Assos Winter Glove System
Assos does a fantastic job of covering a cyclist from head-to-toe from the coldest winter mornings to the hottest summer afternoons. Pretty much regardless of the temperature, they have a base layer, bottom layer, head-covering and foot-covering for the temperature. They've been relatively inflexible on winter hand coverings up 'til this winter, only offering single-layer solutions.
Starting now, though, things have changed. The Assos Winter Glove System is designed to address the hand protection needs of cyclists from temps in the 50s to the point where you may not want to be outside anymore. The three components are: 1. the innerGlove. 2. the earlyWinter Glove. 3. the lobsterShell Glove. Each can be worn alone, or with one, or two of the other components. How you layer them is up to you.
We started off with Mediums in all three layers. The innerGlove stretched on, and the earlyWinter Glove stretched easily over that. But when it came to the Medium lobsterShell overmitt, the Medium seemed like a tight squeeze. We sized up to a large, both so it would be easier to get on and off AND so more air would get trapped inside when we're wearing them. If you plan on wearing all 3 as a system, you might consider sizing up one size.
Like most of Assos' gear, the gloves come separately in glossy laminated boxes with information about the individual glove and how it fits in the system. The description is both visual and expanded in words.
A simplifcation of what is found on the boxes is:
|1.||innerGlove||earlyWinter||06°-12° C||43°-54° F|
|1+2.||earlyWinter Glove||winter||00°-08° C||32°-46° F|
|1+2+3.||lobsterShell Glove||winterPlus||-6°-06° C||21°-43° F|
When we looked at it, we assumed that the innerGlove was designed to be used alone on days that are too nippy for going without gloves, but too warm for anything with insulation or wind-proofing. We were wrong, but it doesn't mean that it didn't work well for those 50-55 degree days. The insulation was just right for those temperatures, the main problem was the seams, which are on the outside are good for finger comfort, but occasionally got caught in the brake levers when riding the hoods. A lesser issue was the lack of gripper material on the palms, but it didn't cause any slippage. Still, the glove works as the material is designed to take moisture off the skin and keep a micro-thin layer of warm air between the skin and the glove. Assos states fairly clearly that due to practical details of the design an innerGlove shouldn't be worn alone (just as we'd advise you to avoid going to the local café wearing nothing but a PowerStatic base layer!) But that doesn't mean you can't do it.
A more careful reading of the packaging reveals the following: "earlyWinter glove 851 Designed to be the main glove of the system." D'oh! And the right wrist on the earlyWinter gloves reads "climarange earlyWinter 6+12c." Double d'oh! So, we then employed this reasoning and wore the glove alone in ranges from 40-55 degrees. It is light and comfy and didn't get as clammy as our all-WindTex gloves do. 40 was a bit chilly. Guess there is an advantage to a windblock back and Roubaix-fleece palm. While we didn't have a chance to test it out, sink tests appear to show that the 851 back is not only windproof, but waterproof (as is claimed) which would be nice on those days when the showers appear.
The earlyWinter glove also has pulltabs on each inside wrist. This didn't appear to be necessary until we put on the earlyWinter glove over the innerGlove. As noted earlier, we found 40 degrees to be a bit chilly for the earlyWinter glove alone, but when we combined it with the InnerGlove, it was right comfortable. A concern we had before riding with the setup was that the two gloves together were going to feel bulky and reduce digit flexibility. We are happy to report that this wasn't the case at all.
The lobsterShell is wind and waterproof on both sides, and a firm elastic at the bottom prevents air from getting in or escaping (warm air will escape through the 851 AirBlock fabric), so it probably is best saved for the coldest days. The faucet test revealed that the shell is almost waterproof; nothing got in on the palm or back, but we figure that some will seep in through the seams and through the elastic in the back. We took it for its maiden voyage only recently -- this has been a warm December (sorry that we haven't had the occasion to try the system down to 20f). We first did a ride where it was over the earlyWinter Glove for the initial part of a long ride. It served as protection for the first half-hour, and then was pulled off for the post-warmup group ride. Our hands weren't too warm, but we were concerned that they'd overheat inside the lobsterShell. The nice thing about the shells is that because of their minimal bulk, they stow easily in pockets.
On another mid-30s day, we rode with an innerGlove covered by the lobsterShell on one hand and the earlyWinter Glove covered by the lobsterShell on the other. Of the two, the innerGlove as the base layer was more comfortable.
A note about taking the lobsterShell on and off. Since your dexterity is reduced Assos has a pulltab on the left index fingers. At first, we thought it was something that was mistakenly left on the lobsterShell . Pull the left glove off with the tab first, then use your gloved or bare left hand to pull off the right glove.
Another thing that surprised us about the lobsterShell was that it is shorter than the earlyWinter Glove. The earlyWinter goes well past the wrist while the lobsterShell pretty much goes just past the wrist. It seemed to aid in the removal of the lobsterShell as well as keep it from sliding around.
Wearing the lobsterShell, while warm, took some getting used to. For those used to looping a single finger over their brake levers when riding the hoods, or braking with one finger, it takes some un-learning to remember to ride with both the index and middle finger over the lever and squeeze the brake lever with two fingers. On the balance, the change seemed worth it -- warmth vs. dexterity, at a certain point, warmth trumps just about everything.
Overall, we were quite pleased with the system. One of the things about riding outside is that temperature, wind, and effort rarely remain constant. In the winter, we're used to starting with a shell or vest over our torsos and stowing when either the ride heats up, the hill gets long, or the day gets warmer. Gloves have always been a bit trickier. We want something that's warm enough when starting out, but then doesn't bathe our hands in the heat of a ride. Sometimes, like on a long climb, the solution has been to unzip the jacket, shove in the gloves, and ride bare-handed. The thing is it only works sometimes. The climb has to be long enough. And we're not able to do this at all on a flat road, where the cold air and wind freeze-dry our bare hands even when we're giving it full gas. In many respects, it's a surprise few cycling glove companies haven't tried this before. We like the comfort the choices afford, and that they take up little space in jersey pockets makes the choice that much easier.