Senior editor Friedman shows...
Senior editor Friedman shows off the lastest in summer motorcycle glove fashion.
Your hands are perhaps the most vulnerable parts of your body, especially when it comes to motorcycling. Not only do they have to do most of the work when you're riding, but they're also totally exposed to the wind, heat and cold. And if you happen to make an unfortunate dismount, it'll be your faithful hands that instinctively reach out to break your fall.
Sure it feels good to ride withoutgloves on a summer day...for about 10 minutes. After that you're looking at a painful sunburn and the inevitable surface numbness that comes from too much wind exposure. Get some gloves, man! There are plenty of options out there that provide ventilation and protection. And forget those fingerless jobs too. The only thing they're good for is picking your nose at gas stops.
When you're looking for a hot weather glove, think airflow. Perforated leather has become the rageand one we approve of, as long as the holes aren't too large or close together. Avoid the bargains at motorcycle rallies. The leather should be thick enough to resist tearing. Some new gloves incorporate fabric inserts to provide airflow. Any fabric that is highly breathable won't offer much abrasion resistance, but it's still a step up from bare skin. Animal hides will always offer superior abrasion resistance, and in this order: kangaroo, elk, deerskin and cowhide. Sheepskin offers great tear strength, but not abrasion resistance, which is more important. Deerskin is readily available these days, and doesn't cost big like exotic hides. It is also buttery soft and often more immediately comfortable than common cowhide.
For the purpose of safety, a glove should have as few seams as possible, especially in impact-prone areas. The junction of the thumb and forefinger should be reinforced. Extra reinforcement in the palm area is an asset for protection and comfort. Palm padding, be it additional leather, foam or high-tech gel, will also diffuse vibration. We like to see protective inserts on the knuckles and the backs of the hands, and some kind of fastening system about the wrist so the gloves actually stay on your hands if you take a tumble.
To test ventilation we rode with the gloves in winter conditions (otherwise this test would have reached you in August). Each pair was worn for approximately 15 minutes at highway speeds and then our frozen digits were allowed to thaw for approximately 30 minutes in a pair of heated gloves adapted to the bike specifically to create a control temperature. We found that airflow characteristics were immediately calculable in these circumstances, where in hot weather, they would have been more difficult to measure.
We asked the following manufacturers to provide us with their ultimate lightweight gloves. Some entries are only intended for hot weather riding, while others are more three-season affairs (a great option if you want to buy and tote only one pair, or ride in variable conditions often). Some of these gloves provide enhanced crash protection and others are waterproof as well as breathable. There's something for everyone in this collection and more than one desirable choice for those of us who prefer precise applications for specific jobs.
These really are roping gloves, boys and girls, but they've been heartily adopted by hard-core motorcycle riders all over the world. Sold through the famous Riderwearhouse, the Ropers are now available in biker black for the first time. (Up until now they've come in only cowboy tan.) And they're made of real elk skin, which is proven to offer more abrasion resistance than cowhide or standard deerskin. There's no ventilation to speak of, no padding or hyped-up buzzwords such as Kevlar or Gore-Tex sewn in here. Just skin. We like the Ropers though, and have worn them steadily over the years in just about every season. They are a bit too hot for those triple digit days (especially when you have a ventilated alternative) and don't quite cut it next to insulated gloves midwinter. But the Ropers work splendidly about 75 percent of the time. And while it's true we're big on protective features (and this option has none save its high-performance hide) we still recommend them. What can we say? The Ropers just feel really, really good. In men's sizes for only $37.
Like its motorcycle designs, BMW's apparel stands apart from the competitors in functionality as well as fashion. These AirFlow gloves are a good example because it's obvious a different drummer made them. The body of the glove is made from high-quality leather, yet on the top is an innovative panel of AirTex, which is a tear-resistant "mesh-like yarn" that encourages airflow. The finger sides are perforated to further promote circulation. When we rode with these gloves the system cooled extremely wellbetter than any other for sheer air movement. The knuckle areas are backed with substantial ribs of foam, and the upper finger joints are likewise padded. The palm is lightly reinforced and the thumb receives a suede panel over breathable fabric, perfect for wiping summer rain from your visor. As far as we can tell these are the ultimate summer gloves, and the only pair so stylishly unique we'd leave them on the coffee table all winter. But, as always, there's a price to pay for greatness, and in the case of BMW's AirFlows (available in unisex sizes) it's approximately $79.
