First Impressions: Alpinestars Moab Gloves

When you think of Moab, images of slickrock, epic singletrack, and desert heat spring to mind. Alpinestars designed their Moab full-finger gloves to excel in exactly those types of conditions. I put the company’s gloves through the proverbial wringer to see if they lived up to their namesake.

Balancing ventilation and protection in a glove can be tricky. For its Moab glove ($44.95 MSRP), Alpinestars uses mesh/spandex main construction with synthetic leather reinforcements. Wrist and knuckle padding help protect against falls and impact, while the double-layer palm maintains a positive tactile feel. If I had to categorize the Moab, it sits in between a minimalist race glove, and more heavily armored gravity model.

AStars Moab gloves

The author’s Moab gloves after several months of use and countless launderings.

The Moab’s fit is slim, but not restrictive. I usually wear a large size glove, and the large Alpinestars fit me, well, like a glove. Riders with thick fingers or meaty palms may want to size up, however. While the majority of the glove is nicely proportioned, the thumbs are a bit shorter than expected. This created some tightness between the thumb and forefinger, but it didn’t seem to affect function or durability.

For warm weather riding, the Alpinestars gloves offer a reasonable amount of ventilation. They may lack the hands-in-the-breeze feeling of single-layer gloves, but they’re extremely effective at managing moisture. Despite my copious perspiration, the Moabs never felt clammy or slippery. The fingers’ silicone print offered increased grip and control during braking, and didn’t peel off after the first washing.

Although they lack the exoskeleton-like armor found on many enduro or downhill-oriented models, Alpinestars’ Moab gloves easily fended off branches and sticker bushes. I happened to be wearing the Moab gloves when I took a nasty spill back in May, and aside from some cosmetic damage to the rubberized graphics and minor abrasion on one palm, they remained intact (which is more than I can say for myself). Three months after the aforementioned crash, the Alpinestars gloves are still going strong.

Riders looking for a lightweight glove that still offers a modicum of protection would do well to consider Alpinestars’ Moab model. With sizes ranging from XXS all the way up to 3XL, and seven colorways to choose from, chances are there’s one that’s just right for you.

Disclosure: Alpinestars provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: RedMonkey Sports Grips

If you want to experience sensory overload, check out the grip section of your favorite bike shop, or better yet, one of the large online retailers. We’re talking hundreds of grips in a staggering array of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. Despite all those options, RedMonkey Sports‘ founder Michael Nasco wasn’t satisfied with what the market had to offer, and the result is the company’s Sports Kärv family of MTB grips.

The US-made RedMonkey grips are constructed from a unique silicone formula that’s designed to deliver improved vibration damping and comfort, while still remaining durable. Knowing that one size rarely fits all, the company produces their grips in two versions: the 5mm Sports Kärv, and the 6.5mm Sports Kärv(xt). Both models measure 133mm in length, and are compatible with standard MTB-style handlebars (i.e. 22.2mm or 7/8″ OD).

For our testing, we chose the thicker Sports Kärv(xt) grips (MSRP $19.95). Installation was a snap thanks to a dab of clear hand sanitizer gel (a tip that we picked up from Jeff Jones). Once installed, our sample grips measured 34mm in diameter. The included end plugs (7g/pair) fit–and remained secure–in our test rigs’ steel and alloy handlebars. With an actual weight of 71g for the pair, the RedMonkey grips are on par with competitors’ products of similar shape and size.

Wrap your hands around the Sports Kärv(xt) grips for the first time, and you immediately notice their tacky feel. Whether riding with gloves or bare-handed, the RedMonkey grips’ smooth texture is surprisingly grippy. Unlike heavily textured or position-specific grips, repositioning your hands or adjusting your grip is quick and effortless. If the grips become dirty or greasy, cleanup is easy with a little liquid dish soap and water.

What impressed us most, however, was the Sports Kärv(xt)’s cushioning. Whether commuting over chip seal pavement, or navigating rocky singletrack, the RedMonkey grips provided a near-perfect blend of comfort and control. This is no accident, as the company utilizes a different silicone density and compression deflection ratio for the thicker (xt) grips. Despite this increased squish-factor, the grips didn’t require the death grip needed with thick, overly-soft grips.

Karv(xt)-Combo

RedMonkey Sports’ products are available at select retailers or directly from the company. A portion of each sale is donated to various cycling-related charities. In addition to grips, the company offers clothing and accessories that feature the RedMonkey Sports logo.

Disclosure: RedMonkey Sports provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: SQlab 611 Race & 611 Active MTB Saddles

Saddle choice, by its very nature, is an extremely personal preference. Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes, but even identically sized riders might prefer different saddles. SQlab GmbH of Germany recognizes that riders have different seating needs, and offers a range of saddles suited to riders of all sizes and disciplines. Recently I was given the opportunity to test the company’s 611 Race and 611 Active MTB saddles.

Like many other manufacturers, SQlab saddles are available in multiple widths. Determining your particular saddle width is a simple, two-part procedure. The first step is measuring your sit bones’ width using a piece of corrugated cardboard and a chair. Once you’ve determined that measurement, you then add 0-4cm depending on your preferred riding position (the more upright your position, the more you add). If you’re between sizes, SQlab recommends sizing up to the next width. My calculations put me in between the 14cm and 15cm sizes, so I selected 15cm test saddles.

SQlab 611 Active MTB model.

SQlab’s 611 Active MTB saddle.

Measuring 302mm in length, SQlab’s 611 Active MTB saddle is one of the longest off-road saddles available. The extra length, combined with the amply padded nose, translates into more positions for technical, off-road riding. For improved comfort and efficiency, the 611 Active saddle features the company’s T-Beam suspension system. Instead of attaching the base of the saddle directly to the rails, the shell is suspended via an elastomer which allows the saddle to track the rider’s pelvic movement.

The 611 Active MTB saddle’s unique profile serves two purposes. The flat rear portion supports the rider’s sit bones, and helps move pressure away from the soft tissues. Further relief is provided by the stepped fore/aft profile, which keeps pressure off the perineum. Dialing in the Active MTB saddle’s position required some tweaking over a few rides. In my case, that meant moving the SQlab saddle approximately 1cm farther forward than my other saddles.

SQlab 611 Race model.

The SQlab 611 Race model.

Designed for on-road use, the 611 Race saddle features a more conventional profilel. The 279mm long Race saddle retains the 611 Active MTB’s flat, supportive rear portion, but lacks the latter saddle’s more pronounced stepped fore/aft profile. Interestingly enough, I found that less trial-and-error was required to determine the 611 Race model’s correct position, and the preferred setback for the Race saddle ended up being almost identical to my other saddles (Selle Anatomica, Specialized, WTB). With a weight of 280g, the SQlab Race model was comparable to saddles of similar size and construction.

During this review period, I split my time evenly between the two SQlab saddles. While not designed specifically for off-road use, I found that I preferred the 611 Race model for both paved and unpaved riding. I did notice, however, that the 611 Active MTB saddle’s suspension was superior for reducing trail chatter and vibration. Both saddles were tested with a variety of seaposts, and I’m happy to report that SQlab saddles remained free of squeaks and creaks for the duration of my review.

Disclosure: Radsport USA provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.