Chapeau long sleeve thermal jersey

If you click to buy here at the time of writing everything on Chapeau’s website is 3 for 2. So, the RRP of this £99 jersey, and I’ll talk more about whether it’s worth it a bit later, is mitigated somewhat. How about a pair of tights, gilet and this for free? Go mad. Or get this, add some other bits and get the cheapest free. Bonus.

Anyway, imagine the softest thing you can imagine. Soft kitty, warm kitty? Close, but think even softer. The Chapeau jersey is hands down the softest thing I’ve put next to my skin as an outer layer. It’s softer than Mister Soft from the Soft mint commercial (yes, I am that old).

Chapeau describe this as a long sleeve thermal jersey. It’s not called a winter jersey, it doesn’t define what season it should be used in. It’s “just” a thermal jersey. So I’ve been trying to find out, as usual, what sort of extremes one might use it at and how it performs in a multitude of roles. Fortunately the weather has exhibited sufficient diurnal temperature variation (I’ve always wanted to get that one in) in the past few weeks for me to give it a proper test.

The thermal jersey comes in a very agreeable five different colourways. Mine, which is very red indeed, is the only one that’s actually a single colour throughout. The others are generally a two tone affair with contrast stripes. There’s pretty much a colour choice for everyone and if you prefer avoiding black during the winter months there’s plenty of choice as well.

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The very red colourway on test is pretty much guaranteed to get you noticed in the daylight hours. I opted for a medium this time given that I’ve lost a bit of weight. And on a 39″ chest, 78kg or so this is utterly spot on. The arms are a good length as well and should provide an inch or so if you have longer arms than me. The wrists lack any fancy termination being stitched parts of the main arm with double back fabric. It’s comfy and stretchy with zero flappiness. There’s no baginess, no sag, no bulging out belly or zip. The fit, on me, is perfection.

The exterior is your usual soft material but it’s the interior which is super fluffy. It’s actually branded super roubaix (a bit like this site) made my MITI in Italy so you know that you’re getting top quality, top drawer soft kitty loveliness. This isn’t roubaix type, this is serious roubaix.

I’ve owned many “roubaix” lined fleecy jerseys. I’m a big fan of such things. I’m a particular fan of the dhb aeron which provides decent warmth and good value and of the excellent Lusso Leggero. But, for me, this is a much softer and, simultaneously, slightly warmer affair. than either. It’s not for deep winter and I reckon 5 degrees is probably its limit sans base layer. But add a base layer, stick a gilet on top and I reckon you could squeeze a decent temperature out of it. Whip off the gilet and you should be good up to mid teens. Indeed, you won’t overheat even if your autumn ride turns into 16-18 degrees or so. It’s pretty versatile actually. In fact as I’ve finished the edit of this particularly review I’ve ridden home in some blowy south westerlies. The temperature was about 16 and the pace slow (given the wind) but very energetic. The material wicks well, insulates and never feels overwhelmed. It’s equally at home in the early mornings when the temps hover in the mid single digits. Despite lacking any form of windproofing it’s surprisingly protective.

Round the back and it’s the usual story. Three pockets and one zipped one. Perhaps unusually that zipped pocket is centrally located. I can’t say I prefer one thing or another, it’s just that most zipped ones tend to be offset.

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And while the jersey itself is not water resistant the pocket certainly is. It’s lined with a waterproof material all the way round and the zip should be pretty water resistant as well. As I go on to deal with below the pockets are a pretty decent size and, for reference, you can just about squeeze a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge into it. Anything smaller, great. Anything larger, oh well. But that’s a pretty big pocket for a zipped one anyway.

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Reflectives round the back? Check. Just the one, the Chapeau roundel. But it’s a fairly good one nevertheless. Sure, there could be a few more, but there we are. Reflectives are useful but, at this time of the year, no substitute for a good collection of flashers.

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As stated, the pockets are very deep. You’ll see from the below picture that they are placed slightly higher than the waistband. The effect of that is that they do sit slightly higher on your back. Reaching into a pocket is a slightly more difficult affair but it’s not problematic in any way and it really does keep them out of the way of road spray and muck. They’re a sturdy affair and look to have a great deal of longevity.

