The Polaris Torrent gloves are claimed to be fully waterproof. They certainly protect your hands from the rain, and keep them warm in cold conditions. However – just as with any cycling gloves – their performance is stretched when the weather is very wet and very cold.
At first glance, the Torrent gloves look good: all black, with a reflective silver stripe and a couple of logos on the back of the palm. And on first wearing they are instantly comfortable. I have average-sized hands (23cm round the widest part of the palm, just below the knuckles) and the size Large gloves fit snugly, without being too tight. The fingers of the glove are long enough, so don't press against the ends of my own fingers when my hands grip the bars, a problem I encounter with some other brands of glove.
There's plenty of padding in the fabric, plus silicone grippers across the palm and fingers to keep you firmly in contact with the handlebars.
These gloves really excel on long rides in cold conditions where the air is damp or there's a bit of drizzle, or maybe some rain that'll last an hour or so, but not all day. I've done a few test rides in conditions like that over the winter and, inside the Torrents, my hands have stayed warm, dry and comfortable throughout.
But these gloves claim to be fully waterproof, using a membrane which keeps the rain out while letting sweat escape, which is another matter altogether. So, to test the waterproofing claims, the gloves were subjected to laboratory investigations in my usual scientific manner.
Test one: Stick my hands (wearing the gloves) under the bathroom shower for 10 minutes, to simulate cycling in the rain, regularly pumping the hands as if using the brakes, to move the seams and expose any weakness. Throughout this test, my hands stayed perfectly dry.
Test two: Fully immerse hands inside the gloves into a bowl of water for 10 minutes, pumping as before to mimic braking action. After 10 minutes, my hands were still dry.
The lab investigations give a useful picture, but nothing beats real world conditions. And, how lucky for me that on some of those winter rides the weather was not so kind. On one ride in early February, it poured with rain pretty much all day, and the temperature sat between around 3 and 5 degrees, meaning the gloves got another decent test. Wearing a fully waterproof jacket, making sure the sleeves were velcro'd tight over the gloves, my hands stayed dry and warm in the first hour or so. After three hours of rain, my hands got slightly damp on the inside (probably from sweat – it was warm inside that jacket) and then started to get cold as the gloves were also soaking wet on the outside and the wind-chill factor came into effect.
In fairness, this is not a fault of these Polaris Torrent gloves. A major problem with any cycling glove is that great big hole where your hand goes in; unless the join between jacket and glove is watertight, some water will find its way in. And even if you're sealed on the outside, perspiration will still track down your arms and into the gloves.
To test this theory, I also used the gloves during a shorter ride in the rain without the waterproof jacket, and my hands got wet on the inside, almost certainly from water tracking down the arms of my jersey, which was sopping wet when I got home.
Just for completeness, with the gloves washed and dried back at base, I repeated the lab tests in the shower and bowl of water. My hands remained dry.
Of course you could go for something totally impermeable to water, such as industrial rubber work gloves or Marigolds, but unless you're really pottering along you will perspire and the moisture still tracks down your arms and collects in the gloves. Or you could go the other way and get neoprene gloves, which are designed to let the water in while keeping your hands warm using the wetsuit principle. On both those options, your hands tend to get sweaty (and smelly) - I know, I've tried them - whereas the Polaris Torrent gloves have the membranes that keep the water out but allow perspiration to escape.
On the basis of those tests, when it comes to being waterproof, these Polaris Torrent gloves are as good as any cycling glove of similar material is likely to be, given the nature of cycling clothing and the realities of cycling in the rain.
Beyond the topic of waterproofing, one niggle I have with these gloves is the size of the cuffs. With the Velcro tab they fit well around the wrist, but personally I could do with then being just a centimetre longer to properly cover that gap of bare skin that sometimes appears between glove and jacket.
The recommended retail price for the Polaris Torrent gloves is £34.99, but you can find them under 30 quid at the usual on-line stores. This is not a steal, but a fair price when compared against similar gloves from other manufacturers such as Endura (Luminite gloves rrp £32.99) or Sealskins (Dragon Eye at £32, Ultra Grip Gauntlets at £40).
Well-made gloves to protect your hands from wet or cold conditions, but stretched in heavy rain & cold
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Polaris Torrent gloves
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
These are gloves designed for riding in wet winter conditions. The Polaris website says: 'Torrent Cycling Gloves are fully waterproof gloves that give superb protection in all weather conditions. Whether you are out in the wind, wet or sub-zero conditions. They have a technical stretch back fabric with a neoprene cuff with velcro strap for a snug fit and warmth. The amara palm with gel pads and silicone grip print ensures excellent comfort and performance whilst the brushed lining includes 3M Thinsulate insulation. The waterproof mid layer is a Hipora membrane ensuring these gloves will perform in all conditions.'
Construction is very good. The fabrics are effective and the seams are all well sealed, as proved the shower and bowl of water tests.
Performance is very good, in that the fabric of the gloves is fully waterproof. This does not mean your hands stay dry, as water can get into the glove through the cuff if there's a gap between glove and jacket, or thanks to perspiration tracking down your arm and into the glove. This is a characteristic of pretty much every cycling glove, and not a fault of the Torrents.
Durability seems very good. The gloves have endured several long hard rides in bad conditions, and (after some visits to the washing machine) they still look and perform as new.
Each glove weighs 65g, so 130g the pair. Pretty light for the level of protection provided.
Comfort is good. There's plenty of padding in the fabric, plus silicone grippers across the palm and fingers. The gloves' finger length is good, so no compression of your own finger tips. The short cuff is an irritation.
Value is fair but not a bargain. You can get similar gloves from other manufacturers for a similar price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, these gloves performed as well as can be expected. The gloves themselves are definitely waterproof. The problem is cycling. When we ride a bike in wet weather, water (rain on the outside, or sweat on the inside) usually tracks down our arms and into our gloves. This is the case with pretty much any cycling glove, and not a problem restricted to the Torrents.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfortable. Grippy. Great for cold conditions with drizzle or light rain.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
These gloves struggled to cope with conditions that were very cold AND very wet for a long time, but they coped as well as, or better than, any other winter cycling glove in my wardrobe.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, with the caveats mentioned in the review.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, but I'd also explain the realities of waterproof cycling gloves.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
There's no doubt the Polaris Torrents are great gloves to consider for winter conditions, with the proviso that your hands will probably still get wet, just as they will with pretty much any cycling glove. On that basis the Torrents would score 9. The tendency for the outer fabric to absorb water, which then gets cold in the wind-chill, docks a point. The short cuffs are irritating and the price, although fair, is not a bargain, together docking another point. This gives an overall score of 7.
About the tester
Age: 53 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp, an old Cotswold steel classic, an old Jensen steel classic My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex carbon (can you see a theme here?)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Trail riding, gravel riding and rough-stuff (off road on a road bike)