If you were a bicycle racer in the early hardshell helmet days, you may remember Brancale‘s distinctive white-and-blue helmets. The Italian company’s products were a common sight in the pro peloton, but eventually the storied brand faded away. In 2014, Brancale relaunched as a US-based company, concentrating on high-end cycling apparel and accessories produced in Italy, England and the United States.
For their winter gloves, Brancale partnered with one of England’s finest glove makers. The gloves–meticulously cut and sewn by hand–are constructed from buttery-soft hair sheep leather. Fleece liners offer additional insulation, and thin, dense padding on the palm and thumb absorb vibration and road buzz. At a time when high-viz is the current rage, Brancale bucks trends by offering their gloves in a rich, warm brown they call cognac.
At first glance, Brancales look more like fine driving gloves than utilitarian cycling mitts. Could the $200 USD gloves hold up to Colorado’s harsh winter conditions, or would they be more suited to tweed run accessory status? I certainly appreciate cycling’s rich heritage, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice warm hands and comfort for the sake of fashion.
Even at very low temperatures, the thin leather remained extremely pliable. While I normally prefer unpadded gloves, Brancale’s padding was unobtrusive, and offered additional insulation from cold handlebars and brake hoods. With their slender profile and elegant appearance, you may be tempted to restrict the Brancale gloves’ use to mild weather. You’d be doing yourself a huge disservice, however, as the British-made gloves easily hold their own against bulkier ski-style gloves. While everyone’s personal thermostat may vary, I rode comfortably in 27-32 (Fahrenheit ) temperatures with the Brancale gloves.
During my year-long test period, the Brancale gloves saw equal use on and off the bike. The supple leather mitts became my go-to gloves for everything from shoveling snow to walking the dogs. I’ll admit that the $200 gloves wouldn’t be my first choice when changing a flat or performing road-side maintenance, but they proved far more durable and resilient than I originally expected, As an added bonus, the Brancale gloves don’t scream, I’m a cyclist! You can actually wear them off-the-bike and not look like some type of intergalactic crustacean.
Although the cognac-colored leather is very striking, I’d like to see Brancale offer the option of a black colorway. The snap closure is definitely an elegant alternative to Velcro, but the lack of an extended cuff can result in a gap between the gloves and your jersey or jacket. Lastly, the thumbs’ padding felt stiff compared to the rest of the glove (especially when riding a flar-bar-equipped bike with trigger shifters).
Disclosure: Brancale provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.