Gear: Kushitani GPR5 gloves

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If you’ve never heard of Kushitani, I can’t blame you. The small, high-end, Japanese brand isn’t carried by Parts Unlimited, Tucker Rocky or Western Powersports. Nor is it found in many retail shops. They’ve built their brand around understated organic forms, high-quality products and minimal branding. The price tag often reflects this, but just like a Vanson, the quality and durability are real. These gloves have served me well over the last 2 years. I’ve ridden over 15,000 miles wearing them and crash tested them three times (twice at the Willow Springs Kart Track on the XR100 and once at low speed on the GSX-R). They’ve held up well through it all and I don’t see myself retiring them anytime soon.

I bought my pair of GPR5 gloves after I decided it was time to retire my Alpinestars GP-Pros. When I first tried them on, I was shocked both at how soft the leather was and how well they fit. Instead of having to wear a XXL in Alpinestars to get fingers that were long enough, I can wear a LL (long large) in Kushitani. The fingers are longer, but the rest of the glove is the same size and shape as a regular Large. Think of these as slim-fit or skinny gloves.

Also obvious is the lack of plastic hard armor on the knuckles. Nearly every other racing glove has hard armor here, but Kushitani instead opts for layers of leather and their proprietary K-Foam (think of it as magical extra-dense memory foam). Where the hard armor stays is in the wrist and gauntlet. The armor extends almost halfway down your fore-arm and makes you feel invincible.

On the palm of the glove, you’ll find a layer of foam stitched under the black leather. You might think that a few mm of dense foam wouldn’t make much difference, but I’ve slammed down pretty hard and slid through some rough stuff only to get up, dust myself off and continue riding without broken bones or nasty bruises. There’s a second layer of foam on the outside of your palm too. Moving up you’ll find a strip of suede before the fingers. I’m not sure what Kushitani does to their suede, but even after multiple crashes and daily wear for 2 years it shows almost zero wear. Over by the thumb is a thin piece of tough rubber. It acts as a barrier to wear on the part of the glove that needs it most.

The index and middle fingers have K-foam on top and up to 4 layers of leather in some places. The ring and pinky have slightly more aggressive protection: leather, K-foam and finally Zylon, which is similar to Kevlar. All four fingers, the thumb and the entire backside of the glove have a layer of kevlar in the inside as well. This particular (sadly discontinued) version of the GPR5 also has perforated leather on the back of the hand and parts of the fingers. It’s not a lot, but it’s plenty to get sufficient airflow on hot days.

These gloves are obviously well thought-out, high-quality safety gear, but so are most other $250 racing gloves. What separates these from the rest of the crowd? Comfort and durability. Until owning these, I’d accepted as a fact of life that gloves wear out every 8 months or so and need to be replaced. Leather would get hard, suede around the right thumb would wear through, Velcro (more commonly cheaper faux velcro known as ‘hook and loop’) would cease to stick and at that point, I would seek out new and improved gloves.

Kushitani helped me to break the cycle. More than producing great fitting, long wearing gloves, they did one other thing that’s made a real difference: they told me to condition my gloves at least once a month with Pecard’s leather lotion. No other manufacturer has ever mentioned anything like this and if they did, people would likely be a lot happier with their leather.

If you didn’t know about Kushitani, check them out. You may find that they make the gear you’ve been dreaming of but could never seem to find. And if you have a pair of gloves (or a jacket, pants, suit or boots for that matter) that you really like, take a few minutes to condition them. The leather will get softer, the color will change and eventually, you’ll like like a real biker.

  • Lowell

    Kushitani makes fantastic stuff. One comment on sizing. If you have wide or thick hands these are not the gloves for you. I am unable to even get my hand into a XXL.

    • Sean Smith

      “Think of these as slim-fit or skinny gloves.” ;)

      • Greg

        Hipster gloves… Wouldnt have expected that from you Sean.

  • HammSammich

    Their K1 Jacket looks slick! I’ve been really disheartened to see that Langlitz, Schott and even Lewis don’t offer armored jackets…(with the exception of the two horrendously overpriced Lewis Jackets made exclusively for Triumph). Any idea how their “K-Foam” compares to typical CE protectors?

    • Sean Smith

      There’s not a lot in the way of CE protectors in gloves, and they put K-Foam everywhere. They use it in their suits as well in areas where hard armor just wouldn’t work. Think of it as a vastly improved soft foam.

      Kushitani doesn’t make any claims about CE protection and they actually use quite a few different varieties of the foam. My own experience with it has made me a believer though.

