. Of course you get used to it, but it feels pretty good taking them off. You realize how hot your wrists get. The gloves fit well enough that a narrower wristband and narrower Velcro closure would be an improvement. Also, the Velcro hook-side faces out on these gloves, so unless I cinch it down tight enough to cover all of it, which usually is too tight for me, the hooks catch on my clothing. The two sides should be mounted the other way around. There is the argument that in this orientation, the hooks could scratch the skin on the wrist. If, though, the Velcro were just at the end of the closure strap, the section that would be in danger of touching the wrist could be blank – no Velcro, no scratching. Also note that unless you want to find them embedded in jerseys, panties, or bras, be sure to close the Velcro straps before throwing these gloves in the washing machine.
The only other negative aspect of my experience with these gloves was how muggy they felt on a hot day. Some other gloves have ventilation holes punched in the palm fabric. Perhaps if this were also applied to these gloves, hot summer riding would be more bearable.
Long Term Durability
For the duration of the product testing, these gloves have not stretched nor gotten otherwise out of shape from wear and washing. A couple of threads have come loose and need to be snipped off. These all seem to appear where the sewing machine doubles back over its path to finish of the stitch as per standard procedure. After snipping them off, I hope the gloves will not come unstitched further.
I haven’t taken any of those headlong crashes where your gloves get shredded catching your skidding body on rocks and dirt in this pair – thank goodness for me, though maybe not for testing. In the little crashes I've had so far, mostly washing out of corners or some variety of slow motion fail in a tech section of trail, these gloves have held up fine. No tearing. No ripping seams. The back of the gloves have held up through many a bush whack, too. Since being fitted in August, the grips on my bike have worn down to the plastic and these gloves are still going strong. The palm material has not started to "pill up" yet from wear, (i.e. making hard little balls on the surface of the fabric like many gloves do), and the micro-fiber wiping surface on the thumb has remained soft through several wash cycles. They are sturdy and well constructed gloves, and given what I've seen, I think they can withstand my daily use for quite some time to come.
What's The Bottom Line?
On a scorching summer day under a relentless sun, the DIY gloves will probably not be my first choice. I’ll probably wear a pair of my old, lighter weight gloves on those days. The DIY gloves are plenty comfortable any other day, though, and will definitely be my go to gloves for downhill riding. These gloves aren't just handy (haha, get it?) for traction on the grips rain or shine, the little bit of padding also absorbs some of the trail vibrations and keeps me going longer than my non-padded gloves. Last year I would wake up the morning after riding the park and be unable to move my fingers. Even a month after leaving Whistler, I had bad, arthritic pain in my finger joints in the mornings and when riding. This year was a completely different story, and I think some credit can be given to these gloves. They are snug, yet flexible, and fit my little lady hands well. The DIY gloves will set the standard for how I want my gloves to fit in the future. And even though I’m not a big fan of the thick wristband or how hot they can feel, I won’t be looking to replace these gloves before their life is up.
For more details, visit www.raceface.com.
About The Reviewer
Courtney Steen has been hitting the dirt on two wheels since 2007 when she started riding mountain bikes in college. She raced alongside her collegiate cycling team in every event from XC and short track to downhill and mountain cross, scoring several podiums, fist pumps and shiny medals along the way. A dream trail for this girl would have lots of down, some fast and flowy, and like the sprinkles on a cupcake, some fun technical sections to keep her on her toes – we’re talking mountain biking after all, not cruising a sidewalk. Courtney currently lives on the road with her boyfriend in a 5th wheel toy hauler loaded with bikes, traveling from one mountain bike mecca to the next in search of the best trails North America has to offer. Anytime she's on a bike and in the dirt, she has two thumbs up and a big smile.