Race Face was born and bred near Vancouver and the company made its name manufacturing components designed to survive the rugged trails on ‘The Shore’ and its environs. Over the years, the company continued to develop a solid product line while introducing new items every year, moving outside of the company’s primary market (freeride and downhill) and into other areas (like cross country and all mountain). Along the way, the company made some smart acquisitions and added a line of clothing for cyclists. Race Face has a full lineup of full-fingered biking gloves, and I’ve been spending some time testing the company’s Garda glove.
Normally, my hands feel comfortable inside of large sized mitts and the Race Face Garda gloves were no exception. After I selected the proper sized glove, it was time to get out on the trail. I was impressed by the way they conformed to my hand without bunching up between thumb and index finger while on the handlebar and, while the gloves don’t have tonnes of heavy padding on the palms, they provided decent protection and support while riding. The adjustable wrist enclosure stayed firmly in place and is easy to undo when you’re ready to take them off. Initially, I was wary of the silicone coating on the trigger fingers (index and middle) since I’ve had lousy experiences with similar coatings when riding in wet conditions but, fortunately, the silicone on the Garda gloves didn’t suffer from the same problems and worked well in all conditions. To date, the gloves have just over 30 rides on them, and they’re holding up – no blown fingertips, no tears in the palms, and no unraveling threads.
While I was impressed with the overall performance of the Garda glove, I do have a number of criticisms that coloured my impressions of the product. First, these things are deceptively hot. My initial expectations, based primarily on the extensive use of a ‘high loft air mesh’ and the claims made on the Race Face website, were that the gloves would keep my hands stay cooler than other similar products that used more traditional materials. Second, the mesh material is prone to ‘fuzzing up’, meaning that small fibres start to stick out of heavily used areas (ie. the fingertips) shortly after being worn for the first time. While this doesn’t really affect the product’s performance, I didn’t think that they’d pill up like they did.
The Race Face Garda gloves are solid performers that fit well, are pretty comfortable, and hold up well in a broad range of conditions. At the same time, I wasn’t impressed by the gloves’ breathability or the tendency of the mesh fabric to pill up around the fingertips.
The gloves have a retail price somewhere in the neighbourhood of $50 (cad), which puts them in the middle of the price spectrum (below Marzocchi’s insanely expensive full-fingered glove and above the lower-priced Troy Lee Design’s XC glove) and, based on my experience, are worth the money.
Manufacturer’s website: www.raceface.com