Pearl Izumi Summit WRX NeoShell Gloves
Price: $90 / €75 / £65
Available Colours: Black
Available Sizes: XS-XLG
Weight: 23g per glove, size medium
People who live in cities like Portland, Seattle, London, Philadelphia, and many others have a unique challenge when it comes to riding in the winter. Not only does it rain, a lot, but it’s cold too. It puts clothing needs into this weird space between dry and below freezing and wet and warm. It’s the most demanding ask of any clothing and there’s not a lot of companies even attempting to fill the need.
Even though every piece of clothing struggles with the demands of this weather, gloves are perhaps the hardest. All the movement needs, required seems, and the fact that your hands sit out in the wind make for a nearly impossible challenge. During my time exploring the options I’ve included in the best winter cycling gloves I spent a long time attempting to find gloves that solved these challenges. I used to make videos wringing water out of waterproof gloves and call companies Monday mornings to ask how it was possible to call gloves waterproof with the performance I experienced. Finally someone had an answer.
The company that really solved the problem for me was Sportful with its Lobster glove. During my discussions with Sportful the brand explained that eventually every type of waterproof glove would experience what seemed like a failure when the materials around the membrane saturated. Only a shell, without material to saturate, would do what I needed. Sportful was right but a Lobster glove isn’t the right solution for every ride.
That’s where the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell gloves fit in. The concept is the same as the Sportful solution. These are only a shell designed to rainproof whatever glove you want. This time though, Assos made a five-finger solution so you can keep your dexterity intact. Now that I’ve spent time with the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell glove I’m ready to talk about details. If you’ve had enough of wet and cold hands, keep reading to see if Assos has a workable solution.
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Design and aesthetics
The Assos RSR Thermo rain shell glove is a product that isn’t overly bedecked with additional features, and details on the construction are hard to come by. The entire glove uses a fabric called waterShield. and Assos never gives any details about the fabrics the brand uses.
All I can tell you is that waterShield is a 2-layer waterproof/breathable membrane fabric. That means there’s an exterior face fabric bonded directly to the membrane without an interior face fabric. Mostly that’s not anything groundbreaking but it’s fair to give credit for innovation here given the nature of the face fabric.
To explain what I mean, I need to reference Shakedry material from Gore. All membranes work because of differentials between the inner and outer environment. That means they stop working when the face fabric saturates and it’s no longer dry enough outside to move moisture across the barrier. Shakedry is magic because the outer is essentially Teflon and it’s impossible to saturate it. What Assos has done with waterShield is use a Nylon face fabric that feels like rubber. It might not be Teflon but it won’t saturate. That will continue to allow perspiration to migrate across the barrier and keep you from soaking your gloves from the inside. That’s a very impressive innovation.
With that out of the way, the rest of the glove is very simple. The cut is such that if you buy your normal glove size it will fit over other gloves. It’s certainly not impossible to put your hand in without a liner but that’s clearly not the intended use. Furthering that idea, there’s no real closure either. There’s a bit of elastic on the inner wrist and a long gauntlet but that’s it.
Lacking any reflective details, the only exterior detail is a small tag, a black logo, and some extra protection on the palm. As with Shakedry, the fabric does not seem like it would hold up to much abrasion. Given that cycling gloves inherently have to deal with abrasion there’s another layer of fabric under the knuckles and on the rear outside of the palm. Each extra piece of fabric is also covered with silicone grip material.
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I told you a story about how Sportful was the brand that initially clued me into using a shell instead of a “waterproof” glove. That’s not the whole story though. Sportful shell gloves aren’t fully seam sealed and will leak a bit. There’s likely a good reason for that given these Assos gloves aren’t fully seamed sealed either. Whatever the reason though, I had to figure out the rest of the solution on my own.
What really works for riding in the rain are neoprene gloves. Neoprene gloves get wet but it doesn’t matter. Your body heat warms up the water in the glove and you’ve got a toasty warm environment that doesn’t care about rain. There’s also no concern with breathability since, not to gross you out, sweat is just water and it all just becomes a part of the environment within the glove. The only problem with this arrangement is when the temperature gets too low. At a certain point the wind blowing on your gloves cools the water more than your body can warm it. Divers use drysuits because of a similar problem but for cyclists you have to protect the neoprene glove from the wind.