The Master gloves are very unusual in their composition, waterproof leather sealed against nylon and an outer cuff that consists of exposed nylon, trimmed with more leather around the cuff. All in the name of fashion? We think not, since Firstgear is one of the largest purveyors of quality protective gear. Inside the Master glove is a membrane of Hipora, similar to Gore-Tex in its ability to keep water at bay, while allowing sweat vapor to escape. These gloves are therefore claimed to be waterproof and breathable, although we've only had a chance to wear them in light drizzle. The soft nylon lining of the Master gloves is very inviting, and they feel cozier than a summer glove has a right to. Certainly an interesting entry, the Master gloves might be a good choice for the rainy season since they don't provide much discernable ventilation and come with a nifty suede forefinger insert for visor wiping. Available in black only, these soft, gauntlet-style gloves come in unisex sizes for a suggested $80.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON ZIP-OFF GAUNTLETS
You have to love these gloves. Even if you never zip off the long, leather gauntlets, it's like knowing you can pull that rabbit out of your hat. Harley evidently loves this particular glove too, sending it as its ultimate lightweight application, even though the company offers several dozen summer-oriented gloves. We would call the Zip-Offs a three-season glove since we've been very comfortable wearing them in temperatures ranging from mildly hot to pretty darn cold. In fact, during our test ride (Texas in early March), these lined gloves held their own as winter fare. We like the versatility offered by the removable gauntlets, and when they're cast aside, air moves readily into the gloves through the wrist openings. These gloves offer padded, ribbed knuckles for protection and reinforced palm and textured PVC panels on the fore and middle fingers and in the junction of the thumb where you grip the throttle. Selling at around $60, and available in black and men's sizes only, this is a great choice if you want one glove to do it all.
From the German gear manufacturer Hein Gericke, famous for its high-quality, safety-oriented motorcycle gear, comes the Anza glove. The leather on the upper hand area is dotted with tiny holes to introduce cooling air. Since this glove proved flawless in its ventilation characteristics, it goes to show that it's not the size of your holes that counts. Large holes will leave your hands dotted with sun tattoos at the end of the day, and more importantly, they're prone to tearing in a crash (and will eventually loosen and tear with just regular use). There is lots of padding on the Anzasboth sides of the knuckles and palm receive it, as well as fashionable padded strips along the backs of the hands. Fingertips are reinforced and the forefinger and middle fingers receive textured inserts to improve grip on the throttle and brake lever. The black Hein Gericke Anza gloves, which retail for a suggested $50 in unisex sizes, are made of thick yet pliable cowhide and cinch at the wrist with hook-and-loop fasteners.
Motorcycle racers around the globe choose Held gloves for their protective capabilities. And while the German company commonly applies kangaroo hide to the palm of its sport gloves, this Air version uses premium cowhide instead. The top of the glove is a mix of leather and ventilated fabric, which provides so much airflow you hardly know you're wearing gloves at all. For protection the knuckle area is padded, as well as the vulnerable thumb and back of the hand. The Air gloves are held tight on your hands by means of a substantial adjustable hook-and-loop strap at the wrists (something we'd like to see on more summer gloves). This entry from Held was magnificently comfortable straight away, and the quality of workmanship is obvious upon inspection of the seams and surfaces. They're certainly not cheap at $80, but you can't go wrong with the Air gloves for dedicated summer work. Check out the Held kangaroo hide options too, imported by the company's exclusive U.S. distributor, Helimot European Accessories.
This glove is featherlight and extremely comfortable since it's made from a combination of soft nylon Keprotec and suede-like leather coated in Teflon. Best of all, these gloves are lined with Gore-Tex to protect your hands from summer downpours. This membrane incorporates microscopic pores that are too small for water droplets to penetrate, yet large enough for sweat vapors to be released. We've sampled many garments that use Gore-Tex, but they provide only questionable ventilation (mostly because leather or thick Cordura encases the membrane). The beauty of these gloves is moisture can escape through the lightweight nylon. Leather has been applied to the thumb, back of the hand and knuckle areas. Palms are reinforced with Kevlar and sizable gauntlets close with a swatch of hook-and-loop material assisted by two strands of elastic. We like the Stellers as a three-season glove, and applaud their waterproof versatility. Available in black, in men's sizes only for a suggested $70.
This Canadian apparel manufacturer has turned up some big business in the American market over the last several years, and we're excited to see its line of high-quality motorcycle products expanding as a result. The V-Sports are perforated gloves, which use thicker leather than common summer swag and feature a soft fabric liner to back the perforated top of the glove and thumb which improves comfort and durability. They were comfortable immediately and no bunching was evident in initial wear. Since the leather is heavily perforated, airflow was ample and consistent, cooling the hands even at boulevard speeds. The only thing we'd worry about with these gloves is that the holes are very close together which can cause cross wrinkles and eventually some tearing. The Joe Rocket V-Sports offer individual knuckle pads and small, style-driven foam inserts for the back of the hand. The palm is padded with a vibration damping gel and the thumb/forefinger area is reinforced with suede. A mini gauntlet secures under the wrist with a small hook-and-loop strap. Available in black, the V-Sport gloves sell for approximately $50.
A substantial-feeling summer glove, the Air Cruise is lined with soft nylon. It features heavy perforation on the back of the hand and fingers, as well as along the underside of the fingers and upper palm. As a result there is an exhaust effect and air is more readily able to circulate through the glove. Since the breathable lining adheres to the leather, we aren't too worried about stress tears occurring as a result of closely spaced holes. These gloves have a durable feeling to them although there isn't much in the way of secondary protection for the knuckles, or even padding for the palm. Basically what you're getting is a very zoot alternative to simple-minded summer gloves. Made of supple, yet thin leather, the LaTraks feature a half gauntlet, which closes at the wrist using elastic and a panel of hook-and-loop material. The white stitching on the black leather adds a nice accent to the look. The Air Cruise gloves are available through Bell Industries for a mere $30.
