Ride the Puddles

Review: Bell “Comfort Mesh” and “Pro Gel” Cycling Gloves

Posted by bikezilla on November 28, 2010

— Bell “Comfort Mesh” Cycling Gloves

About three years ago I bought a pair of Bell “Comfort Mesh” cycling gloves. I picked them up at Target or Walmart for around $10.

They seemed to be made of a light weight mesh backing married to a padded suede front. The mesh is great because it breathes and doesn’t hold heat in against your hand. But, the front is really some kind of felt textured to look like suede.

I like my gloves to fit snuggly, so I bought the S/M size and they fit perfectly.

I’m not sure how well the light padding would have worked for hardcore mountain biking, but I only needed them to protect my hands in case of a fall and to prevent blisters on long, hot summer rides.

They worked marvelously well for their intended purpose and they held up beautifully. In fact, they held up so well that the illusion of suede endured for two and a half seasons.

But after those 2.5 seasons my gloves were so filthy with sweat and dirt that they became stiff and didn’t smell especially pleasant.

So I washed them.

And right after that is when the felt started pulling apart and I was forced to purchase new gloves.

I still keep them as my backup gloves, but each ride sees them become more hole than material. I never had an issue with the seems failing. It was the “suede” fabric itself that gave out.

Then again, I only paid about $10 for them, so they were actually a pretty sweet bargain and if I’d washed them by hand they’d probably have lasted another season.

They were such a good bargain that I made my next pair Bell, as well.

Woe is me for that mistake.

I could no longer find the “Comfort Mesh” model, so I went with the “Pro Gel” model.

— Bell “Pro Gel” Cycling Gloves.

I was leery about these from the start.

Any product that throws out the word “Pro”, you can bet that no real professional would be seen within a mile of, and they’d go without before actually using it themselves.

To start with, though I again bought the S/M size, the fit was completely different. Where the “Comfort Mesh” glove fit snuggly, the “Pro Gel” glove was loose and sloppy fitting. So loose that I got blisters even with it on.

That was never an issue with my old “Comfort Mesh” gloves.

The materials in this glove LOOK identical to the materials of the “Comfort Mesh”, though the styling and sizing are different. And I’d bet that they ARE the same materials and the same quality as a pair of NEW “Comfort Mesh” gloves. But the “suede” material on the palms is garbage compared to my (now) 3 year old “Comfort Mesh” gloves.

While the backs and straps and stitching all seem to be holding up perfectly, that false suede began shredding after my very first ride, which was about 50 miles in 80+ degree temps. Not exactly a difficult ride nor severe conditions.

The padding IS heavier and feels nice when your hand is pressed hard against the bars. It does a good job of absorbing vibration on smooth road or on well maintained rail trail.

But once you start sweating the slop in the fit becomes telling, because you’ll end up with blisters almost as bad as if you’d used no gloves at all.

At $16 these are still one of the most affordable cycling gloves you’ll find. But you’ll be lucky to get a full season out of them and half a season will be more likely if you wear them for every ride (I only wear mine on rough trail, any road ride and on rail trail rides longer than 25 miles).

I’ve always liked Bell products, overall. I own several and they’ve been a good value for the price.

But if these new gloves are any indication of the direction Bell and the quality of their products are headed, I advise staying away not only from the “Pro Gel” cycling gloves, but from all Bell products.

I know that MY next pair of gloves isn’t gonna be Bell.


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