For the last couple of years, I’ve told people to pair the Sportful Lobster gloves with neoprene gloves. Part of that is because those gloves leak though the seams but, as I already said, it also deals with sweat. I thought I was very clever having solved a problem that no one else had. Then I looked at the product description page for the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell glove. Seems I’m not so clever given that Assos specifically calls out these gloves as “an upgrade to the neoprene rain glove.” Oh, I guess I’m not the only one to figure out the problem with Neoprene gloves in cold weather.
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That’s okay, I don’t have to be the only one and it’s nice to get some confirmation. If you want to ride all day in cold rain then pair the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell glove with a pair of neoprene gloves. It’s the kind of solution that works because of the inherent properties of the materials so there’s really nothing to test; it just works.
What’s nice about the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell glove though is the use beyond the more extreme need. You might not need to spend 7 hours in rain just above freezing so I wanted to make sure that you could also use these with other gloves and shorter rides. First I started by running my hand under the faucet to see if I could get a leak to appear – They do leak in that situation.
Keep in mind that running a glove under a faucet isn’t really a fair test. There’s a pretty drastic difference between rain, even heavy rain, and the amount of volume and pressure a faucet puts out. I do feel like if these gloves, and the Sportful gloves, had taped seams they would do better under a faucet but it doesn’t much matter. The faucet isn’t a real world test but it’s still informative. These gloves will eventually leak but they also drastically improve real world rain performance of any glove and are super packable.
I had recently tested the Giro Vulc heated gloves in heavy rain and, as expected, they failed. Those aren’t waterproof gloves and only claim they are windproof. In heavy rain they saturated in only a few minutes to the point where making a fist would force water to run out. Using that as my baseline I headed out into heavy rain with the addition of the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell glove.
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What I found was very similar to my experience with the Sportful Lobster gloves. That is to say, water will come through but the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell is still a helpful addition to have on hand. Instead of taking 10 minutes to soak through, I made it almost an hour before I felt like the inner glove was wet.
Even once water made it through, it was still helpful having the Assos outer glove. In the same way that the Assos rain shell makes neoprene gloves usable in cold temperatures, they also help keep your hand more comfortable with any glove. The water that eventually comes through the Assos gloves is coming through the seams and there’s no insulation to soak it up. That means you will continue to have an effective wind barrier and it’s a lot easier to hold heat without cold wind blowing on a wet glove.
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I know you came here looking for gloves that would absolutely and without question keep your hand dry in the rain. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell gloves will do that. In fact, to be very clear, they will not. Despite that information, they may still be worth adding to the gloves you have.
Although Assos sometimes refers to these gloves as waterproof, the brand isn’t promising they will keep your hand dry in the rain. I don’t know exactly what the loophole is there but it’s something I’ve seen from all “waterproof” gloves. Instead, Assos tells customers right from the beginning that these gloves pair with the Assos GT Rain Gloves (or any neoprene glove).
The construction of the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell gloves also has some other advantages. Because they are so lightweight, they are easy to bring with you on any ride as a just in case. Slide over whatever gloves you have and they will extend the time your gloves stay dry and add windstopping. Unfortunately you do lose touchscreen usability once you slide these on but if you need them you probably won’t mind.
Throughout this review covering the Assos RSR Thermo rain shell gloves I’ve also mentioned the Sportful Lobster gloves quite a bit. The two pairs of gloves are the best defense when riding in the rain. The Sportful gloves are less expensive but thicker material, less fragile and slightly warmer, and a Lobster design instead of a five finger design. Choosing one or the other is mostly going to hinge on how much dexterity you want but the Assos gloves are also a little more packable. Both offer very similar performance.
|Design and aesthetics
|There’s stylish about these but they do the job they are designed to. The choices made in the design show a real understanding of what helps when riding in the cold and wet.
|Wet weather performance
|The best of what’s available though still not perfect. I don’t get why both Sportful and Assos choose not to tape the seams.
|Cold weather performance
|This is obviously not a glove designed to keep you warm but they can really up the performance of whatever gloves you put inside them.
|Comfort and fit
|Perfectly sized so if you buy your normal size you can fit those gloves inside.
|Assos is always a bit more expensive. As much as I like these gloves the Sportful pricing seems like it makes more sense for a shell.
|Row 5 – Cell 1