How To Find The Right Motorcycle Gloves

Gear, How To -



Most of us take our hands for granted but when it comes to motorcycle gloves make absolutely certain you buy the right kind for the type of riding you do. And above all make sure they fit properly. Here’s how.

Photos: Anne Watson

Hands are the things that connect you to your motorcycle and they and your fingers need to be comfortable and protected at all times. This may sound like common sense, but gloves are often overlooked and it’s not often recognized how much a good quality, well-fitting pair can improve your riding experience.

Do you ride all year round, do you have heated grips or do you ride a sport bike or cruiser? In each scenario you will find gloves designed specifically for each of these tasks and a host of permutations of materials, colors and styles to choose from.

“Fundamentally motorcycle gloves have to fit you like a second skin,” explained Lee Block, President of Racer Gloves USA. “If you’re on your bike at a race track, you don’t want ever to be thinking about your hands when you’re traveling at more than 100mph. Equally if it’s raining and cold on your daily commute you shouldn’t be uncomfortable and not feel in control of your bike because of badly fitting gloves.”

Racer Gloves USA is the importer and distributor for Austrian company Racer Outdoor GmbH that has been manufacturing and developing motorcycle apparel and gloves for more than 20 years.

Block is a dedicated motorcycle enthusiast who began riding at the age of eight, has raced bikes, too, with some success around the U.S. and he rides on a daily basis. So he’s a man who knows a bit about what you should look for in a pair of riding gloves.

“The importance of good gloves is sometimes overlooked and while it’s often down to personal preference you should always take the time to try on as many pairs as you can from different brands to find the ones that fit you best,” he said.

The heel of your palm will be the first thing to touch down in any impact, thereby requiring heavier protection against abrasion. At the same time, the rest of the palm should be thin and supple for good feel.

There are four areas that you should be concerned with when buying gloves:

1. Fit - Do the gloves fit well? They should be tight but are your hands
comfortable in them or do they feel too restricted?

2. Feel – How do they feel? Is there too much inner liner or too little and does the
liner impede the movement of your fingers?

3. Construction – is there an in seam or outer stitching; what type of material is
used in the construction, is it cow leather, kangaroo or man made?

4. Features – do the gloves have venting, what type of additional protection do
they have, are they long or short (above or below the wrist) and will they work
for the type of riding you are going to do?

Impact protection in the form of hard or soft protectors can help your knuckles and finger joints survive an impact. “Gauntlets” like these provide plenty of overlap with your jacket, sealing out wind and protecting your wrists.

According to Block you should use the same criteria when choosing gloves as you would for a helmet. They should fit snugly but not be uncomfortable and you must also consider the type of bike you own.

On a sport bike you are sitting on your hands for most of your riding, so you maybe should take a look at pre-curved gloves that offer good support, while on a cruiser it’s a more relaxed type of ride but you will still need a pair that has good all round protection from the elements and the road.

“Pre-curved gloves can feel odd the first time you try them on,” explained Block. “They tend to have less material in the palm grip too, but they should feel a bit like when you put leathers on. Leathers can feel strange when you’re not on a bike but once you’re riding it becomes clear why they are shaped like they are. It’s the same with pre-curved gloves. They have been designed for a purpose.”

Take a moment to look at the materials that are used in a glove’s construction. Cowhide is heavy but is able to withstand high levels of abrasion but can be quite rigid. Kangaroo skin is an alternative as it’s lighter and it can withstand quite a lot of abrasion. There is also goatskin, which is soft and supple. A good compromise in a glove sometimes can be a hard shell (the form of a glove) of cowhide with a kangaroo skin palm.

Check the insulation, too. Is it designed for winter use? In which case it may have a heavy weight liner and longer cuffs or, if it’s a summer glove it should have a good hard shell and be really well ventilated.

“I actually have a pair of motorcycle handlebars in my office so when customers want to try different gloves they can get a proper idea of what they truly feel like when they hold some grips,” said Block.

“Most people have an idea of the style they want but I highly recommend that they try on as many different gloves as they can. It’s a bit like shoes. What one manufacturer calls a ‘Large’ maybe a ‘Medium’ in another brand so you really need to look around and try them all before making that final decision.”

Once you’ve found the gloves that fit they should last a long time providing they’re looked after.

Every few months you should clean them to get rid of road grime and sweat from your hands. Gloves should be washed in warm water with a light soap and then rinsed clean with cold water. Don’t wring the gloves out but leave them to dry naturally.

Using any type of heat can damage your gloves’ material. It’s also a good idea to put them back on when they’re still damp to get the correct form that fits your hands and then leave them to fully dry.

If they are made of leather occasionally use a conditioner to get some suppleness back into them. At the same time check for loose stitching on all of the seams and any glue welds that may have come unstuck.

So when it’s time for a new pair of gloves, consider the type of bike you ride, what time of year you are going to be riding and then make sure that the pair you choose fit and that they fit really well.

  • Aaron

    With regard to leather gauntlet gloves, what’s the policy on stretch and shrink? If a Medium fits too small and a Large too big, should I count on the break-in of a smaller glove being enough to give me that spot-on fit we all long for?

    • Tim Watson

      You can go that route but with leather gloves you’re only get at most a couple of millimeters stretch. If they have a a lot of plastic content for finger protection etc they’re not going to stretch even less. So if they are already super tight you’re really not going to see much change. Best to shop around and try as many as you can – you will find a pair that suit and fit.