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And, in terms of quality, everything’s put together very nicely indeed. The stitching is perfect, the material is lush, the fit is superb. There’s no scratchiness and all the little details are present to ensure that there’s no discomfort. A zip garage hold the zip away from your throat and the collar is absolutely spot on in terms of length for me.

The price is £99.99 though, as I’ve said, that’s mitigated somewhat if you opt for the 3 for 2 offer live at the time of writing. But, otherwise, is it worth £99.99 when other jerseys exist for less? That’s up to you but, for me, yeah, I think that it is. It’s not quite the substantial affair of the Assos Tiburu (which is generally way more expensive) but it’s a bit more premium and special feeling that the dhb Aeron jersey. And, in relation to both, it’s much more soft kitty. The temperature range is great, it fits really well indeed and, if you partner it with a gilet, it should see you into the low single digit temperatures or deep winter as it’s become known in most of the UK. If it warms up, stow the gilet in one of the really substantial pockets.

So, for me, another hit from Chapeau. A nice feeling premium jersey that pushes all the right buttons. Purr, purr, purr.

Oh, and, by the way, they’ve also launched some rather nice winter warm up lotion! See here. There’s a lovely wintergreen vibe coming from it and it really does work.

Rapha Long Sleeve Brevet Windproof Jersey

quandary
ˈkwɒnd(ə)ri/
noun
  1. a state of perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation.

Yep. Definitely a quandary. You get that sometimes with “niche” products. And it seems very much to me that this is a niche product with the caveat that it really depends on how you want to use it.

One of the things I like to do with testing is to see how a product performs outside its niche. That’s where the truly versatile products exist, if something can exceed the conditions in which its niche appears to operate then so much the better. And, if this product does occupy a niche, what is it? Well, being a windproof jersey there are really two direct comparisons namely the Assos Intermediate S7 (and now the Mille variant) and the Gore Xenon Jersey/Jacket/thingy. Essentially a spring/autumn piece with some windproofing stuck on it. Lighter than a jacket, heavier than a jersey type thing. There are others that are close. Frankly it’s bewildering.

But let’s ignore that for a minute. The Brevet range from Rapha is intended to please the audaxer and randonneur. It’s a range which provides that bit more “stuff” for doing the mega miles. So a bit of reflective trim, some more zipped and deeped products, stuff to keep you warm, stuff to keep you happy. And, you know what, it’s a bloody superb range of products. Both the long and short sleeve Brevet jerseys have hung happily in my wardrobe. But the range of jerseys has now increased, short and long sleeve, lightweight, windproof short sleeve and now windproof long sleeve. Does one need quite so many niches?

And therein my quandary. From the description alone you’d be forgiven for thinking that this long sleeve version was the windproof version of the long sleeve. But it is not. It’s essentially the long sleeve version of the short sleeve windproof version. And that’s more than a bit confusing. The description is a little schizophrenic. It’s “The multi tool of cycling jerseys, offering protection and comfort across a huge range of conditions,” but also, “New quick-drying, lightweight merino fabric for comfort in the heat,” and “Wind-resistant polyester panels stitched to front of the jersey and arms for protection on chilly descents.” In addition it “fuses the all-day performance of a merino jersey, with the wind-protection of a gilet.”

Tired yet? This is important because you need to understand what it is before you buy it. Rapha make merino jerseys. The Brevet long sleeve is a merino jersey. You assume from the above that is what this is. It is not. If I were to be super pedantic I’d describe it as a merino base layer with a protective shell. Or, if you like, a lightweight brevet long sleeve windproof jersey. What it resolutely is not is a windproof version of the Brevet long sleeve. So that’s that out of the way.

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It’s a nice looking jersey. Rapha get that. The stripes are a useful contrast and will aid getting seen. And that’s important on an Audax. They’re reflective as well, more on that later. The windproof outer extends across the entire face of the jersey. Inside it’s lined with the merino part of the jersey. It’s not a heavy jersey and Rapha’s claim that it will dry overnight ready for the next epic day are certainly true. Despite its light weight it’s still very capable of keeping you warm depending on the temperature.

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That should give you some idea of what the merino on the rest of the jersey is like. And, take a look at this picture of the back below.

