- 4.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
Cost conscious consumers are often skeptical of niche-specific apparel that differs little from the features of their generic counterparts. Perhaps no market-specific apparel item seems more over hyped than socks or gloves…yes, definitely gloves. Whether the outlet is skiing, running or yes cycling, manufactures are preaching performance superiority within their products specific application and consequentially charging a premium. Under the critical microscope of an unforgiving consumer (myself of course), Castelli’s CW 3.1 gloves will have the challenging task of establishing an edge over less expensive niche-neutral gloves which seem to offer identical features.
The CW 3.1 is categorized as Castelli’s second warmest glove while offering substantial element protection against water, wind and cold. In terms of warmth, these gloves do offer heat retention in ample supply through the use of Thinsulate without adding too much plumage. During each of my rides which fell within or below the temperature rating of these gloves, my hands remained both warm and reasonably dry. Accomplishing a balance of wind blocking design to retain heat while offering breathability to reduce moisture is hardly an easy task. Therefore, in temperatures exceeding 50º, these gloves are overkill and clammy hands are a quick result. However, within their winter habitat an exceptional balance is achieved to maximize the time you can spend on the road.
Warmth was definitely an area of proficiency for these gloves in cold, dry conditions. Would the CW 3.1’s prove to be viable in the wet/mucky disaster that describes a Duluth pseudo Spring? Well yes, absolutely yes! The water shedding quality of these gloves is downright remarkable and the materials used are comparable to those employed on the best garments I’ve owned. Thankfully, the vast majority of these gloves are constructed with the tightly woven fabric that promotes these properties. Testing got off to a great start.
Imperative to a successful design is a proper fit and while Castelli’s sizing does in most cases require sizing up, an excellent fit can be achieved. However, I would not recommend purchasing these gloves anywhere other than in-store since the sizing is somewhat atypical. For reference, the gloves pictured (and tested) were a pair of XXL’s. While a single XL would have been a slightly better fit, availability sealed my fate. Again, I must emphasize purchasing these guys in store to find your correct size…enough on that topic. Something that seems to be often overlooked with respect to glove construction is the placement of seams especially within the fingers. Castelli has deliberately placed seams in areas where contact is least noticeable resulting in a design that prevents bloodflow constriction. To reiterate, the CW 3.1 gloves have a masterful construction which in every manner promotes comfort, warmth and proper circulation. The only critique I can draw involves the less-than desirable cuff length. In an ultimate-level glove, I would expect a lengthy cuff, even airing on the side of overly long. Instead, what you get is acceptable but it does leave me wanting just a bit more wind protection around the wrists.
Beyond the obvious features people look for in a proper winter glove, Castelli has added a latticework of silicone to the palms of these guys resulting in serious grip. Additionally, a gel pad is positioned on the outside palms to increase comfort while riding in the hoods. Honestly, I didn’t find the gel to be entirely necessary with ample comfort coming from the lofty insides, but it didn’t cause any discomfort either. While the gloves I tested do not offer this feature, the new model year offers touchscreen-friendly first finger and thumb capabilities.
With all my pragmatic tendencies finding cause for skepticism in a set of premium priced gloves which are somewhat indistinguishable from their generic counterparts, I have to be honest and exclaim that I am thoroughly impressed with the Castelli CW 3.1 gloves to the point of inseparableness. From the use of water tight materials, to the comfort-oriented internals and indisputable performance in cold temps, Castelli has produced a brilliant glove that thrives in the inhospitable testing grounds of a hardy Duluth winter. They have left a stubborn skeptic entirely impressed.