Originally developed for the US Special Forces, Polartec Alpha insulation has now been integrated into all manner of winter cycling gear, from jackets to pants. Inspired by high alpine mountaineering, Velocio has taken the Polartec material and used it in their Alpha glove.
The result is a remarkably thin and dexterous winter glove that is far warmer than you would expect given its thickness. It's certainly good enough to be one of the best winter gloves for mountain biking however the warmth doesn’t come cheap and the Alpha glove has a wallet-burning price tag.
Design and Specifications
Most brands offering winter riding kit now have clothing that uses Polartec’s Alpha insulation. Its high warmth, low bulk, and breathability certainly make it a winter winner for me, and the coldest days will have me rummaging through my wardrobe for all the Alpha-insulated clothing I have. The newly developed Alpha 3D pattern is layered under an eVent DVStretch softshell outer which is windproof and DWR (Durable Water Repellency) treated. Velocio says the gloves recommended temperature is between -7 and 8 degrees Celsius (20-45 degrees Fahrenheit).
I followed Velocio’s hand dimension guide which had me sized at a medium, I found the glove fit to be perfect with well-measured finger, palm, and cuff lengths.
There are rubberized palm and finger sections in key grip and wear areas and reflective detailing the full length of the outer edge of the hand. Annoyingly none of the fingers are smart, so you will need to take them off to use your phone.
The slimline fit means the Alpha gloves are extremely comfortable. The long cuffs are easy to slip under or over your jacket sleeve and the fact they are Velcro-free cuts down on a lot of bulk and fiddling when putting them on. Warmth levels are impressive and it's not until you start going below -3 degrees Celsius that I found my hands starting to get cold. Wind protection is top notch too, even when damp, and I didn't feel any numbing drafts even on long fast gravel descents. It must be noted that my testing has predominantly been in a very wet cold, in dry weather you could probably push a bit lower.
That leads me neatly on to the Velocio Alpha’s biggest weakness, it's not waterproof. Velocio doesn’t make any claims they will keep your hands dry though and the DWR treatment is enough to stave off the odd shower. Once they are wet through though, they still do a commendable job of trying to keep your hands warm. The low-volume material is a big advantage here too, as they dry impressively fast for a winter glove.
One of my main annoyances about winter gloves isn’t actually cold hands, but rather hot sweaty hands. When the temperature or gradient rises, some gloves can become unpleasantly hot and your ride can become a spiral of discomfort and faff involving taking your gloves off and on. The Alpha gloves deal with excess very well and I found I could keep them on without getting sweaty mitts. They also pack down far smaller than other larger winter gloves meaning I could pack them away in a pocket easier if needed.
While most comparably warm winter gloves feel a bit like bulky ski gloves, the Alpha gloves are very slimline and still maintain a good level of bar and lever feel. I didn’t find the grips to be particularly grippy although the added dexterity and thinness of the glove easily make up for that on the control front. That said, if you are prioritizing ultimate bar control rather than warmth then you are probably better off with a glove like the legendary 100% Brisker, Raceface Agent, or Fox Defend Pro Fire.
These gloves are into their second season of testing so they have had a fair bit of wear and other than a couple of nicks to the outside material, they are still looking good. I have noticed that the Alpha insulation is showing some wear and is a little thread bear on the inside of the palm although I haven't noticed any effect on overall warmth.
If you are looking for the best dexterity-to-warmth ratio then the Velocio Alpha gloves are a great option, I found accessing things from pockets or using zips was easy enough without needing to take them off. Despite the thinness, they are very warm into negative temperatures and that's backed up by decent wind protection as well. They don’t prioritize bar feel so radical riders might be better off with a thinner but colder glove, but for riding with less bar wrenching like wintery cross-country or gravel loops the Velocio Alpha gloves are a great option.
They are very expensive though and although you might be able to fish your phone out of a zipped pocket with ease, you're still going to need to take a glove off to snap a winter wonderland pic or message ahead to get the kettle on which is annoying.
Tech specs: Velocio Alpha winter gloves
- Price: $119 / £97
- Sizing: Unisex XS, S, M, L, XL (fits true to size)
- Colors: Black, Fire Red, Night (Navy), Light Olive
- Material: Fabric: 76% Polyamide / 12% Elastane / 12% ePTFE
- Lining: 100% Recycled Polyester
- Outer: eVent DVStretch softshell with DWR - windproof and water resistant
- Inner: Polartec Alpha Direct insulation
- Cuffs: Super Roubaix inserts