Cortech Scarab Glove Review
Post-summer in Philly: It’s getting cold. Fall here is a season that can resemble Indian Summer, or we could have a repeat of last year: seven inches of snow on Halloween. What glove do you bring?
I will ride distance in the cold. I’m not a guy who will take his bike out once a month in the cold winter when the roads are dry if I have a bike I don’t have to wash. It’s a lot different an hour deep than it is after fifteen minutes. I love to hear the mouth-riders: You know the type, Tommy Toughguy, but he won’t ride unless the stars are perfectly aligned (Mainly, the Big Star that lights up each day here in Philly!) I’m not that guy. I really will ride, and I really don’t want to be cold doing it! Like everyone, the chill attacks me fingers-first.
I have a set of Cortech Scarabs to round out the fall months. It’s too warm for heated stuff, and too cold for normal gloves. These gloves are good down to 45F; 40 if I push myself. I like them because they have deep gauntlets - I cannot abide air coming up my jacket sleeves, and the Scarabs deliver in that department. Short cuffs are not an option, I don’t care how warm they are (Ever see wrist warmers? Didn’t think so.) A nice long gauntlet gives me plenty to cinch my sleeves down to. On my commuter bike, my hands are lower than my arms, so water will run into my gloves if I don’t tuck sleeves in. On my chopper, the gloves go OVER the sleeves, because water runs down from my hands, onto my chest. Either way, they work well - as long as the wrist gussets on your jacket can accommodate them.
Another big feature on the Scarab that I like is the protection. There’s an abrasion-resistant layer on contact surfaces called Keprotech. There’s also titanium and carbon molded into hard protection over the fingers. The Cortech even offers a good hard patch on the gauntlet. It may sound like I’m waxing poetic, but it is severely difficult to find true protection in cold-weather gloves; most gloves offer you warmth at the expense of protection. The polyester insulation found on most gloves might keep your paws warm, but my suspicion is that it holds up badly to asphalt. I think it’s impossible to find such a well-armored glove for the money.
There’s a Hipora liner in there, which is a blessing and a curse. These gloves are truly waterproof - I rode them recently over seventy miles in a pouring rain, and there was absolutely zero water entry. However, this stuff breathes worse than a baby in a shopping bag: Your hands will get damp, because your own body perspiration cannot get out. With that said - Hipora feels pretty danged windproof to my whiny, pampered fingers.
Thinsulate also lines the Scarabs - a hundred grams worth. It keeps you warm, but if you try and stretch these into a warm day, you’re gonna have puddles in your gloves. If I have these gloves on my hands, I have a lighter summer pair in my tank bag, no questions asked. This is due also to that Hipora liner. It’s a forgivable sin in truly cold weather; as your hands won’t get really sweaty, but there’s a narrow temperature band this glove shines in - get outside of the sweet spot, and you run the risk of raisin-finger. Personally, I wouldn’t use these with heated grips. The Thinsulate is distributed evenly over the glove; it would be hard to get the heat through the glove.
The fingers do not seem quite long enough in these gloves; even after a few thousand miles of break-in. I could ordinarily forgive this, but the shortness means that the finger protection is sometimes pulled uncomfortably tight against my knuckles. A nice tight knuckle is fine for the garage floor under a re-gasketed Harley, but it makes my hands uncomfortable at times on the bike. I also have big palms and short fingers; someone who’s a pianist would probably be pretty frustrated. If Alpinestars or Dainese fits you well, you might avoid the Scarab.
I presume the “Scarab” nomenclature comes from the sectioned panels covering the fingers: They look just like a bug’s armor plating, each section overlapping the other like armor plates. They do allow good finger dexterity and movement, which makes them feel a little less bulky than some of the less well-thought-out designs. However, due to the Thinsulate jammed in there, the feel from the controls is pretty awful. I find myself stabbing for my turn indicators and kill switch. Temper that with the knowledge that ‘feel’ and warmth are inversely proportional - you really can’t have both easily, and if you do find it somehow, it does not come for eighty-six dollars.
The wrist cinch mid-glove is a nice feature; an added protection against errant wind and water. A tiny detail there is a little stanchion on the end of the cinch to keep it from backing out of the buckle/guide - it would be miserable to try and “thread” back in with a hand in one of these gloves. They knew the bulk would make your finger control less-than-stellar, so this was the solution. An elegant addition to make a clumsy, cost-effective design a little better.
Lemmy’s Final Call: Great glove, if you know exactly what you want it for. It’s the dog’s bollocks in early fall/late spring weather - push it outside those realms, and you’re going to be disappointed. This is not a replacement for heated gear, but you might not need heated gear if the idea of flurries on your faceshield gives you the willies. If you’re just trying to extend the typical riding season, these are the ticket. If you are trying to run year-round, these gloves are a great tool to keep in the toolbox, but they are not a catch-all solution. There are better options - Gore-Tex would be a way better waterproofing method, and there are gloves with better options. However, the sub-hundred-dollar glove category is jammed full of disappointments. If these got swiped, I would absolutely buy another set in a heartbeat. If money’s no object, definitely keep shopping. However, most of my riding buddies still show up to their jobs every week, which leads me to believe that for most of us, money is still an object. I think you’d be hard-pressed to get as much bang for the buck.