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It’s here that the jersey becomes a quandary. I get that there’s a place for it but, for me, it’s not really what I signed up for. I expected a normal Rapha brevet with the windproof front. Perhaps that’s my fault because there’s clearly going to be a huge overlap with the much heavier winter jersey. Is that why it’s positioned like this? Is it my expectation that is the issue? Is it fair to identify shortcomings based on my expectations or should I just adjust them?

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It works though, it works in a wide range of temperatures. So, down to just about 6 degrees, up to about 15 or so. That’s without a base layer. Add one of those in and it’s potentially good for lower temps as well despite the lightweight nature of the rear merino. It’s certainly not any good in the rain but the front will shrug off a light shower. And, in the spring months, the merino part will dry very quickly indeed. It’s nice, it’s comfy, it’s well made.

But I just couldn’t shake a few issues. The first is the fit. It’s not closely layered to the skin on the arms. Indeed, it’s more than a bit flappy. The front is also quite short which is particularly interesting because I am certainly not tall. Nevertheless, on the bike it’s actually spot on for me. If you’re taller than I then it might not be. And then there’s the look and feel of it. I can’t shake the fact that, well, it’s a bit like wearing a shell suit.

Shell suits get a bit of a bad rap actually. The one thing about them was that they were pretty warm things. On the other side both David Ike and Jimmy Saville were shell suit flag bearers. It’s not rustly though and it does work. It feels very nice when on other than those fit issues I’ve identified above. Adjust your expectations and all is well.

And all of this leads me to the quandary that I outlined at the start. I have no doubt that this will excel at its singular intended purpose, that being an audax jersey that will suit that type of thing. But, for example, the Gore Xenon windstopper jersey will do that and probably a bit more. You can do other things with this, a bit of commuting, the Sunday cafe run in autumn and spring. But there’s nothing that really marks it out as being better than other jerseys in that regard and, given the price, I don’t really know where it fits in. I’d far rather wear the Assos Intermediate or Mille jersey with a base layer and despite their lightweight construction at the sides and rear I think they offer greater protection that the merino used in this product.

And I just can’t help but shake the fact that the perfect combo is the Rapha Brevet long sleeve and gilet. That bundle is now available here.. It’s a more versatile option that you can use in many more scenarios. In fact, in my all time top 5 list of Rapha products that combo is up there. Not quite at the top, but up there. Blue long sleeve, pink gilet. Comfy, visible, versatile with no quandary.

If you’re a committed audaxer prone to sleeping in haystacks and bus shelters then this may well be that spring/autumn/summer night piece you’ve been looking for. For the rest of us it might be a little too niche.

Cannondale SuperX, posh off roading

The SuperX. That’s Super CROSS not X. So the CAADX is the CAAD Cross as well. Remember that, for cross is what the SuperX is about. That and being a rather posh wet weather road bike as well if you want. And just being a really lovely thing. This review took a little while coming because, well, it’s all very well using it on road and relying on its claimed pedigree off road, but you really need to use it for cyclocross to see if it’s any good. So I waited, used it, and, read on.

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I’ve always wanted a Cannondale and, as you know, I managed to pick up a Supersix Evo last year. And it’s been everything I wanted, easily the best of the carbon bikes I’ve owned. In stock form it’s perfectly good (at Ultegra level) so there hasn’t been too much in the way of upgrading. Obviously it benefited from the Fulcrum Quattro wheels and, latterly, the Bax Carbon deep section clinchers really made it fly.

The Cannondale SuperX on test is equipped with Shimano 105. In terms of spec and price difference it doesn’t give much away to the Ultegra version. The price gap is £300 or so even at sale prices. The SuperX 105 has a RRP of £2200 which isn’t exactly cheap. But it can be had for considerably less if you shop around. The only real difference between them is the wheelset, Aksium on the Ultegra and Maddux on the 105, one wheelset is better but neither is great. The groupsets are little different given that the shifters/brakes are both non series (and pretty much identical) and the chainsets are Cannondale/FSA Si. Given that you’d probably swap the wheels on either model the 105 is arguably the better choice.

For 2017 the SuperX will continue in 105 and Ultegra form pretty much as before. There are some subtle changes but most of the real differences come in the 1x range (which means SRAM). So although this is a review of the 2016 bike not a lot has changed. Oh and prices have gone up, quite a bit in fact. And that’s for 2017, depending on Brexit the prices for the 2018 models might be very interesting indeed.

