Every company that makes winter gloves has its warmest and most waterproof option. In many ways, the performance is very similar but the Castelli Espresso GT gloves are genuinely among the best
Zipper is easy to move and there's no chance of snagging anything
Silicone grip on the palm feels great against the controls
Pull tab works well
Squared fingertips balance fit and warmth
Not actually waterproof
No touchscreen fingertip
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Keeping your hands warm through winter riding can seem like an impossible goal. Every company that makes winter gear has a level of winter glove that's meant to handle the coldest, wettest rides that allow for the continued use of a five-finger design. In the Castelli line-up that position falls to the Espresso GT glove. They cost a bit more than the Castelli Estremo gloves that make our list of the best winter cycling gloves but they also promise increased protection.
We've put these gloves through the wringer this winter. They've been with us for days that start below freezing and only warm up enough for hours of rain, and they even accompanied us as we climbed out of the rain and into the snow. With those experiences behind us, we are ready to share our thoughts. If you are looking for a pair gloves for the worst weather but want to avoid mitts and retain the five-finger style, then keep reading to see if the Castelli Espresso GT gloves are right for you.
Design and aesthetics
The exterior of the Castelli Espresso GT gloves starts with a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane fabric. Gore-tex membrane fabrics have been around for a long time and, through the years, the range has expanded in different ways. There are now options beyond the original waterproof line but for the worst weather, you still want to look for the original.
Given the expected use of the Espresso GT gloves, Castelli draws from that original design and that means a three-layer fabric with a facing layer, a waterproof membrane layer, and a backing layer. The membrane does the bulk of the work and uses millions of tiny holes to allow water vapour out but keep water, or wind, from penetrating.
At the back of the hand is where you'll find the most recognisable of the design features. Every brand needs to find a solution for a glove with a tight fit while also being easy to get on. For the Espresso GT, the chosen solution is a water-resistant YKK zipper. The zipper extends from the first knuckle up to the opening at the wrist. Open it up and it does allow for easy entry in combination with the synthetic suede pull tab at the base of the wrist.
Along with the zipper, the back of the hand also features some of the only notable aesthetic considerations. There's the iconic scorpion logo and next to it is a reflective Castelli wordmark. The only other reflective hit is the edge of the pinky finger on both hands. Aside from those small details, the rest of the exterior is black.
Flip the gloves over and the palm uses a three-panel synthetic suede design, layered with the top piece covering the thumb, the base of the thumb, and travelling back towards the wrist. The same panel continues slightly off the edge of the glove, at the wrist to create the pull tab. The middle layer covers all the fingers and the rest of the wrist, while the final layer covers most of the centre of the palm where your hand bends. On top of the layers is a generous helping of silicone grip material in a stripe pattern.
Inside the glove is an ultra-soft fleece and sandwiched between the inner and outer is the Primaloft Gold insulation. The gold level of Primaloft is the warmest and lightest option the company offers. The mechanism for holding warmth is similar to down, but Primaloft is 100 per cent polyester, Bluesign certified, and hydrophobic. It dries quickly and holds heat even when wet.
The first day I left the house with the Castelli Espresso GT gloves it was barely light out and the temperature was sitting around 30F/-1C. My fingertips ached a bit in those early miles and I pushed myself to ride harder through the flat start. Times like those are where I've found that the Sealskinz heated cycling gloves I reviewed recently tend to work best but the Castelli Espresso GT gloves did indeed hold their own.
About five miles later the first hill was where I started to actually feel good. Climbing built just enough heat that my hands felt warm and comfortable. As the landscape changed and time passed, it started to rain and I watched the clock. Any glove review I do is all about how they handle sustained rain when it's also very cold.
The Castelli gloves promise to be completely waterproof. That's not different from other gloves in the same class but it's misleading. That's not a slight on these gloves in particular though, rather a complaint against the way in which something is deemed worthy of the 'waterproof' label at all.
A claim of waterproof means only that a garment passes a technical test in a particular way. Most people expect that means they will have dry hands forever, but it never does. Given long enough in sustained rain I have yet to find a glove that doesn't soak through. The Espresso GT gloves are no different in this regard but they do seem to hold out a bit longer than the competition. I've been getting an extra 30-60 minutes, depending on conditions, before needing to swap gloves.
When it comes to fit, I've had some trouble finding the right size in lighter weight Castelli gloves. For my hands, the Castelli Perfetto RoS gloves seem to fall exactly where small means tight fingertips and medium means too much extra material. Contrasting that experience, the Espresso GT in a medium feels perfect. The squared-off fingertips allow for a fit that works at the knuckles and palm without leaving extra material at the ends of the fingers.
Part of discussing the fit has to include the zippered closure system. I don't know exactly what the right solution for this is but the strategy for the Espresso GT is one of the better options. It's still not perfect, but the zipper makes it easy to get into the gloves while also closing the wrist tightly enough to keep drafts out. The challenge comes when it's time to get them off: as long as everything is dry you can just pull the gloves off, but if your hands are wet then you'll want to unzip them and that's tough since there's a spot where the zipper naturally wants to stop. It happens because the material under it bunches a little. If you allow the zipper to sit at the natural stop point, or if you take care to get the flap under the zipper to sit perfectly it's easy to unzip the gloves, however, if you instead just pull the zipper past the natural stop, to the end, it's basically impossible to unzip without a third hand.
I've yet to find a glove that will last for six hours with temperatures near freezing and sustained rain. Castelli sells the Espresso GT as the warmest, most waterproof option it makes and, in that light, they do shine. Although it's not as ground-breaking as you might wish, 30-60 extra minutes of use before changing gloves is impressive.
The only question you'll have to ask yourself is if that extra time is worth the extra money. If you are doing long-distance rides in those conditions, you might prefer to invest in two pairs of lesser gloves. For shorter rides, or drier rides, the Espresso GT is one of the warmest five-finger glove options on the market and might even represent a saving compared to deep winter options from other brands.
Tech Specs: Castelli Espresso GT Gloves
- Price: £125.00 / $119.99 / €109.95 / AU$199
- Suggested temperature range: -4°-10 °C / 25°-50°F
- Available Sizes: XS-XXL
- Weight: 63g per glove, size medium
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Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutiae of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Weight: 140 lb.
Rides: Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Enve Melee, Look 795 Blade RS, Priority Continuum Onyx
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