Words and Photos by Andy
I've been wearing Hand Up Gloves for a little over two years now, so it seems perhaps a bit odd that I choose now to write up my thoughts on these things. I have used them for the past two seasons racing cyclocross almost exclusively, which makes sense because that's pretty much what they are designed for. I also use them for trial riding on my mountain bike, which again, also makes sense because it’s what they are designed for. For these applications these gloves are superb. And I am not saying anything new here, these gloves have been reviewed at this point by at least half a dozen major cycling publications and they all say much of the same thing: The gloves offer excellent grip and control, fit very well, and are comfortable. I agree. The only gripe I ever hear is that some people are dismissive about these gloves because they lack any padding. I for one don't miss it. I don't miss the vague squishy feeling on my palms when I am feathering the brakes through a tricky descent and I don’t miss the wet sponge feel when I am soaked in cyclocross mud.
The reason I am writing up my thoughts on Hand Up Gloves right now is because I just finished a bike trip wearing them. A 500+ mile bikepacking trip through the rugged, rocky, and hot New Mexico Desert, in fact. That's right, I went bike touring, off road, wearing un-padded gloves. And loved it. I set my touring bike up for comfort. I rode with a Jones loop h bar and Ergon grips. I kept the bars high and the angle in line with my relaxed grip. I wanted my set up to be comfortable bare handed. Over 500 miles of riding I never experienced numbness or pain in my hands. I know others will have varying experience, but for me I never missed the padding. What the Hand Ups offered me that road gloves didn't was protection without overheating. Hand Ups are thin and breath well, so the 85-degree heat never caused me to have overly sweaty hands, yet the full coverage meant that If I crashed on a tricky descent or spent hours in the direct sun my hands were protected from exposure and harm. Hand Up doesn't advertise their products for bikepacking, but for me they were perfect in this application, just as much so as for cyclocross racing and mountain biking.
And it's not just a sample size of one. Tony, below, also rode the entire trip with his pair of custom Hand Up Gloves without any complaints. In fact, both of us also raced the Huracan bikepacking race this year in these gloves. they were great for bikepack racing, too.
The story of the Great Eskape Racing and Hand Up gloves partnership goes back as far as the team itself. No really, not just saying that! Most of us consider the "birth date" of Great Eskape racing to be around 2:45 pm, on January 8th, 2018. That's about the time Kevin and I got pulled from the USA Cyclocross Nationals single speed race at the historic Biltmore Village in North Carolina.
But let's back track just a bit. For the 2015/16 cyclocross season I was racing my first season of cross on a local DC area team sponsored by a really lovely hardware store in the area, Kevin was racing as an independent coming off a season on a local bikeshop's shop team called "Adventure Times" racing.
We knew each other from the local bike scene and had thrown around the idea of maybe starting a team at some-point over the course of the season. Kevin had started this website earlier that year and had created some custom Castelli kits themed on the concept of the old The Great Escape movie posters as a way to promote the website. I bought one and as did a bunch of folks who would eventually end up on Great Eskape Racing.
But on that day in January 2016 there was no team, and Kevin and I had pulled into the Asheville area with the intention of essentially "reverse-sandbaging" a national championship on our All-City single-speeds. We also got pretty drunk, because cyclocross. With a 30 rack of cheap beer, steel single-speeds, and cold mud, we couldn't not start dreaming of starting a cyclocross specific bike racing team.
Isn't this a story about Hand Up Gloves?
So somewhere in the muddy mayhem, I lost my pair of trusty Giro gloves. It was cold and muddy and the course was the most technical I had ever seen. I was not racing bare handed. While stumbling around the race village I noticed a small booth in the vendor area with a a whole bunch of beers sitting on the counter. I came over for the beers. While I had never heard of Hand Up Gloves before, I had heard of Sierra Nevada Brewing and I wanted to know where I could get some. But also I had lost my gloves.
I checked out a pair of sweet looking redneck pickup truck style camo long finger gloves that said "Merica on the palms and was smitten. I thought "these gloves are inexpensive and lack any padding, I am going to hate myself racing in these but damn they look cool." So I bought a pair at the discount they offered at Nat's, stuffed my hands into the "next to skin" fitting gloves and dragged my dumb ass to the start line of the single speed race.
The gloves were awesome. Nothing else really was: I sucked air super hard, fell off the back immediately, nearly crashed 5 times on the first lap, and was pulled after the second lap, but I had fantastic grip and control on the bars the whole time despite all of that. I never missed the padding, for that matter I was glad to be without it. The better feeling of connectivity with the cockpit was well worth the loss of the squish, especially with wet hands. And the gloves were tough, I didn't realize how tough at the time, but the craziest thing is that I still have these gloves. Yeah, some seems are ripped, and they are a bit stretched out from wearing liner gloves under them in winter, but I still commute with them nearly every day. I know its kind of gross to be riding 2 and a half year old gloves that I've crashed in literally dozens of times and have blood stains and stuff on them but... I am attached to them!
So anyway, later that night we were bar hopping on our race bikes and got to talking about "making it official." We felt the attitude we brought to the nationals that year (and the season as a whole) was missing from the local DC racing scene. That attitude? "Screw what anyone says or thinks, ride your bike as fast as you can and have some damn fun with it!"
Basically, we were like, screw it, let's start a team. The team name was obvious of course: Great Eskape was already the website and the 'gram handle and was already a name that embodied the devil may care attitude we wanted. Kevin and I agreed to divide and conquer in the coming months. He would get us organized with an email list serve, recruit new members, and get our license in order, I would try to line up product sponsorships for the new team.
I still had my camo gloves stuffed into my back pocket and I knew immediately who I wanted to be our first sponsor. The over the top, ridiculously fun cross is coming edit they created didn't hurt. We watched that and were like YES. ALL OF THIS, YES. We knew these folks came to the cross scene for the party and so did we.
I reached out to them sometime in February about the coming year and was delighted to hear back with the affirmative. Great Eskape had our first sponsor and Hand Up Gloves had the best, most gloriously reckless product testers around.
Best gloves for grabbin' bars and beers? For sure. We have done a whole lot of that over the last 30 months, we have also crashed dozens, and dozens, and dozens of times into everything from rock gardens to trashcans behind the Showtime Bar on R.I. avenue. These gloves are tough as shit, fit well, and offer superior grip. Great Eskape would endorse these baddies under any circumstances, but we are especially proud to call them our O.G. team sponsor.
Check 'em out here.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of "Better Know a Sponsor," coming soon.