I’d been hankering after a pair of these since Roland Sands’ new clothing range debuted last October. Drawing design inspiration from performance motorcycle gear, the Diesels (and other pieces in the range) manage an unprecedented trick: making motorcycle function genuinely stylish. Then, when we visited RSD on Tuesday to shoot an upcoming episode of RideApart, I managed to snag a pair. Score.
My favorite thing about these gloves is the way Roland’s been able to draw aesthetically appealing performance features from traditional motorcycle apparel — the accordion stretch panels, perforated leather, padding, reinforced stitching — and use them in completely new ways that manage to both subvert the whole performance motorcycle thing and make the gloves totally striking. Zipping the understated, nearly logo-free gloves open to reveal a bright red perforated panel is just the right kind of flashy.
The problem with the gloves is obviously going to be protection. The flimsy foam in the fingers is there to look good, not reduce the forces of an impact. There’s no knuckle guards. The leather does feel sturdy and is reinforced in critical areas — the heel of the palm and side of hand — but without a solid retention strap around the wrist, stand little chance of staying on your hands in a medium to high speed slide.
I asked Roland about this and he was totally honest. “These aren’t race gloves,” he explained. “I wear them cruise to and from work, not to ride fast in.”
“Did my handlebar go over the cameraman’s head?” Roland doesn’t fuck around.
And while there’s plenty of people out there prepared to compromise a bit of safety in the name of looking good, there’s other gloves out there that fill a similar role with more protection. The Icon Rimfires aren’t quite as stylish, but employ D3O knuckle protectors that give them race-like impact protection in a glove that remains subtly appealing and luxurious. At $90, those Icons are just $9 more than the RSDs. It’s very clear which pair we’d rather crash or punch a wing mirror in.
So what role will the Diesels fill in my arsenal of riding getup? Well, I’m in love with the looks, so I’m occasionally going to sacrifice a bit of safety to wear them. I guess they can be my date gloves, for nights when I leave the back protector at home and ride slowly and carefully around town with a girl on the back. Thin and supple, I’ll probably end up wearing them off the bike too. That’s a major win for Roland, who hopes the range will have crossover appeal to a non-riding audience too.