With the helmet and the jacket, the gloves are the third fundamental equipment in the wardrobe of a biker. But while the majority of bikers have only one helmet and often only one jacket, many ride with several pairs of gloves.
Gloves are probably one of the most difficult pieces of equipment to choose. So in this article I want to show you the most important features to look for when buying motorcycle gloves. This will help you narrow down your choice to the best gloves possible for protection and comfort.
How to choose motorcycle gloves?
Basically, the choice of a pair of gloves must take place according to two main criteria: their capacity of protection and whether they’re optimal for the climate conditions you’re confronted with.
The purpose of gloves
1. Protect your hands from flying objects: insects flying in the air (especially when the weather is nice and warm), pebbles lost by the dump truck in front of you, twigs etc. For this, a simple leather glove or light textile is enough, as it just takes a layer of protection on the skin to protect the hands.
2. Protect your hands from bad weather: rain, wind, cold, heat … The hands, like the feet and the knees, are very exposed to the wind during motorcycle rides. It will therefore be necessary, depending on the case, to have a glove that provides good airflow in warm weather or, conversely, hermetic and warm for winter conditions.
3. Protect your hand from injury in the event of an accident. And there is inevitably a compromise: the more a glove is thick and rigid, the more it will be protective, but the less comfortable it will be.
Last but not least, if you’re having trouble driving your motorcycle or scooter, check your gloves! Bikers often underestimates the importance of gloves. Thick gloves protect, but reduce your grip on the handles. A water-repellent material is sometimes slippery and “ripped” on the levers. Always ensure that your gloves give you good grip and sensitivity on the handlebar controls.
The importance of hand and wrist protection
Gloves are as important as the helmet!
The real reason to use gloves in the city or for long journeys is to protect hands from contact with the ground.
As fragile as it is useful, the hand must be covered with a strong glove for protection, and not simply a nice looking glove.
The first reflex during a fall, even at low speed, is to place your hands in front of you to cushion the shock and protect the head, the face, the ribcage. But bitumen, asphalt, tar are all necessarily abrasive, since it is necessary for the tires to adhere to it. Suddenly, when something rubs on it, it will heat up and the friction can quickly cause an injury.
At around 15 km/h: The heat caused by the friction will burn, essentially melting the skin, the first layer of the epidermis: this is known as a first degree burn. Spontaneous healing, within a few days and without scarring usually happens.
A little faster, 30 km/h: It’s the second layer of the epidermis that leaves, causing a second degree burn, superficial or deep. Count three weeks of bandages, eating with a straw, without being able to dress or wash yourself.
A little faster, slipping at 50 km/h or more, it is a third degree burn, the dermis has melted, the skin has completely disappeared, the flesh is raw, it will take at least two months for the skin to regenerate, sometimes only through a skin graft operation.
If you fall at high speed, the impact with the ground will be sufficient to cause fractures. If in addition you hit something like an obstacle that will necessarily be harder than your body, you will suffer fractures of the wrist, the base of the palm, the edge of the hand and the joints, especially of the wrist, with the scaphoid bone particularly exposed.
Some gloves are equipped with an anti-rollover system of the 5th finger (auricular) by a connection with the 4th finger (annular).
They’re useful in the race, but less for everyday rides where you sometimes need to use the ring finger, but not the little finger.
Find the right size
To be both effective and comfortable, a glove must be the right size for your hand.
It is the width of your palm that should be taken into account. A glove must first be adjusted to your palm. Too tight a glove on the palm will be uncomfortable, too loose will tend to let your hand “slip” inside, also causing discomfort but also less control over the handlebars.
After the palm, consider the fingers. With your free hand, press between the fingers of your gloved hand. It is important that the gaps between the fingers touch the glove. Especially, the one between the thumb and forefinger: very important not to have tension in this place because with the pressure of the handlebar grips, it would cause discomfort and rapid wear.
Then the requirements will vary depending on the type of gloves:
- on a summer glove, the hand must fill the glove, the fingers must touch the end, the glove must marry the hand as close as possible to avoid slipping at all.
- on a mid-season glove, your fingers should not come to a stop at the end of the gloves, but keep a margin of 1 to 2 millimeters.
