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.