The spec of the SuperX is as follows:

  • Frame: SuperX Disc, BallisTec Carbon, SPEED SAVE, BB30
  • Fork: SuperX Disc, BallisTec Carbon, 1-1/8″ to 1-1/4″ steerer
  • Wheels: Maddux CX 2.0 Disc, 32-hole
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Rapid Rob, 700x35c
  • Crank: Cannondale Si, BB30, FSA rings, 46/36
  • Rear Cogs: Shimano 105 5800, 11-28, 11-speed
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano 105 5800, braze-on
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105 5800 SS
  • Shifters: Shimano R685 hydraulic disc
  • Handlebar: Cannondale C3, butted 6061 Alloy, Compact
  • Stem: Cannondale C3, 6061 Alloy, 31.8, 6 deg.
  • Brakes: Shimano BR785 hydraulic disc, 160/160mm
  • Brake Levers: Shimano R685 hydraulic disc
  • Saddle: Fabric Scoop Shallow Elite, Cromo Rail
  • Seatpost: Cannondale C3, 6061 Alloy, 27.2mmx300mm

And there are some weak points so let’s deal with those first. We know that most stock bikes come with poor wheels. It’s not that the Maddux are poor per se, they are likely to be bombproof. But they are hefty weighing well in excess of 2.0kg in their unadorned state. And the Rapid Rob tyres might appear to be lightweight (as “light” as CX tyres can claim to be) but they are the cheaper wired version and so they exacerbate the issue of weight. So off they went and the bike now alternates between the Pro Lite Revo and my new Fulcrum Racing 5 LG disc depending on the discipline being deployed. A saving of between 500-800g depending on what’s being used. Most of the time it gets to run on the frankly sublime Schwalbe S-One 30 tyres. And for Cross? Well, that’s when the Pro Lite go on with the tubeless X-One.

There aren’t many other weaknesses. Shimano 105 is fine and, in any event, it’s really only the mechs that are 105. The Shimano R685 brakes are non series and are considered to be Ultegra level, ditto the 785 calipers. The chainset sees no cost cutting in the cranks, Cannondale’s SI chainset arms being things of beauty. But the FSA road rings (46/36) are a cost cutting exercise. They’re also very bendy and I’ve bent them with some high power output! So off they’ve gone and in their place are some very lovely Praxis chainrings which should be able to cope with my phenomenal power.

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The brakes are outstanding. They are literally one finger operation with tremendous power. They are equal in ability to anything I’ve ridden with the XT or XTR moniker on them. They’re good everywhere, be that on dry roads, wet roads or being used for the right reasons. Indeed in Welsh cx round 1 they were outstanding and a far cry from the TRP Spyre that I used last year. Both stop you but the R685 require such minimum effort. That doesn’t mean there’s a risk of locking the wheels either, modulation is a breeze. They are stunning. Cannondale choose to spec 160mm discs front and rear here which is fairly normal whereas they choose a 140mm disc on the rear of the CAADX, perhaps recognising that said bike may be used less for cross and more for road.

There is an issue with the hoods on my bike though. Some of the R685 were given hoods which are a little slack and on downhill braking they do have a slight tendency to slip forward. That’s not ideal, not ideal at all, so I talked to Pedalon, who sourced some new ones and, despite being visually indistinguishable, they are now a perfect fit. Great service from a great bike shop.

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Geometry wise I’ve been riding the 54″ frame. The detailed specs can be found here. It’s quite a long top tube but it seems to be bang on for me at 5ft 10″. There was some school of thought that suggested I try the 52 (my Six is a 54) but it seems to be fine. Indeed, it feels just like a Supersix on stilts (CX bb drop takes some getting used to). The frame itself is super ballistec carbon and, no, as I said in my Supersix review I have no idea what that means. It’s not the high mod version but I doubt I could ever tell the difference. What I can tell you is that it’s super plush, super comfy, floaty and just soooo smooth.

So as good as the brakes and transmission are it’s the frame that really makes this bike stand out. It’s a Supersix on stilts for want of a better description.

