No riding ensemble is complete without a good set of gloves. Unlike helmets which have various safety ratings or boots with the multi-tiered arrangement of hinges, buckles and soles, gloves are far less difficult to pick out. Though quite possibly the simplest piece of riding wear, gloves are often the most underrated. We’ve had plenty of crashes where our heads never came close to an impact, and we’ve dabbed our feet a million times without ever twisting our knees, but virtually every single time we detach ourselves unexpectedly from the motorcycle, our hands get bruised, bent or scratched. Having gravel imbedded in your palms is never fun, but gloves provide even more protection than a simple crash barrier.
Gloves provide a consistent interface with the handlebar. Off-road riding almost always generates sweat, and slippery hands are not a good thing. Even if the gloves get wet they still provide better grip than without. Most off-road gloves have a textile material on the back for good ventilation and flexibility, while the palm is some form of thin leather or leather substitute such as Clarino. The palm is very important to get sized correctly. The key to finding the right glove is to try before you buy. Once the glove is on your hand, make sure that the palm doesn’t have excessive material that will bunch when your hand is cupped around a handlebar. Bunching and uncomfortably placed stitch seams are the main causes of blisters and unnecessary wear.
The Fly Racing 805 Gloves are thin and lightweight, which is good for motocross, but don’t offer enough protection for anything else.
There is no difference between competition and casual riding gloves. Lightweight, single-layer palms are often preferred for sprint-style riding such as motocross, but events that require longer stints tend to use more padding to help prevent blisters. Some gloves use Velcro fasteners and others are non-adjustable. There is a wide amount of variation between materials, water resistance and ventilation which makes for better hot- or cold-weather protection.
Cruiser riders have a little bit different list of demands for their gloves. Can you say leather? For its smell, fit and feel, there’s nothing like some good old fashioned cowhide. Unless it’s deerskin, which is even tougher and lasts even longer.
And while insulation and padding are always a bonus, these attributes don’t bear the same weight for the cruiser rider as track and off-road guys. Often there are cruise controls or communication system buttons to be pushed while riding, so a thinner glove that has a little bit of feel in the finger area is needed.
Reinforcements and extra padding in the palms and knuckles is always a bonus. Check for quality stitching as well, because cold wind can seep through the smallest of cracks. Make sure that they cinch up tight around the wrist as well. Gauntlet-style gloves that
extend past the wrist are another popular option. It’s beneficial to have the extra length to tuck a jacket under when it’s cold out.
Ultimately, cruiser riders can’t have it all, so having a summer and a winter pair of riding gloves is a smart move. Your summer gloves can be thinner, more lightweight, and don’t necessarily have to be waterproof. Your winter riding gloves, on the other hand (get it, on the other hand?) benefit from having a solid lining or insulation. They may even work so well that your hands begin to sweat, but most moisture-wicking liners remedy that problem. And you’re definitely going to want them to be waterproof. Cold, wet hands are not a rider’s friend.
Street and sport riders share the same concerns as their cruiser comrades, although often with a different aesthetic appeal. Armor is more prominent on many street/sport gloves and for track and racing purposes full-protective gloves are a preferred. Look for a comfortable yet snug fit with plenty of protective armor and thick leather. Track gloves should also have a wrist flap, also usually armored, which can cinch down to provide overlapping protection with a set of leathers.