Kitsbow is a brand built on making high-end riding gear and clothing. Browse their collections and you'll see a lot of really nice and truly functional riding gear, along with some that could be slightly better suited for taking the sidewalk to a backyard patio campfire carrying wood bought from a shelf inside a local outdoor gear store. Premium products and premium prices but really nice stuff, nonetheless.
On the other end of the spectrum, there's the brand Mechanix Wear. A lot of riders including myself have found that Mechanix Wear work gloves are a pretty damn good option for an inexpensive riding glove and or work glove. Browse Amazon or the local Wally World and you'll see that Mechanix Wear have a comprehensive line of gloves ranging from minimalist options to those worthy of winter weather or handling coyotes...none priced more than $35.
HiLine Midweight Glove Details
• Goat Leather
• Sizes: XS-XXL
• Reinforced knuckle area
• Palm pad
• Touch screen compatible
• Large velcro wrist strap
• Mesh between fingers
• MSRP: $49 USD
What do you get when you put the two brands together? You get the Kitsbow/Mechanix Wear collaboration called the HiLine Midweight Glove that sells for $49 USD. In Kitsbow's words, "We couldn’t help notice the rugged Mechanix Wear gloves in the wild, loved by riders but lacking the features specific to riding. We met the team at Mechanix Wear, because they were Kitsbow customers. The next step was obvious."
I talked to Kitsbow's Storm Glover about the collaboration and he said that some of the main guys at Mechanix Wear are also big mountain bikers. Once they all decided they wanted to work together, they brought a few of the features that Mechanix is known for, namely their cuffs, and then Mechanix's resources in sourcing materials - like the goat hide used in the glove. This was coupled with Kitsbow's mountain bike product experience to make the HiLine glove.
So what makes this glove worthy of a price tag that's almost double what you can find many Mechanix Wear gloves for other than the brand association with Kitsbow?
A far cry from the $25 Mechanix Wear gloves you buy at the hunting store, but there's still notable branding.Construction
The HiLine Midweight glove is designed to be fairly minimalist but a little more robust than a "nothing there" kind of glove. The palm is 100% leather. The back is a combination of simulated leather, knitted fabric, and a synthetic rubberized fabric. The cuff has a robust velcro strap that ties everything together.
The palm of the glove has a moderate amount of padding on the outside of it that's stitched in. The back of the glove has some mesh but also reinforcements over the knuckles to help abate impacts. There is a lightweight mesh in between the fingers, and the fingers all have small holes for ventilation. The four bigger finger backs are leather and the small finger is simulated leather.
The glove is called "midweight" and while it holds a little more heat than a minimalist glove, it is by no means designed to be a full-on winter weather riding option.
The HiLine mixes Mechanix Wear function with Kitsbow fashion.Performance
The HiLine gloves felt a little stiff at first, and the fingers on the size medium are a bit long, closer to what I would expect from a size large. The fit of the palm and back, along with the cuff, were exactly what I would expect and true to size.
The stiffer feel of the gloves gave way to a very comfortable fit a couple rides in, and at this point the gloves are some of the more comfortable ones I've ever had. The fingers are still a touch long for what I think a medium should be, but that's a small quibble I can easily look past given the overall comfort. I've been riding in the gloves in cool but not cold weather. The construction cuts the chill, but allows plenty of breathability as the day warms up.
The padding on the palm is something that I wasn't sure I could get behind, but it's pretty minimal and softens up after the first few initial hours on the bike. The reinforcements on the back of the glove have proved invaluable on some of the more adventurous rides I've been on lately. Some that involved as much hiking down through storm-fall and thorns, stuff that only a true "trail-connoisseur" would appreciate, but fortunately I love that kind of a ride, and not having my knuckles torn open and bloody was one of the bigger upgrades to the experience I could ask for.Issues
The gloves are said to be compatible with touch screen phones and offer "unmatched touch screen compatibility" - I took those words right from their site. The gloves do work with touchscreens, however, with the fingers being a tad long I wouldn't call it "ultimate compatibility." I found myself having to constantly pull one glove off if I really needed that touch screen functionality.
I did have an issue with the dye from the gloves staining my hands. After a rainy ride my hands looked like I'd taken a Sharpie to them. The dye washed off of my hands eventually, but it did take a little bit of scrubbing.
I reached out to Kitsbow's Storm Glover, and he said that I wasn't the only person that had this issue but they "had seen it in less than 10% of gloves." Storm said that they knew there could be some potential issues with the natural goat hide not consistently holding dye due to variations in it. He said that they handled my issue just as they would have for anyone else, by offering to send a replacement pair of those gloves, or I could opt for the Kitchel, a lighter synthetic pair that wouldn't have bleeding issues.
I have noticed that with wear and a few hand washings (avoid the machine - it'll bleed onto other fabrics) I've had less and less dye staining, but still, there are plenty of other options out there that won't make your hands look like you spent the day finger painting.
Even with the seeming miss on this product due to a couple critical nuances, I think it's a rad collaboration and hope to see a lot more of this - not just with these two brands but also in a greater sense. The bike industry has a lot it can learn from stepping outside of its comfort zone, working with other passionate brands, and sharing resources to develop products. Kudos to Mechanix Wear and Kitsbow for taking a risk. Pinkbike's Take