- on a winter glove, this margin will be 2-3 mm at the end of the fingers, to preserve a layer of insulating air.
- on a heated glove, it is like a summer glove, it must be well adjusted so that the skin remains in contact with the heating zones.
- If you can, put on the glove and take a handlebar in your hand. If you can not try them on the road, do at least one static test in the store. Wearing the gloves, use the controls of a motorcycle or scooter to experience the “feel” of your future gloves in action.
Hand on the handle, your thumb must remain mobile. When you open your hand, the palm of your glove should not be stretched or bulged. And most importantly, you must not feel annoying creases in the palm of your hand.
When palm holds well without being compressed and fingers are free to move during the usual maneuvers: you have found the size of gloves that suits you.
Take care if you later buy another brand of gloves, or even another model, sizes and cuts vary slightly.
Your hands are not the same!
Like everyone else, you have a “strong” hand and a “weak” hand. This strong hand is by definition a little wider. In general, for a right-handed person, it is the right hand (and the opposite for the left-handed). Whenever possible, this hand should be used as a reference during a glove test.
Ladies, long nails can distort the size required for your motorcycle gloves. If you want to keep your manicure intact, take this aspect into account when choosing, choosing an extra size to account for your finger nails.
Clamping and cuff
Two other rules:
1. The glove must be able to tighten on the wrist.
2. Do not skimp on the length of the cuff.
The glove must incorporate a clamping device that, once tightened, will keep the glove on the hand, even when sliding. This tightening will preferably be double, wrist and cuff. Once adjusted, removing the glove must be impossible.
If you fall at high speed and slide over several meters or tens of meters, your hands will be subjected to high mechanical stresses, including traction. A poorly fitting, poorly attached glove will be torn off and leave your hand exposed to burns. Do not compromise with the quality of wrist tightening.
The minimum tightening required is a rubber band alone. In my opinion, it is insufficient, but if it is the case, check regularly that it holds well: the elastics relaxes with time. A tightening by an adjustable strap, well secured by Velcro or snap, is preferable.
Ideally, the glove should also include a cuff, also adjustable (usually scratch or velcro). The glove’s cuff should go back at least 4 finger widths above the wrist joint. This cuff can be worn under the sleeve of the jacket if it is short, or cover it if it is long. The ideal is that it can be put in two ways, because in case of rain, it may be useful to have the glove inside to prevent water infiltration into the cuff.
With the sleeve of the jacket passed over the cuff, when it rains, the water does not shed inside the glove. But if the driving position of your motorcycle is that the wrists are above the elbows, it’s necessary that the glove covers the jacket. Thus, when it rains, the water is shed towards the jacket, not inside the glove.
Some short summer gloves do not have a cuff at all. Not to mention the least amount protection in case of a fall. It can be quite pleasant in hot weather, but if the temperature drops, it can quickly freeze your fingers and the body, knowing that an air intake will be created which will bring fresh air into the sleeves of the jacket. In case of long journey, always prefer longer gloves, with cuffs.
Protections and reinforcements
The first element of protection is the material of the glove itself. Cowhide is not as common as it used to be. It’s been replaced by goat leather (as strong but softer) or kangaroo leather. The textile has several advantages: flexibility, lightness, less “sponge” effect and faster drying of the glove. On the other hand, the leather remains better on the abrasion resistance side: an asset in case of fall from a motorcycle. Even on a textile glove, leather inserts will be an advantage. On the palm, double-layer leather is the best choice.
Leather is not everything, solid seams and protections are essential. A very good leather with crappy seams will not hold, the glove will go to pieces on a big slip. Make sure that the stitching is always double (recognizable by its yellow color), the presence of leather inserts is under the fingers and a protective shell on the fist.
Two criteria must be taken into account concerning the reinforcements: their location and their resistance.
The most important protection is not that of the fist, as many bikers think, influenced by competition gloves. It is the protection of the palm of the hand and the head of the wrist that is most essential.
Of course, the protections of the fist are useful, like that for the edge of the hand, on the thumb etc., and the link between annular and auricular to avoid the reversal of the little finger.
The protection can be provided by foams, gel pockets, carbon fiber plates, nails, metal plates, rigid shells…
Your preference should go to rigid shells or dense foams on the above the hand.