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Given the high price point of the SuperX I do wonder who the buyers are. Will it be bought exclusively by the CX user (who will naturally swap out the wheels immediately), or someone who wants to use it as a do it all bike with forays into cross. The latter is probably my purpose. Well, it probably WAS my purpose. You see, I also have a CAADX which I use for commuting, it’s terrific for that. It wears mudguards most of the time. I had planned on keeping the SuperX for the nice CX days (there are some) and using the CAADX for the nasty ones. There might still be an element of that but I think I’m getting a little less precious about kit now and the SuperX is so good it would be a shame not to deploy it more widely. And, having used the CAADX for one of the potentially dirtier rounds there IS a difference. It’s not a huge one and certainly doesn’t necessarily translate to the difference in cost between the two, but it’s there. A difference in front end control, a modicum more harshness, just something less good. And the CAADX is very good which gives you an idea of how good the SuperX is.

It spent the first month or so exclusively on road. Off came the cross tyres (and Maddux wheels) and on went something more road orientated. I used it with a mixture of Vittoria Rubino, Schwalbe S-One and Schwalbe Kojak. Mostly it gets used with the S-One as a bike this sublime needs a sublime tyre. As I stated above it has the feel of a Supersix. The sensation, due to the high bottom bracket, is more of sitting atop the bike rather than it it. Given the geometry it’s clearly the case that, for pure road riding, it is slightly compromised. But that slight is really ever so slight indeed. It’s a little twitchier on corners but overall it’s perfectly excellent, superbly comfortable and very very fast. In fact my fastest time on a particular circuit (my commute) is under a minute slower on the SuperX than the SuperSix. Not bad for something running on 30c tyres. Other than the fact that it cannot take ‘guards this would make a bloody great winter/gravel/adventure bike and still figure at the front of the Sunday club run. Well, mostly, as the 46/11 combination will see you needing to spin a little more wildly to keep up with those running compacts. Mountain climbing on the 36/28 is absolutely fine, for me, as it’s the same as that on my Supersix. And if you wanted to convert it to 1x then you could, though dealing with the vagaries of Shimano mash ups makes that more difficult than if it ran SRAM.

But that’s not really what you came to read about so it’s finally been out racing. I use the term loosely. Though I was racing at cyclocross round 1, for a change, rather than pootling around at the back. None of that means I was challenging, heaven forbid, but I gave it a better go than I have in the last 2 seasons. And where I generally figured quite squarely at the back I’ve moved up into the 60th percentile or so. Had I not fallen off and been unable to clip out for a moment I may well have squeezed into the top half of the field. This may not sound convincing and much of it may be fitness but it’s certainly a better tool to be racing on.

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what the magic is. It’s probably a combination of things. The slack head angle and long front centre do mean that it has outstanding handling. It’s much easier to turn in tight spaces quicker than my previous bikes. There’s a load of traction at the rear and it’s just so comfy to ride on. Get your PSI right and it floats. It’s often the case that the less your bike beats you up the more energy you’ll retain for racing. Of course, to get to this being a SuperX bike, you do need to swap those wheels and, ideally, get some class leading tyres on there. So combined with the much lighter Pro Lite and Schwalbe X-One it really does shine. I’d like to pick up some tubs in due course and see if it can be improved further. I suspect the answer to that is going to be a yes. I guess the magic of the SuperX is that it gets better as you get better and it’s virtually impossible to overwhelm it with your own talent. I’m way off that problem naturally.

It’s certainly not perfect. It arrives “flawed.” But if you can get it for a decent price and make those upgrades you’re pretty much left with perfection, at least for the intended task. Of the three bikes I own, if I could only keep one I think it would be this one. But, you know, I guess I’ll have to tell you about my humble CAADX shortly as well. Half the price of the SuperX, a bit heavier, lacking hydraulics. But it’s much the same story with that one as well. Swap a few things out and, wow, what a bike.

Aldi Winter and Lobster Gloves

Look, it’s not quite cold enough to really do this review. But, if I wait to until it is they will be gone. So you want to know if it’s worth buying these now. Consider this a review of their potential. It’s not a worthless review, I’ve worn enough gloves to tell you how they feel and how I think they’ll perform. And if I start by telling you that the Aldi winter gloves feel a lot like the Castelli Estremo (£50+) then you’ll see where I’m coming from.