      • orthorim

        Yes. Had that experience recently, I thought the leather on a pair of new Revit gloves would expand to fit my hands, similar to how leather shoes adapt. But, they didnt. They’re nearing the end of their life now & kind of coming apart and just now became comfortable. Perhaps because of some broken seams.

    • HammSammich

      If the particular glove you are looking at is too big in a large and too small in a medium, I’d probably recommend looking at a different glove. From personal experience, I have found that good riding gloves are not likely to stretch much between the combination of armor and layered panels…

  • the antagonist

    I can never find gloves that fit my thumbs.

    Well, I can, but then the glove it too big everywhere else.

    • Ceol Mor

      Try Helimot gloves. Made to measure, custom fit gloves from a leather suit maker in the San Francisco Bay Area:

    • Jesse

      Held Steve IIs can be ordered with “long” or “short” fingers. I love mine, but for the best if you can try them on, first.

  • UrbanMoto

    Any comments from the Racer guy on the need to print his company’s name TWENTY EIGHT times on a single glove? FIFTY SIX times on a pair? I really need some new gloves. and based on the earlier excellent Ride Apart article I’d have ordered some Racer Sicuros weeks ago, but the graphics are just stoopid. I still may get some, because protecting my hands is more important than looks, but the billboard aspect is really turning me off.

    • kongjie

      I think the number of logos varies from model to model. I have a pair now discontinued that only has two “Racer” logos, plus the Kevlar tag. Not crazy about logos myself but the damn gloves are so comfortable that I can’t complain.

  • Steve Chubb

    Good article. It takes 2 seconds at 30mph to go from skin to bone on the flesh at the base of your thumb ie the bit of your hand that hits the road first! I have sport gloves for the summer and the third and little finger are sewn together as one to protect the little finger better.

    • Chris Davis

      The finger bridge is an excellent (and patented) feature. It’s primary purpose is to prevent exposure of the forchettes. Without this, the glove can twist around the fingers during the first few moments of contact with the ground. The restriction can feel odd when you’re doing anything other than riding, but on the bike the bridges pretty much disappear.

      • Brian Price

        Why yes, the finger bridge is patented.

  • karlInSanDiego

    Can we get a ruling from a leather / motorcycle gear expert ( I think we just did, but it contradicts what I’ve read a number of places)? Getting leather wet all the way through: Does it, or does it not permanently reduce the future resistance to tearing? If it does, wouldn’t the above method for cleaning be bad for the gloves. If it does not, can we see some lab study from either side proving or disproving that this is the case?

    This particular phrase is constantly requoted in the industry, raising suspicion that it’s a wives tale: “In fact each time leather gets wet and dries it can loose up to 20% of it’s tear and abrasion strength”

    What’s laughable is, you can see the two typos (“it’s” and “loose”) repeated over and over again! Google that quote.

    Good article by the way. When you get Gear-itus somehow gloves are the recurring itch.

    • Chris Davis

      I have never heard this statistic. If you were to wring it out wet or stretch it out in some way, then sure there would be some loss. The variables of species, hide placement, tanning, dying, and (for some colors) bleaching make a blanket statement like that very difficult to back up. If you’ve purchased a quality pair of gloves and take care of them as stated above, you don’t need to worry about this.

    • Stef

      You should check this, but I thought they wash and bathe the hides when making and cleaning the leather.

  • Piglet2010

    No mention of deer and elk hides?

    I have not crashed in these, but they are the best designed and most comfortable piece of gear I own.

  • AHA

    Amazing how many riders still ride without gloves. Also I hear riders bemoan the cost of gloves – like paying more than £30 or $30 is too much. (£1=$1 in overpriced Britain) I usually just ask how they plan to spend the rest of their lives unable to use a keyboard or phone properly. Personally, I think they’re the next most important piece of riding equipment after your helmet. I’d rather lose a toe than a finger, if I had to choose. I have 3 pairs for different riding – Alpinestars, Revit and Dainese. Not for the labels but the materials, the scaphoid protection, the Extrafit so they don’t come off etc etc Get the best pair you can’t afford is my advice.

  • HandSitting

    “On a sport bike you are sitting on your hands for most of your riding”

    I’m a native English speaker and I’ve been riding for years, and I truly have no idea what this means.

    • Chris McAlevy

      It means you are resting a significant portion of your weight on your hands, due to the leaned-over ergonomics of a sport bike.

  • Davidabl2

    If a get-off you may or may not hit your head but you are pretty much always going to contact pavement with your hands.. ‘Nuff said.

    • Michael Howard

      On the very rare occasion I ride without a helmet, I still wear gloves for exactly that reason.

  • Davidabl2

    “So when it’s time for a new pair of gloves, consider the type of bike you ride, what time of year you are going to be riding and then make sure that the pair you choose fit and that they fit really well.”

    One pair is not going to be enough, unfortunately. Anywhere that they have both different seasons in the year,and different weather during the 2-3-4 seasons they have

  • luxlamf

    Although I might not be considered “Geared Up” enough in many peoples minds of what should be worn will riding I have always worn a good quality glove and have had the Icon Timax (original Timax not the new ones) and they really are the best for me and was disappointed when they stopped making them a few years ago. I “Understand” people who dont want to wear jackets and helmets etc,, but eye and hand protection seem odd to me not to wear.

  • Guest

    UrbanMoto, thanks for counting

  • neiliam

    my racer aqua gloves saved my hands , the scafoid protection and the carbon knuckle did the job, both gloves show abrasion and impact damage , but my hands survived intact