Sportful’s Sottozero gloves offer exceptional warmth in an impressively low bulk package. The palms are grippy and not too padded, while the back of the hands feature a large reflective logo for better visibility when signalling at night. With a generous nose-wipe and a well proportioned cuff, the only things holding these gloves back from a full five stars is the lack of full waterproofing (they are only water resistant) and the touchscreen finger being a little cumbersome in use.
Very warm without being too bulky
Well proportioned cuff
Hard to operate a touchscreen
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With Sottozero translating as ‘below zero’ in English, Sportful is leaving no ambiguity about the application of these gloves. As with the very best cycling gloves (opens in new tab), these are designed to take on the very worst conditions.
As Sportful’s flagship deep-winter glove, these do come with a price tag to match. But with that, they are very well thought out and do live up to expectations – although you might find them too hot in milder conditions.
The construction: Sportful Sottozero winter gloves
The outer material of the gloves features a softshell construction. It is windproof, but gives greater weight to breathability than it does waterproofing. Still water resistant, the gloves aren’t shy of a little rain, but if it’s properly pouring, these aren’t the gloves for that day.
The insulation is provided by Primaloft Silver synthetic down, which is used by many brands for its great thermal properties and how it is unfazed by a little water – unlike natural down insulation. Inside, there is a light fleecy lining, which adds a bit of extra warmth, but is mainly there to feel nice against your skin.
For added grip, there’s the Clarino palm with silicone printing. The gloves offer a little padding, but it’s not excessive. These are winter gloves for still feeling that connection with the handlebars. If you’re doing an off-road winter epic, you probably would want something with a bit more padding.
Towards the back of the glove, there is a reasonably sized cuff with a broad Velcro closure. The cuff isn’t so long that you’d have no option but to wear it over your sleeves, but at the same time, it’s not so short that you wouldn’t be able to wear it like that if you wanted to.
Of the details, there is a soft microfibre backing to the thumb, which Sportful unambiguously labels a nose wipe – no ‘sweat wiping’ euphemisms here. Sportful’s logo is in pride of place in the centre of the back of the palm and in a reflective print, to help with visibility when signalling at night (opens in new tab). And the fingers feature a touchscreen compatible insert for using a smartphone.
Sportful has pulled off an excellent balancing act with the Sottozero winter gloves. Of course, they are still more bulky than a full finger glove for spring and autumn riding, but they don’t have that almost mitten-like feel of the most bulky winter gloves.
Partly this is down to the more minimal padding on the palms. Some winter gloves go heavy in this department – which is great for very long rides over rough terrain – but I don’t tend to ride longer than six hours in the winter. So I very much appreciated the level of bar feel and control that these gloves offered.
The silicone grippers of the palms did a great job. I never slipped once or ever felt close to losing my grip. Some gloves with similarly strong grippers can result in your hand slipping and sliding inside the glove, while the palm stays steadfast on the bars – typically more disconcerting and compromising of the handling than if the glove wasn’t quite so tacky.
But there were no such issues with the Sottozeros. Despite the gecko-like grip, my hands didn’t shift about inside the gloves at all – for all intents and purposes, they were like a snug fitting pair of summer mitts. However, although there is a touchscreen compatible insert at the fingertip, I did find it a little cumbersome to use – I found myself just taking the glove off if I needed my phone.
Despite their name, thanks to an unseasonably warm winter – at least around the valleys of South Wales – I haven’t taken the Sottozeros out in sub-zero temperatures. But right down to the very low single digits (in Celsius; around the mid 30s in Fahrenheit), my hands were perfectly toasty.
In temperatures around 8°C (46°F) my hands were even starting to overheat. Factoring all that in, I think the suggested temperature range of down to -5°C is probably pretty accurate. It’s the temperatures just around and slightly above freezing point that feel subjectively coldest.
When the moisture hasn’t yet been frozen out of the air, it conducts the heat away from your body much faster than the crisp, dry air a little further below zero. Although, naturally there does come a point when just the raw cold really starts to bite.
I didn’t take the gloves out in any downpours, as they’re only rated as water resistant, those aren’t the conditions they’re designed for. Nevertheless, they did cope well with persistent mizzle – and splashing through fire road puddles, they didn’t get overwhelmed.
But although the breathability of the gloves was very good indeed, lack of waterproofing on a winter glove feels like a bit of an omission – intentional or otherwise. There’s a range of very warm – and breathable – deep winter gloves which do come with waterproofing.
If your winter riding is confined only to dry days, then that’s by-the-by, but if you're looking for something to carry you through the worst that the weather can throw at you, you would be better off going for a different glove.
At £70.00 / $79.95, Sportful’s Sottozero gloves lean towards the more premium end of the market – but they’re by no means outliers. Castelli’s Estremo winter gloves (opens in new tab) offer similar levels of insulation, low bulk and water resistance, but cost around £100.00 / $99.99.
Giro’s Proof (five finger) winter gloves (opens in new tab) offer a similar degree of thermal protection, while also boasting a waterproof construction. They are cheaper than the Castellis, but still come in more than the Sottozero at £80.00 / $85.00.
There are cheaper options such as dhb’s Waterproof gloves (opens in new tab), at £30.00 / $38.00 but these don’t offer the same level of warmth or the same quality of materials.
The Sottozero gloves have a lot to offer. They are impressively low bulk for their exceptional warmth, there’s a large reflective logo on the back for increased visibility when signalling at night, the palms are grippy and the cuff well proportioned. The only things holding these gloves back from a full five stars is the lack of a fully waterproof construction (being only water resistant) and the touchscreen finger being a little cumbersome to use on a smartphone.
- Weight: 52g (per glove, size large, measured)
- Sizes: XS–XXL
- Contact: www.sportful.com
How do I keep my hands warm when cycling?
A pair of dedicated cycling gloves are the best way to keep your hands warm when cycling. When you’re travelling at speed, windchill can have a massive impact on how warm your hands feel, so opting for a glove with windproofing will go a long way to keeping your hands warm.
The next thing to look for is insulation. A fleecy lining will go some way to keeping your hands warm, but for a proper winter gloves you’ll be best off going for a glove with proper insulation, such as that of Primaloft.
What temperature do you need cycling gloves?
The temperature at which gloves become necessary for cycling varies between individuals. Some people (Belgian professional cyclists in particular) seem to be impervious to the cold, doing without gloves for much of the winter. For most people, it’s comfortable to start wearing lighter weight gloves at 12°C / 54°F and changing to dedicated winter gloves at around 6°C / 43°F.
How do cyclists stay warm in the winter?
It takes a many layered approach for cyclists to stay warm in the winter. Fleecy bib tights and an insulated / windproof jacket are good starting points. But they need to be supplemented with gloves, warm socks and overshoes or full winter boots. For particularly cold days, a baselayer, buff and skull cap are all good additions.
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