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The Guide to Motorcycle Gloves

>> Ashley Benson

We often take our hands for granted. It sometimes takes breaking a finger or even getting a really annoying paper cut to remind us of how much we actually use our hands and how much hurting them can be a pain in the- wrist. So while we all instantly think "helmet" when thinking motorcycle safety, our hands can get overlooked. But many of our spills from a bike will leave not only our egos bruised; they'll take a toll on our hands as well. In most minor accidents, your head will probably never meet the concrete. It's great that your cranium will remain un-cracked but instinct means you'll use your hands to break your fall. Of course you can go to martial arts classes to learn the art of falling without using your hands, but it'll probably be easier and less time consuming to just buy a really good set of gloves.

One of the simplest pieces of motorcycle safety gear, gloves are also one of the most important. Not only will they protect you from leaving pieces of your palms on the pavement. Gloves will protect you from all of the elements that you'll find aren't too pleasant for you hands while you ride. Sun, wind, rain, dirt and bugs will all find a way to cause your hands problems. And when those aren't an issue, you hands themselves will be your own worst enemy. Sweaty palms can be quite the annoyance when having a good grip on your controls is paramount. All these things combined are probably why you don't hear the same debate over whether gloves should be required or not. The simple fact is that gloves are good.

With that said, some gloves are better than others. And depending on the type of riding you're doing, the type of glove you will want to have will be different. Some riders will find that they need several different types of gloves for the different riding conditions they will find themselves in or the time of year they ride. If you're a street rider, you'll find that there are two basic types of gloves: leather and textile.

Street Motorcycle Gloves

Most variety that you will find with gloves will be in the on-road motorcycle genre. Leather gloves, such as this pair of Tour MAster Summer Elite 2 Motorcycle Gloves, have seemingly been around since the earliest motorcycle days. Luckily, they've also changed a lot since then as well. Still made from cow hide and sometimes deerskin (sorry PETA), leather gloves offer great protection while still being soft and flexible. Since these gloves are the most popular type for street riders, this material makes it easier for riders to have a good handle on the controls such as cruise control or communication systems. Thicker gloves will be better for keeping your hands warm in winter and will protect your hands better while thinner gloves are great for warmer weather. Leather gloves are also typically warmer than textile gloves as well as have a better resistance to wind. Their material makes it easy to patch up holes so they last longer. Because there isn't a lot of technology that goes into their ability to protect, there are more inexpensive leather gloves even though they protect well. However, you'll find that some leather gloves can really get up there in price especially with leather racing gloves which do need a lot more protection.

Unfortunately, leather gloves aren't very water proof and become uncomfortable when wet. For this reason, you should keep a pair of rain gloves with you just in case you get stuck in a wet situation. If your gloves have never gotten wet before, there may be an excess of the dye used to color the leather which may have a tendency to bleed onto the rider's hands when wet (much like washing a new pair of blue jeans for the first time). While this does not affect the glove's ability to protect, having oddly colored hands isn't all that attractive. These gloves also have a high resistance to abrasion but are poor when it comes to puncture resistance.

One specific type of leather glove that deserves a mention is the fingerless glove like this Pokerun Easy Rider 2.0 glove. These gloves are particularly popular with people who ride cruisers. Their biggest perk (other than their really hardcore appearance) is the amount of control they allow you to have with your hands. Cruisers tend to have more buttons and controls and it's nice to be able to access them without bulky fingers in the way. Fingerless gloves are also much more breathable than their full finger counterparts and tend to not get as hot. However, these gloves don't really protect much of your hands. If you find yourself hurtling towards the asphalt, you're going to really wish that your gloves covered your fingers. These gloves also don't protect against the conditions such as sun, wind or rain. While their convenience is a major plus, finding a leather glove that is thin enough to get you enough movement and feeling will protest those fine fingertips.

