Tested: Giro Xen Gloves

Striking a balance between lightweight and protection

GiroXen-1

GIRO XEN GLOVE | $35 | GIRO.COM

 
After years and years of burly gloves dominating the market, we've entered a new era of slimmed down models that place a lot of emphasis on keeping your digits nimble. Suddenly, grips are meant to be felt and “connected with.” There's certainly something to all that–it's difficult to grab a brake lever in 2 milliseconds flat if you feel like you have a baby diaper taped to the middle of your paw.

You break noses with your first two knuckles, but you smack trees with the last two--which is why Giro adds a wee bit of protection right where it counts. Smart.

You break noses with your first two knuckles, but you smack trees with the last two–which is why Giro adds a wee bit of protection right where it counts. Smart.

I get that. Then again, I tend to clip tree trunks and often find myself reading the forest floor as if it were a giant braille edition of the phone book. I eat shit on the regular–particularly when winter rolls around and I find myself renewing my love-hate relationship with mud, roots and wet rock. Tactile-enhancing gloves are all good and well, but I need a glove that actually protects my mitts.

That's why I find the Xen an interesting glove–it's lightweight, but also offers a decent amount of protection. It's a kind of happy medium glove.

Nothing sucks like having to remove your gloves in order to swipe the screen on your smart phone or cyclocomputer. The Xen features touchscreen-friendly material on the thumb, index and middle fingers.

Nothing sucks like having to remove your gloves in order to swipe the screen on your smart phone or cyclocomputer. The Xen features touchscreen-friendly material on the thumb, index and middle fingers.

Giro's calling card is fit–it’s a company that has always focused on taking a known product–helmets, shoes, gloves, etc.–and making something new that simply meshes better with the human body. Giro, for instance, stormed the market in the mid-80s, when they debuted the Prolight–a helmet that weighed a fraction of what was considered normal for helmets. But gloves? There are, and have always been, a lot of very good gloves out there. Making gloves better was a harder nut to crack, though Giro has been at it for years now. To that end, the Xen feature a three-panel Clarino palm, which the company claims improves comfort and dexterity.

The heels of your hands take a fair bit of abuse--both because it's a high pressure point on the handlebar and because they tend be the first thing that contacts the earth after you've gone sailing over the handlebars. The Xen gloves have you covered in both cases.

The heels of your hands take a fair bit of abuse–both because it’s a high pressure point on the handlebar and because they tend be the first thing that contacts the earth after you’ve gone sailing over the handlebars. The Xen gloves have you covered in both cases.

The Xen, however, doesn't entirely forgo padding–there's a sizeable lump of the stuff where the heel of your hand meets the handlebar or, in the case of an endo, something hard and pointy. The Xen also features a bit of extra protection on the last two knuckles and the backs of each glove–right where you'd smack a tree trunk or plow through a patch of stinging nettles.

While it's not obvious, the back of the thumb features a soft micro-fiber wipe, which handles snot and sweat wiping duties. Finally, the thumb, index and middle fingers are swathed in a touchscreen-friendly material that allows you to get your mid-ride Strava on or answer that annoying-as-hell text message or phone call.

While the Xen isn't as bomber as some other gloves on the market, it strikes a smart balance between the minimalist models and the over-the-top faux motocross mitts out there. At $35, it's also priced right.

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