PRODUCT REVIEW: ICON ARC Lightweight Street Gloves

All Rights Reserved © 2008 Thomas W. Day

icon_a1I don’t have normal hands. My wife calls my foreleg appendages “evolved paws.” I prefer “mitts,” but at least my fingers aren’t webbed. The problem is that my fingers are short, my palms are large, and the whole mess is freaking thick. That means I have a terrible time finding riding gloves that fit and are comfortable. For years I just bought Justin goatskin work gloves, since they are tough, fairly comfortable, and cheap. My habit has been to wet the Justins in warm water, spend a day working in the yard and drying the gloves, followed by seriously working neatsfoot oil into the leather like a good baseball glove, all without removing the gloves for several hours. I’ve been doing this since sometime in the 1970s and the gloves and the procedure have served me well, including protecting my mitts in off-road crash situations.

When I’m in my favorite local bike shop, I occasionally take try on the latest riding gloves, fully expecting to be disappointed. I haven’t had my expectations disrupted for decades. Repeating that habit while a friend shopped for riding gear, I stumbled on the ICON ARC gloves. To my surprise, they fit perfectly (almost “like a glove”) and were comfortable from the moment I pulled them on. At first, I was sure this wouldn’t be the case, because the wrist is a tight fit, requiring some effort to pull the gloves over the meat of my hand. Once I was past that hurdle, I found the gloves to be flexible, form-fitting, and insanely comfortable. They will definitely stay on my hands in a crash.

Like my Justin work gloves, the “chassis” of the ARC gloves is made from tough and flexible goatskin. ICON has added gel pads in the palm, which completely eliminated the blood-loss tingling I often experience after a long ride. The gel pads add some stickiness to the palm of the gloves, improving grip in the palm. The knuckle panel is expandable, allowing unimpeded bend to your grip on the bars and providing protection where I sometimes matters. The gussets between the fingers breathe and that helps keep the temperature down inside the gloves. Cosmetically, the ARC gloves come in a variety of colors: black, blue, red, white, and natural tan. I went for natural tan and I’m sure Using my native fashion sense, I’m hipper looking now than when I was wearing the natural leather Justin goatskins.

After a few hundred on-and-off cycles and a couple thousand miles wearing the ARC’s, I’m still impressed. I figured that the cloth I tug on to get the gloves over my paws would separate and disfigure my expensive finger protection. It hasn’t. I expected the leather to sag out and become less form-fitting. It hasn’t. I applied Nikwax waterproofing treatment, which made the ARC’s nearly watertight. Oddly, they still look pretty good. I’m cheap, so $60 for a pair of gloves seems expensive. Since they were a rare fit I bought them, anyway. I’ve suffered no buyer’s remorse.

Epilog: The failure I anticipated (“the cloth I tug on to get the gloves over my paws would separate and disfigure my expensive finger protection”) finally happened after 3 years of use. It’s hard to blame the design or materials of the gloves, though. It happened when I used the Icon’s for a BRC class on a hot, muggy day in June of 2011 (a record breaking year for both heat and humidity). One of the ARC glove design features is the precise fit. On that day, the gloves were hard to get off and on because my hands were so sticky and the gloves were retaining sweat. After a few dozen on-off struggles, the elastic cloth ripped right at the leather seam. I was able to patch and stitch the gloves back together and they are still in use in early 2013. And I still like them a lot.

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