Sportful's WS Essential 2 gloves are a triumph of low-bulk construction, effective protection, great fit and comfort, which together make them just brilliant for cool to cold days.
The synthetic palm is quite thin, but with a soft inner face, and the back is covered with Gore-Tex Infinium 4-Way Warm fabric, lined with soft fleece. This Gore-Tex fabric is windproof and water resistant, and is responsible for the WS, for WindStopper, in the glove's title.
The gloves have a slim, rubber-backed Velcro tab on the back of the wrist, which opens to permit easy access via the broad cuff. A strip of the same synthetic microfibre material as on the palm and fingers extends across the inside of the cuff, giving something robust to pull the glove on with. The Velcro tab can tighten the low-profile cuff completely around the wrist, allowing sleeves to overlap it, but the half ThermoDrytex cuff is stretchy enough to wrap over some sleeves too, if preferred.
Available in all black, as tested, or with one of four coloured highlights covering the little finger, and the sides of the other fingers, they come in sizes XS to XXL. These sizes equate to a palm circumference from 6 to 11in (15-28cm).
As the largest circumference of my palm measures 9in/23cm, I tested a pair of the recommended large gloves. I have average length fingers, with thickness somewhere between your stereotypical classical pianist's and Homer Simpson's. Relatively large palms, and fingers on my left hand with much worse circulation than those on my right, thanks to an accident and multiple surgeries, ask a lot of cycling gloves.
On me the gloves' fingers are a snug fit, with no bagginess, so they give superb dexterity, moving exactly as your fingers do. I find they give a gentle squeeze, which I quite like. It's not the sort of tightness that inhibits circulation and makes your hands cold – as mentioned, I already struggle there – rather, just a stabilising grip. Off the bike, there looks to be excess material between thumb and forefinger, but once gripping a handlebar or hood, it's ideal. There are seams along the side of each finger, but they don't interfere at all.
Lightly padded grippy patches across the top of the palm and ulnar nerve area are complemented by the same unpadded, silicone-embossed material between thumb and forefinger. Together they grip superbly, even on bare carbon or aluminium, and the subtle padding doesn't press into your hand when gripping the bar.
The right forefinger has a shiny microfibre panel for controlling touchscreen devices (bad luck if you're left-handed), but because you need to touch the screen with a flatter part of the fingertip it can be a little hit and miss if trying to type, though not too hard if just scrolling. It works, but I have used some that are more effective. The gloves are very quick and easy to remove and put on again though, so I generally do that.
There's also a good sized Ultrasuede wipe strip on each thumb, for quickly cleaning lenses, or your cold, dripping nose. The large Sportful logo on the back of each hand is reflective too.
There's an immediate feeling of warmth from the gloves, and with their windproofed backs it doesn't easily escape. On days when the ambient temperature dropped to around 5°C, with windchill making it a few degrees colder still, my hands remained comfortably warm for a couple of hours. In freezing temperatures of zero and below, the gloves' ability to create and maintain warmth was limited by their thermal properties, so, depending on how your hands react to the cold, the Sportfuls may not be warm enough. The Italian brand says the WS Essential gloves are designed for temperatures down to 5°C, so that's no surprise.
In light rain and drizzle, or heavy road spray, moisture doesn't penetrate the gloves for some time, but if things get persistent or heavy, you'll definitely get wet hands. The bonus is that the windproofing still keeps the cold at bay, so your hands will stay warm and damp. I probably wouldn't choose to wear them in a downpour, but I also don't expect to keep my hands dry in anything, and that way I don't get disappointed; I'm more interested in warmth.
Listed at £50, these gloves are a solid outlay, but are of great quality and durability. On price, they align with Castelli's Tutto Nano gloves, but offer a more robust feel and greater warmth, and Bioracer's Glove One Tempest Pixel Protect gloves, which have similarities but also greater bulk. They're not as good value as 100%'s Brisker gloves, though, which are £13 less, and very good.
Gloves that don't change the way you ride, by making gear shifts, eating, drinking, operating zips and so on more complicated while riding, are worth finding. For me, these Sportfuls are ideal for every ride when the temperature stays a few degrees above freezing, and Sportful's usual quality of construction has kept them looking pristine, despite plenty of washes.
Excellent low-bulk winter gloves with generous warmth, decent protection and superb fit
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful WS Essential 2 Gloves
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Sportful's Windstopper Essential 2 Gloves are lightweight winter gloves, designed to keep hands warm in cold, damp weather.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Sportful lists these details:
Gore-Tex Infinium 4-Way Warm fabric on the back of the hand
ThermoDrytex Plus inside wrist for great fit
Synthetic palm with light padding and fleece lining.
Ultrasuede wipe strip on thumb
Reflective Sportful logo
5+ degrees Celsius
When used in appropriate conditions, these Sportful gloves are excellent.
The gloves have shrugged off everything they've been assaulted with so far, and still look pristine.
Not too loose, or tight, the fingers are a good length and they're low bulk.
If you consult Sportful's fitting guide and buy accordingly, then you should find these gloves to be a good fit. I always find them to be spot on.
Great warmth from the plush inner surfaces, and no problematic seams.
Similar to those from Castelli and Bioracer. Quality isn't often cheap, and Sportful usually produces reliably good quality apparel that's worth paying for in the long run.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washing about 15 times has returned the gloves to as-new condition every time.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They're easy to put on, superbly comfy and still allow great dexterity.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not having one of the alternative options with coloured highlights...
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
These gloves aren't the cheapest, or most expensive, but are in the same ballpark as several other good quality light winter gloves, such as Castelli's Tutto Nano and Bioracer's Glove One Tempest Pixel Protect, though the 100% Hydromatic Brisker glove is better value at £36.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Sportful WS Essential gloves are comfortably snug without being tight, easy to put on and fasten, very grippy, and low bulk. They offer enough protection for most conditions through autumn, winter and spring, remaining effective until just above freezing, and, based on past experience, should last well. They're very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL6 with Campagnolo Super Record 12s My best bike is: BMC SLR01
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, Riding with my children, using both a child seat and trailer bike