RAVAL DROP BAR GLOVES
400g (pair) Orange £55.61 (at time of writing) €60
Gloves that fit over the bars are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you buy into the concept, they have many plus points. Raval’s Drop Bar Gloves (there is a version for flat bars, too) are the Latvian company's take on what often get described by passers-by as "hand-warmers". Well, Latvia is a Baltic state, so I expected a lot from these and have not been disappointed. And no; they do not make it more likely that you’ll fall off your bike.
Pros: capacious and warm, great for visibility.
Cons: slow to dry.
Outer constructed from water-repellent cordura fabric, with a snug fleece quilted lining and strongly finished hems, Raval’s Drop Bar Gloves are the Latvian companies take on what some on-lookers describe as “hand-warmers.” Velcro straps secure the gloves to your bars by wrapping them round until held in position, whilst elasticated loops slip round and grip the drop bar ends. There’s plenty of length to encompass even the chunkiest handlebars.
The final touch is a pair of magnets; sewn into each glove they secure the two sides of the glove under your hands for additional protection – as well as holding the pair together when off the bike.
They are also available in black and yellow, but Raval specialise in customised gear, so you may well prefer something of your own.
These are specifically for traditional drop bars. There’s another version for flats. However, with a whole panoply of bar designs now on offer, there isn’t a Raval option available for all. Having said that, ours have gone over the Velo Orange Grand Cru Rando Bars – which have a comfortable splay for touring – and swallowed compact Genetic STV Road Bars. Between these, they have encompassed the old bars on my Supergalaxy from 1990 as well as the GB Bars on the mystery mongrel 1947 single speed. In none has there been any interference with brake levers of STI changers. They are compatible with internal and external cable routings.
Hand wise, you need to be Goliath’s big brother to have any trouble fitting your mitts into the softly quilted inner. I generally take a large or extra-large in gloves and mitts, and I have been able keep the magnets engaged without any issue. Mind you, I have not found drop bar gloves of this type that have caused a problem as far as fit is concerned.
A little practice and they are easy to take on and off the bike. Keeping them indoors overnight will add warmth. On the other hand, leaving them on the bike isn’t too much of an issue for the get-up-and-go cyclist.
Care and drying times 2.75/5
When wet, drying out has taken several hours. Turning inside out has helped affairs, and there’s no reason why they can’t sit atop a suitable radiator. It’s the fleece quilting that takes the time. They’ll probably not get much use in summer, so I haven’t attempted line drying outdoors.
A wipe with a damp cloth has removed mud and such like. Unlike gloves, they are less likely to come into contact with grimy hands following a roadside bodge. A light smear or two was removed with the aid of a dab of Rock ‘n’ Roll Miracle Red.
Well, Raval point out on their website, as one of their FAQs, that the drop bar gloves do not make you more likely to fall off your bike. They just recommend a bit of practice. Generically, this type of glove may puzzle the newcomer, especially when slipping the hands back in to grasp the brakes or change gear after waving in thanks to a kindly motorist.
More importantly, they do the job of keeping your hands warm. Morning commutes of an hour at 5C were managed bare handed, but were toasty with liners, such as the Showers Pass Crosspoint Gloves, and mitts. It is worth bearing in mind that I’m relatively cold-blooded – in the nicest way – but at the same temperature wearing the Chiba Second Skin Gloves caused a little condensation on the quilted inner. At 0C a decent pair of warm gloves has been perfect. Windchill on the hands has become a thing of the past, with some of chill factor emanating from cold levers and bars.
The Drop Bar Gloves are made from water-repellent material. I’ve left them out in the rain for five hours – on the bike – and was happy to note that they were still dry inside when it came to the journey home. Having said that, there’s no avoiding the fact that – unless gloves of this kind are sealed around the wrist, torrential or prolonged rain when riding will drip down your waterproofs onto the inner. Again, that is generic, but the Raval Drop Bar Gloves are large enough to avoid too much direct contact with the inner, so my gloves have generally remained dry and my hands always remained warm.
Hand position is, of course limited – again, a generic feature. Even so, I’ve ridden happily in my default position on the hoods, as well as on the drops.
As mentioned above, STI levers/shifters are not encumbered. On the same note, bar-end shifters work equally well – but limit use of the magnetic closures.
I did have some concern that the size of the gloves – they are larger than some on the market and remain quite stiffly erect – may obscure side bleed from the front light. Not a problem for fork-crown mounted lights and, even for bar mounted ones not too much of an issue. In urban areas you may like to run a blankie mounted lower than the gloves for that bit of additional presence, but I have had no problem in urban or rural settings.
Once you buy into this type of gear, there’s no doubt that the Raval Drop Bar Gloves are a good investment for your winter riding. You can buy neoprene models from £13 upward. These tend to lack the quilted lining and neoprene won’t be as good at climate control. Equally, you can pay around the £50 mark for neoprene models. There are those who’d argue that neoprene offers a better buy in primarily wet climates, as opposed to primarily cold ones. Personally, I’ve been impressed with the Raval design in the UK – wet and moderately cold!
Comfortable, even luxurious bar gloves, ideal for commuting, day-rides – including winter Audax rides and long days out. They take up a lot of space to store, so are, arguably, less appropriate for multiday rides, but were I heading out on a ride such as a four-day tour in winter, I would not think twice about including them on the kit list.