Rigid elements will better protect against friction, but may not be enough to absorb the energy of an impact. Plates that are too stiff and/or brittle can even break and cause other injuries. Materials that will absorb shock without deformation are preferable. At a minimum, carbon or plastic plates should be mounted on foams or gel that will protect your hand.
Beware of metal rivets, present on the palm of some gloves, whose role is to promote sliding and limit the abrasion of the glove itself. Make sure the back of these rivets is separated from the skin by a fireproof lining or leather insert. In the opposite case, their heating related to the friction against the bitumen will burn your hand. Moreover, this protection solution is less and less present on recent gloves.
It is especially important to maintain and protect the wrist, especially the scaphoid, the first bone to break in shock when you lay your hand on the ground, falling with all the weight of your body on your wrist.
Faced with the large number of scaphoid lesions (fractures, cracks, dislocations), some glove manufacturers have developed specific products, including the English brand Knox, with a clamping system available across its range of gloves.
If there is no lining, check that the seams are not protruding and do not bother you.
If lining is present, it must be attached in the glove. Otherwise, it will go away each time you remove it, which makes putting on the glove complicated, especially with wet hands. Very annoying, especially when you’re in a hurry, late, or on a toll, when ten cars are waiting behind you..
Waterproof membranes are also important. Between the exterior protective coating and the inner lining of comfort, it is very common, especially on gloves called “mid-season” and winter (more or less hot), to find a membrane (also called insert) that is “waterproof and breathable”: some examples are Gore-Tex, Hipora, Drytex, D-Dry, Sheltex …
The insert is laminated with a textile support, which takes place most often in the lining or directly under the outer material of the product (leather or textile).
Let us be clear from the outset that a membrane (and therefore by extension, the garment it surrounds) can’t really be waterproof. The water will inevitably pass through. The best Gore-Tex membranes, the high-end Performance Shell version, triple layer, finally let water after 20 hours under a column of water.
OK, this is an extreme case, but I want to be honest with the wording! We will talk about “waterproof” membrane, but it will not be “waterproof”. And it’s better because a completely waterproof membrane (oilcloth, type K-Way) would make your hands very, very sweaty. This membrane must let the fine molecules of water vapor (perspiration) pass through, but not the large molecules of water in the liquid state (rain).
Let’s specify one last thing: a waterproof and breathable insert does not keep warm! Those who think that a Gore-Tex membrane plays the role of a thermal liner are wrong. It does not retain heat, as does an aluminized thermal liner, for example. But it plays a role of insulator and windbreaker, which prevents the cold from entering. This windproof effect is not negligible when you’re dealing with strong winds on your motorcycle.
The presence of a waterproof and breathable lining is particularly important on the so-called “mid-season” gloves.
Remember to maintain your gloves! Remember that leather gloves age badly if they are not properly maintained: always thoroughly dry them after a ride in the rain and treat them with products specially made for leather. Keep them away from the sun and moisture.
For the maintenance of gloves with inserts: machine wash at 30 degrees, without spinning. Dry them in the sun or natural heat, not on a radiator or with a hair dryer. Be careful, leather gloves can take two to three days to dry completely!
The softener shouldn’t be used in the machine because it clogs the pores of the membrane. Lifetime of the membrane is usually a hundred washes or so.
Choosing a summer glove – Leather vs. Textile
The role of the gloves is first to provide protection in the event of a fall, even in summer! If the cold is not to be feared, sunburn is another source of danger, not to mention insects and other “projectiles” on the road. Ventilated gloves must provide protection while being comfortable at the same time.
You will generally have the choice between all-leather gloves, which are reminiscent of the models used on the circuit, with micro-perforations and reinforcements on the most vulnerable parts of the hand. And if necessary, an anti-inversion system of the little finger. There are also textile gloves, necessarily more ventilated, more breathable, but also more fragile.
Leather gloves are more reassuring (many reinforcements and protections), but more difficult to withstand heatwaves, especially in the city. The more urban models consist of an extensible mesh in synthetic textile. They are less protective in case of a fall, but more comfortable.
From experience, I can testify that the textile will always remain more breathable than the leather. Unlined leather will stick to the fingers under the effect of sweat. And a doubled leather keeps warmer.