The Aldi winter glove is designed for the cold days. It’s available from XS to XL and retails at £4.99. Yes, you read that right. £4.99. Less than a fiver. I mean, they could be merely ok and that would be fine. Oh, and the come in the black pictured or black and fluro yellow. Anyhow, Aldi claim:

  • Touch screen finger feature
  • Reflective print for better visibility
  • All-weather protection – windproof waterproof and breathable membrane
  • Absorbent terry cloth on thumb
  • Silicone print for enhanced grip
  • Insert on palm for extra protection
  • Touch and close fastener for width adjustment

And that’s pretty much the same story for the lobster gloves as well. Save that they’re also rather more boldly described as being waterproof in the actual description rather than just the specs. Oh, and they are £7.99 but, come on, find me proper capable winter gloves for £13 and I’ll show you two pairs of these.

The thing about budget gloves, rather unashamedly, is the aesthetic. And, in the past, the aesthetic has been at best functional. But while something like the Castelli Estremo with its pretty weave and giant scorpion is a prettier glove I don’t think the Aldi glove is far off the aesthetic of a Gore glove. Check out the Gore Universal winter glove and there’s not much between them. The same is true of the lobster, it’s pretty similar in overall look to some Pearl Izumi ones I owned. So, not the last word in beauty, but in terms of looks Aldi are certainly getting there. I tried on both with my premium Parentini Mossa.2 jacket and they didn’t look out of place.

Aldi Winter Gloves

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It’s essentially business as usual on the winter glove. A vaguely softshell like outer with a velcro wrist closure, terry “face wiping” thumb and some gel in the palm. Not a lot of gel but the depth of the overall padding should help soften those winter bumps. I’m happy to report that the touch screen feature actually does work and you can work a smartphone with these. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, these are thick gloves. But answering a call should be more than fine.

But it’s the reflective trim that really deserves a mention, each glove featuring reflective piping, side panels and finger lines. Even the Crane logo reacts. If you’re signalling there’s no way you won’t be seen. Whether that will matter is quite another story.

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The inner is essentially a “thinsulate” type fleecy material. In terms of use these should be more than capable in the low single digits and, depending on how you run, well below freezing. They are certainly windproof. They also have a waterproof membrane. They don’t shed water from the surface particularly well but my shower and sink test didn’t see any water get through. It will, in the end, simply because there are seams etc. But that waterproof addition is a great touch. In terms of how breathable they are don’t expect miracles, if you want warmth you’re generally going to put up with some moisture. They’re well made and seem robust. Whether you’re a commuter or sunday rider I can’t see how you can really go wrong with these.

Aldi Lobster Gloves

If you do run cold, as I do, then you really should try lobsters. And when you do you might wonder how they are going to work. The lobster gloves feel slightly less protective than the winter ones. But, dear reader, do not be alarmed. Lobsters work because by bringing two sets of fingers together they can provide each other with warmth. If you’ve not tried them, prepare to be amazed. Of course, there’s a trade off, if you’re operating the gears it can be a bit trickier. If you’re operating electronic gears then, why are you reading this anyway?

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The inner liner is stitched into the main body of the glove. This time the liner is branded Thinsulate fleece though, in practice, it feels no different to that in the winter gloves. The inner liner itself is actually traditional glove so each finger has its own, well, finger. The two fingers in each section don’t actually touch each other but that’s not a bad thing actually. All the warmth of contact and none of the sweatiness.

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Once again there’s a tidy little array of super reflective trim. As I said above these are actually described as waterproof. In practice they performed the same using my shower and sink test as the winter gloves. The surfaces wetted out but nothing got in. Again, in persistent rain etc something will eventually make its way in somehow. But these are very good in terms of how they stand up to moisture. Full rain test as soon as it’s cold and wet enough. Which might be November looking at the forecast.

There are very few faults with either of these gloves, in fact the only thing I could possibly find to criticise was that the velcro part of the wrist enclosures could be longer and the wrist enclosures themselves could be sized down. There is a gap that would be open to the elements if you chose to wear them outside the top garment. But, just don’t. Wear these inside the cuff of your jersey/jacket and all is right with the world.

So, my initial thoughts are that Aldi have nailed these. Good quality, great feel and the aesthetic is ever improving.

£13 for the pair then. That’s 5 flat whites. And as much warmth and inner glow as a flat white can bring, skip a few and experience true outer warmth instead.