      • HammSammich

        Yeah, on their website they note that they are using the K-Foam in their jackets. I’m sure it’s better than nothing, but I kind of like having the base-line knowledge of CE protection with which to compare jackets…the search continues…

        • Sean Smith

          They use real hard armor as well. I’m 99% sure it’s CE-approved, and if that’s not the case, it’s something like Aerostich where the armor is killer but isn’t approved for some silly reason like the wrong shape or numbers that are slightly off from what is accepted.

          • HammSammich

            Thanks! I’ll keep them in mind then, and see if I can find out more about the armor in their jackets. I’ve always worn a Full Face helmet, armored leather gloves, boots, jeans and a motorcycle jacket, but reading HFL I’ve been inspired to get some top shelf gear before next season…

  • dnos

    I thought you were gonna say “If you havent heard of Kushitani, you haven’t played Tourist Trophy.”

    Their custom suits have always looked so cool.

  • Peter

    Any ideas on UK importers? I wear XXXL Alpinestars and they are still too short in the finger!

    • je

      I bet your wife is pleased..

    • Sean Smith

      Check out this site.

  • Rick

    My hands spent many happy years inside size 9.5 Helds, and the XXL Kushitani GPR fits about the same. They have some extra layering compared to most other gloves and this did affect my first perception of fit but they broke-in nicely and are now all-day comfortable. Mine are the original GPR, not the meshed GPR5, so they can be a little toasty at times. Good news for those early morning runs up Highway 1, though!

    Be advised that Kushitani out-sources some production to China, and that’s where mine originated. Quality control does appear excellent, however.

  • T Diver

    I bought a pair of these from the shop on Lincoln. They fit really well as I must have skinny hipster hands. But… I wore a whole in the index finger tip from just wearing them. A bit of sweat here and there should not cause a whole in the leather. So, I opted for a pair of Helds. They don’t fit as perfectly as the Kushitanis but I shall see if the fingers hold up. So… I beg to differ. The fit amazingly but the quality leaves something to be desired. The shop on Lincoln is pretty cool though. They display a bunch of leathers that were crashed. And the manager/owner Mike, seems like a cool dude.

    • T Diver

      I had them for about 6 months before the finger hole appeared. And no, I never crashed in them.

      • T Diver

        The Kushitanis fit better than the Helds for me.

      • Sean Smith

        I’ve actually heard of this happening before, but never talked to someone with first hand experience. How much did you ride in them and did you condition them? Was Mike cool about it?

        • T Diver

          I did not condition them prior to use. I did use saddle soap to get rid of the funk after a bunch of riding. That’s when I noticed the hole. I did use them quite a bit and my hands do sweat from time to time. It just seemed a bit odd. I thought the leather would have been more durable. Especially in the finger tips. I have not had a chance to go by the store. I did use them so I don’t feel like they owe me anything but I will take them by and let you know what they say. After all this, I can still say I would buy these again due to how well they fit my hipster hands. Like you said in the article, you can’t really expect more than about 6-8 months out of gloves that are worn on the regular.

  • mugget

    Awesome – those gloves look really good! I’ll keep this in mind next time I need some gloves. Currently just using a $20 pair of Aldi gloves for commuting. Fine so far. Every other pair of gloves I’ve crashed in has ripped on the palm anyway. Good to hear those Kushitani hold up a bit better.

  • Ben Incarnate

    I love Japanese gear. It’s tailor-made to me and the sizing is flattering to a small guy. There aren’t any Kushitani dealers locally, though, so I get my fix from RS Taichi.

    My old GP-X gloves are going good after five years and their first leather conditioning last night.

  • Barry

    If you’re kinda short and round(5’10″ 210lbs 31″ inseam), then Kushitani will be your absolute favorite suit. I tried one on at a dealer at Laguna Seca the first year GP returned, and bought it on the spot. Was the best-fitting suit ever.

    I’m guessing it’s because of the starting sizes for Japanese gear, where by the time you get it big enough for my chest/waist, it’s not 3″ too long in the leg/arm like Dainese(size 56/58) or even worse, Spidi(nothing fits).

    I wore a 3XL Kushi suit until I was unconscious on the track for 45 minutes and they shredded my suit beyond repair cutting it off of me in the ambulance(Have you never heard of a seam ripper Mr EMT?).

    Sadly, finding someone that carries ANYTHING from them is nearly impossible outside of Cali. Moto Liberty in Dallas used to carry them(I bought my awesome Kushi gloves there), but quit over 5 years ago.

    As for their crazy armor, I actually yanked the bizarro armor out of the shoulders and forearms of my race suit and put it in one of my mesh street jackets. It won’t help much with spreading the force out/penetration protection like hard armor, but the actual impact absorption is astoundingly good.

  • NickK

    I’ve crashed in these. They’re awesome.