A textile glove will breathe better and stay comfortable if doubled. It remains to reinforce its security by leather inserts, especially on the palm and at the end of the fingers. We rarely think about it, but glove fingers made entirely of textile will disintegrate quickly with the friction on the levers. In addition, leather inserts under the fingers are welcome to ensure better grip on the levers.
The gloves’ “mesh” offers a feeling of freshness. But because of its low resistance to abrasion, the airy mesh should never be in exposed places. Aeration between the fingers can modulate the freshness by squeezing or spreading the fingers.
Here’s a collection of affordable motorcycle gloves for summer on Amazon.
Choose a winter glove
Like any glove, a winter glove is primarily made of an outer covering (leather, textile or mixed).
It does not matter whether the outer layer is made of textile or leather, it is the thickness of the wadding that counts. But care must be taken to maintain the quality of grip and sensitivity of the controls. Any winter glove will be a compromise between warmth and functionality.
Under this coating, there is a lining of synthetic material. It can be polyester, fleece or technical solutions specific to manufacturers. This lining must remain warm, without hindering movements and does not turn around when removing the glove.
Below the lining, a membrane assumes several roles directly related to the overall effectiveness of the glove: maintain heat and diminish perspiration. For example, under the outer material (often treated for impermeability), we can find padding that.s there to ensure heat, aluminum foil for constant heat and a latex film that is a barrier to rain.
Gore-Tex membranes are widely used in the field of motorcycle clothing and especially gloves for both summer and winter. It is now a must-have material for winter gloves.
Try your cold-weather motorcycle gloves … with your winter jacket!
Try to put on the pair of gloves with your usual winter jacket: this helps to identify some common wear difficulties and to test the proper fit of the lining and the cuff.
Neither too short nor too narrow!
To limit the feeling of cold and the stagnation of sweat, choose your gloves with a little space at your fingertips. It is the heat of the air trapped inside the gloves that guarantees their thermal qualities. Too short or too tight, they will not allow to wear under-gloves, which will make the tips of your fingers even colder.
With or without undergloves?
If you plan to wear regular under gloves, take winter gloves that are larger.
With your normal size, the over-thickness created by the under-gloves would compress your hand and reduce blood circulation, which will speed up cooling.
For what purpose?
If you drive in the city, the impact of the cold will not be the same as if you have to face three hours of highway. You need to choose your winter gloves according to your main use. Choose the flexibility and feel of the controls if you are mainly urban, the heat if you are a backpacker, and the speed of drying if you live in a well-watered region …
In the rain
A small accessory that is very useful for use in the wet season is the “wiper” squeegee: a thin flexible rubber blade, attached to the glove, which wipes the helmet screen when the relative wind is not enough to evacuate drops of water that impede vision.
Often, it is just a small squeegee of 3-4 cm on the left thumb, but it is more effective when it is 5-6 cm long, is flexible and implanted on the left index finger.
Check out this great collection of winter gloves on Amazon.
Choose a mid-season glove
A “mid-season” glove is probably the most difficult category to choose and the most demanding criteria to gather.
A good mid-season glove should not be too hot (so it does not sweat in the glove), nor too ventilated (so it does not get cold and the fingers get numb). In addition to protecting while keeping a good sensitivity on the controls, it must cut the wind, resist moisture, but also allow the breathing of the skin of the hands, let sweat evaporate … overall, quite a challenge for any glove!
A mid-season glove must shelter the skin of the water, so it should have a waterproof membrane that will be of course breathable. This membrane will also isolate freshness through its windproof capacity, even in the absence of the wadding essential for winter gloves.
It is this versatility that makes the mid-season glove useful in all seasons, both during summer nights and sunny winter days, possibly by combining it with heated grips and / or sleeves.
In my opinion, there isn’t any single mid-season glove that is totally versatile.
I drive with two pairs of mid-season gloves, one for cool but dry weather and the other for wet or rainy weather, which is often colder.
The first can be satisfied with a “short glove” format, with a small sleeve in shirred fabric, elastic, sometimes insulating but rarely waterproof.
The second requires a “long glove” format, with a long cuff made of leather, textile or plastic shell. But truth be told, during the autumn I’ve mostly wore these Joe Rocket gloves that provide decent warmth but aren’t suitable for a harsh winter.