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Getting Into Gear

Weight Gloves Come Clean


Wearing weight-lifting gloves can improve your grip, prevent calluses and even give you a feeling of power. But after so many sessions, gloves made of leather tend to turn grimy, stinky and downright crusty.

Now, a Napa, Calif., company has introduced a line of real leather weight-training gloves that can be tossed into the washer and dryer. They're available in classic or wrist-wrap styles, including some designed specifically for women.

We wear-tested the Women's Ultimate No. 128 model, a classic style in black and natural leather in the Wash & Dry line. On first wearing, they're comfortable and smell great. The padding directly below the fingers feels a bit stiff but gets more flexible after a few minutes. After machine washing, the gloves got even more comfortable. And they smelled just fine. Bonus: The black-and-tan colors coordinate with most workout wear.

At sporting goods stores for about $25.95 to $29.95, or call Harbinger, (800) 729-5954.

Stretching It

The value of stretching is often ignored or underestimated by the most religious of exercisers.

SportStretch, a jump-rope-like device, is meant to be a nifty reminder. Packaged in a black net bag with easy-to-follow instructions, SportStretch teaches users a new stretching method, designed to be safe, called active isolated stretching.

An accompanying printed guide shows six stretches. The Sport Stretch--in black, black and blue, black and raspberry, and hunter green--is $27.95.

A skeptic's view: You could accomplish the same thing with a much cheaper piece of rope.

A realist's input: But would you?

For information, call (800) 938-9722.

Walking Tuneup

Exercising to music is usually inspiring, and the K&R Instruments Radio Pedometer aims to go the extra mile. This palm-sized FM radio with auto-scan doesn't just find and crank out the best tunes. It also measures distance, steps and calories consumed. There is also a countdown timer and a stopwatch. Beware: Don't expect to unpackage this device and go. There's more than a little programming to do first: setting the clock, programming the counters for step, distance and calories, along with learning how to use the timer and stopwatch.

Our walk test: After 3,602 steps, the best thing to say about this is that it's lightweight and hardly noticeable when clipped to your waistband.

The downsides: The earplugs fell out three times. The radio has a tinny sound. And if you don't clip the unit on exactly straight, it won't count your steps correctly.

About $40, plus $6.50 for shipping, from Country Technology, (608) 735-4718.

Net Gain

SportTime's Hands-On basketball is designed to help future Michael Jordans learn how to shoot. Colorful hand outlines for left-handed shooters, right-handed shooters, full-hand contact and offhand shooting show kids exactly where to put their mitts for the best results.

Invented by Chris Haas of Murietta, Calif., at the tender age of 9, the institutional version was introduced through SportTime's school P.E. catalog in early 1997 and was an immediate hit. About 85% of public schools use the ball, according to SportTime, and sales to schools last year reached about 50,000.

Now, thanks to a retail version available since February at Kmart, kids can get in more practice at home. Suggested retail price is $11.99. For mail order, call (800) ATHLETE.

Speedy Changes

Nothing like a flat tire to ruin a bike ride. But now there's Speed Lever, touted by its maker, the Crank Brothers, as the "world's easiest tire changer." When folded up, it's small enough to fit into a pocket. But it telescopes to three times its size. On the back of the package are 1-2-3 directions, with pictures showing how to snap the lever onto the axle, then rotate it to either remove or install a tire. It's designed to fit all wheels.

An expert's opinion: "It definitely has a unique design which will allow consumers to install tight tires on rims," says John Fries, who owns Bicycle John's in Burbank but currently does not sell the new lever. The added leverage is a plus, he says.

Speed Lever is about $8 at bike shops. For information, call (714) 644-0842.

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