OLYMPIA SPORTS PERFORATED GEL
This company creates only motorcycle gloves, and the specialization makes it very good at what it does. There are many lightweight gloves in the Olympia line, but we were most impressed with this simple summer number. Olympia uses high-quality leather for its gloves, and although the holes are close together, it's obvious the weight of the leather won't allow easy tearing. The other quality immediately evident in Olympia gloves is the workmanship. When you look at the stitching and seam placement you know serious thought and effort went into the construction. Indeed, this is a fine choice of summer glove, and the coolest quality isn't necessarily about airflow (which is plentiful). At first squeeze, the palm inserts feel like ordinary padding but what's inside is actually a high-tech gel. Having gel in the palms, instead of extra leather or foam, helps damp vibration and increases circulation so your hands don't fatigue as quickly. The gel application increases comfort significantly and can be a cure for those with carpal tunnel syndrome. We highly recommend this summer glove, available in black for a suggested $40.
These gloves didn't score high marks for their ability to cool the hands on a hot summer day. In fact, if we were going to classify them, we'd say the Milanos are a middleweight glovegreat 75 percent of the time, but lousy in extreme heat or cold. We often recommend the first pair of gloves people purchase to be a midweight, since it provides the greatest degree of versatility. And if you're shopping for such, this is a great new product. Made of extremely soft nubuck cowhide, the Milano features Kevlar in the palm and closed-cell foam to cover the back of the hand and the knuckles while the backs of the fingers receive an artistic second application of leather. The palms of these lined gloves are padded and reinforced, while a secondary layer of hide beefs up the junction of the thumb and forefinger for durability. Short gauntlets close with hook-and-loop material. Shown here in sand color, the Milanos are also available in black for a suggested $48.
Soft and supple to the touch, these new leather gloves from Roadgear beg to be tried on. And on the road, the Euro Gauntlets are just as comfortable and functional as the look and feel promise. This is the only perforated glove we've seen that incorporates gauntletsa recommended feature. Glove extensions cover the wrists and keep air from entering the jacket sleeves, saving us from those silly bracelets of sunburn and potentially reducing the amount of skin that might contact the ground. Since the gauntlets are perforated we could feel the airflow sneaking up into our jacket sleeves. Not the full blast you get when you don't have a gauntlet bridging the gap, but a registered amount that would cool sweaty skin, rather than instantly dry it. We also like the stylish placement of the ventilation, which gives these gloves a classy look. Roadgear's Euro Gauntlets are lined with a breathable material and the glove palms have been reinforced with Kevlar. An elastic band is all that secures these gloves, but it offers more tension than most slip-on systems. Available in men's and women's sizes and black only, for a miniscule $35.90.
Ah, here's the quintessential summer glove. Lots of holes and lightweight leather. This perforated number is a wrist and fingers above your standard rally rack fare though, since the holes aren't gapping or too close together. The supple leather is high-quality and drum-dyed for suppleness and durability and since beauty is as beauty does, the Elites lock onto the wrists with wide hook-and-loop closures. The palms of these gloves have been amply padded to soak up vibration and reinforcing leather panels have been added along the outer pinky and between the thumb and forefinger to keep the soft leather from tearing in these high stress areas. As you would guess, one of the main concerns about using such lightweight leather is the simple fact it won't survive much abuse. Tour Master has gone to great lengths, however, to structure the gloves so that they can last more than one season. If you're searching for traditional summer gloves don't be fooled by the cheapies your dealer has piled up like cordwood on the front counter. This Elite option is a better bet for a mere $35 in men's and women's sizes (black only).
Some gloves don't have to offer big bells and whistles in order to be cooland Vanson's leather Rocket gloves are without a doubt the coolest looking gloves on the market. Since this world-renowned manufacturer of high-quality motorcycle leathers refuses to use cowhide less than one millimeter thick, Vanson's Rockets are substantial in look and feel and may take awhile to break-in. These are tried and true gloves we've used for years, but mostly in mild temperatures, or with liners in the winter. The Rockets are pretty hot during peak summer days since they lack ventilation. This year Vanson is offering a new Super Rocket glove in deerskin, however, which will prove to be more of a summer glove. We fondled the suppler, lightweight Rocket at a trade show, but were unable to obtain a pair in time for this review. Both versions of the glove offer substantially reinforced palm and knuckle areas and the cool zippered gauntlet. The cowhide version sells for a suggested $99, while the deerskin version, which features an ultra-cool tan leather gusset for the zipper, goes for about $115. Both are available in men's and women's sizes.
For additional evaluations of, comparisons of, and shopping advice for motorcycle gear and accessories, see the Accessories and Gear section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.