Textile gloves are any type of glove that isn't made of leather such as gloves composed of Kevlar or Ballistic Nylon. These gloves have been around for a lot less time but are constantly evolving to become better and better. Each year, the design of textile gloves makes leaps and bounds in advancements. Textile gloves used to be less effective than leather gloves but have recently become just as good of an option (if not better). Their biggest upside is that the material they are made of allows for protective armor to be sewn into the glove. While this has also become common with modern leather sport gloves, many leather gloves still do not incorperate armor. Hard plastic, metal plates and carbon fiber built into the glove allow for extra protection and make them extremely resistant to puncture and abrasion. Many textile gloves like this pair of Tour Master Intake Air Gloves are mostly textile but add a dash of leather for extra protection. However, the type of material that they are primarily made of also allows them to be be more breathable than leather gloves. Unfortunately, many textile gloves still lack the inate ability to be rain resistant. If you plan to be using your gloves in wet conditions, be sure to buy a glove that comes with an extra layer of a water resistant material, such as Gore-tex, already sewn in. These gloves also tend to look a little more high tech and come in a variety of colors and designs so they can look more unique.

Textile gloves can come at a wide range of prices. While some gloves that have a lot more armor and protective technology or are water proof can be more expensive, textile gloves are typically cheaper than a good quality leather glove. Kevlar is also not as soft as cow hide and can sometimes give you a little less feel for your controls. In order to have a textile glove that gives you more flexibility and feeling, you'll have to get a thinner glove.

Off-road Motorcycle Gloves

Off-road gloves don't have a whole lot of differences from their street siblings. With the same goal of protecting your hands from leaving a few layers of skin behind on the ground, off-road gloves are made in a very similar way. Most off-road gloves aren't either completely leather or completely textile. It is very typical for off-road gloves to be textile with a leather (or fake leather) palm. The most important difference between these gloves and street gloves is the thickness of the glove. These gloves tend to be a bit thinner in their material but have more padding in specific areas that are likely to be subject to impact. Most also tend to feature strategic mesh in order to offer off-road riders more ventilation since off-road riding can really make your hands sweat. One of our favorites are the Thor Flow Gloves.

The Little Details

Once you know what kind of glove suits your riding best, there are a few other things to keep in mind when buying a pair. You'll want to have a pair of gloves that fit properly. A pair of gloves that is too small can keep you from getting the movement your hands need while riding as well as cut off circulation and cause that super annoying tingling that comes after an appendage has fallen asleep. On the other hand (no pun intended) you don't want your hands to be swimming in your gloves. If your gloves are too big, you'll find that you have less control of you hands which control the bike. Finding the right size will not only give you protection but allow you to control your bike to the best of your ability. It also follows that the right fitting glove will be the most comfortable and comfort is important when you'll be riding for long periods of time.

The stitching of your glove can have a big impact on how well your gloves are going to protect your hands. Even if you don't ever need them to give you an extra layer between your hands and the ground, the stitching that keeps your gloves together also has a part in keeping your hands protected from the elements such as wind and rain. If the stitching on your gloves is shotty, your gloves will be about as useful as a pair of tennis shoes with no laces. If you do come in contact with the crust of the earth, you'll want the stitching that keeps the padding secured onto your gloves to hold. You probably paid extra for the padding protection, but if it doesn't stay connected to your glove when you need it most, you might as well not have it in the first place.

The type of weather you will be riding in most will also affect what gloves are best for you. If you happen to ride through extremely hot or cold weather you'll want to buy gloves that will allow your hands to stay the most comfortable in those conditions. For instance, glove manufacturers have started producing heated gloves such as these Venture Battery Powered Heated Gloves for cold weather riding. These are fairly useless if you'll be riding in hot weather. If you find yourself in sweaty situations, you'll prefer gloves that are thinner and have some kind of ventilation.

Gloves also come in varying lengths and in this case, longer is better. A glove that is too short won't give you adequate coverage for your wrists. Not only will you find that this area of your body isn't exempt from being subjected to dirt, bugs, rain or wind, but your wrists are prime property for road rash. In order to keep them protected, buy gloves that are long enough to cover your wrists or have a "gauntlet" that will come up and fit over your jacket cuff.

Much of which gloves you decide to buy is up to your personal preference. Some riders swear that leather gloves are the only way to go while others would rather wear textile gloves. It very often will depend on the type of riding you will be doing, where you will be doing it, and what you will be doing it on. So when your friends tell you that leather is the only way to go but you've had your eye on a sweet pair of Spidi Alu-Tech's, be different and enjoy your choice.

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