Comfortable, lightweight and excellent at keeping the biting wind at bay, these thermal gloves from Specialized are ideal for the shoulder seasons, but not the depths of winter.
Withstand light-to-medium rain
Adjustable Velcro cuff
Not suitable for deep winter riding
Once they're wet, you're staying cold
The fingers came up long
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When the temperature drops, it’s important to keep your extremities warm and dry for the duration of your ride, so a good pair of thermal gloves is a must-have in any year-round cyclist’s wardrobe. Of course, many winter gloves can feel bulky, interfere with shifting and braking, and overheat when the weather conditions are changeable. For days like these, a lightweight pair of gloves that keep the chill out without sacrificing dexterity is the way to go, and that’s exactly what Specialized had in mind when designing the Prime Series Thermal glove.
The brand doesn’t specify exactly what temperature range these gloves are designed for, and instead advises that they’ll “add some warmth on chilly days”. When you hold them, all becomes clear. Weighing 54g for a size medium pair, these gloves are lightweight and intended to keep out the biting winds rather than envelop your digits in layer-upon-layer of warming fabrics. This makes them perfectly suitable for spring and autumn riding, and perhaps into the winter when temperatures stay above 5C/41F.
We came to this conclusion having spent a large part of the winter testing them in varying weather conditions, and continuing to use them in these early days of spring. Come rain or shine, we’ve tested their limits, and here’s what we found.
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Design and aesthetics
The all-black Prime Series Thermal Gloves have a sleek and minimalist aesthetic and feel soft and durable in your hands. The exterior of the upper comprises a single layer of stretchy and lightweight Polartec Neoshell, a wind-resistant fabric that’s believed to be the most breathable waterproof material in the world. This bodes well for cyclists, whose hands are one of the most vulnerable body parts exposed to the elements while remaining still for the duration of a ride.
The palm is unpadded and made of a synthetic AX Suede that is claimed to be hydrophobic. The lack of padding may be a turn-off for some, but for those who find gel pads a little too intrusive (and eventually the cause of pain and pressure points), the palm offers a very confident and natural grip of the handlebars.
Inside the glove, the AX Suede palm is fleece-backed for extra comfort, while the single layer of Polartec Neoshell feels soft to the touch.
They have a sizable cuff that’s stretchy and ribbed so that it lies flat against the skin, making it easy to pair with long sleeved jackets and jerseys. It also has a velcro seal, so you can easily adjust the fit to suit.
Two touchscreen-compatible fingertips complete the package, making it easy to use your phone and GPS devices without having to remove the gloves in the cold, which has become a must-have feature for modern cycling gloves.
Branding is minimal, with a single reflective Specialized logo on the upper panel of each glove. Considering their stealthy looks, it would be preferable to have more reflective detailing for when riding at night, so this is an area we’d like to see them improved in future.
In terms of fit, Specialized provides a very in-depth (and accurate) sizing chart for its gloves, down to the length of each finger. If you fall between sizes, however (as this writer does), you may find yourself with a bit of extra length in the fingers. I found them to be about one centimetre too long, though once your hand is wrapped around the bars, this does seem to sort itself out somewhat and is no longer noticeable or obstructive. The fit is comfortable, there’s little to no bulk whatsoever, and it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them.
Wearing the Specialized Prime Series Thermal Gloves in a range of temperatures and weather conditions, it quickly became noticeable how effective they are at keeping the chill out. In temperatures ranging from around 6C/42F to 10C/50F, the gloves kept our hands feeling warm and comfortable, whereas in lower temperatures the cold started to creep in.
In high winds when the cold air bites at your face, your hands remain comfortable, proving that the Polartec Neoshell upper panel does exactly as it promises. What’s more, when caught out in mid-to-light rain showers, water simply beaded off the surface and our hands stayed warm and dry.
However there is a limit to how much rain these gloves can protect you from, and there’s a reason they’re not marketed as waterproof as well as windproof. While the Neoshell does an excellent job of repelling rain, and the hydrophobic synthetic suede palm can resist some water, the seams are completely unprotected and are the main culprits for water ingress. In addition to this, the minimal insulation means that once your hands do become saturated in heavy rain showers, there’s no warming them back up again. When we got caught out in a downpour on a cold day, the rest of the ride home was very uncomfortable.
These gloves perform exceptionally well on cool, dry days with the odd rain shower, and they breathe well when temperatures start to hit the double digits.
However if you’re venturing out in sub-5-degree weather with a likelihood of heavy rain, these aren’t the ones to take with you. On the plus side, if you do get caught out in the rain, the AX Suede palm retains a decent amount of grip on the handlebars, so you can rest assured that your handling remains confident and controlled throughout, and thanks to their lightweight and low-bulk, there’s no sacrificing dexterity.
The Prime Series Thermal Gloves feel almost like a second skin (with the exception of the cuff which does feel a little chunky, but sits comfortably against the wrist) and they provide excellent wind resistance and with a stealthy aesthetic.
We really like these gloves, and we keep coming back to them while the UK spring weather remains changeable and chilly. They fit exceptionally well, have excellent dexterity and the Velcro cuff seals the cold out. We've used them in fairly low temperatures and they've done a good job of keeping our hands warm. They've also stood up to some light showers as well. However they are definitely better suited for drier rides, as once they do become saturated, they have no way of warming your hands back up again. Plus, at £40 / $45, they provide excellent value for money.
Tech spec: Specialized Prime Series Thermal Glove WMN
- Price: £40 / $45
- Materials: 90% Polyester, 10% Spandex (back); 100% Polyester (palm)
- Sizes: S-XXL
- Weight: 54g per pair (size M, actual weight)
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