Continuing from my previous post about helmets, this post is dedicated to another crucial part of motorcycle protective gear. By instinct for self-protection during a motorcycle accident most riders will use their hands to absorb the impact energy. No matter if this is sliding on the asphalt or hitting an object, hands are the most exposed part of your body which is also susceptible to injuries. In this blog post I will be talking about the various concepts involved in motorcycle gloves design and operation.
Types of Gloves
Although there is no official classification of this protective gear, most riders are using the following categories to group the different properties of each type.
Most of these gloves look like this pair of Fox Racing Dirtpaw:
As you can see, this type of gloves is usually very lightweight with no heavy protection features. The main concern in such designs are the best breathability of the hands as well as the best possible gripping using materials such as silicon for the palm of the gloves. Since dirt/motocross riders are running on a soft terrain (dirt and mud) there isn’t much to consider regarding possible high impact energy. However, because of the extreme vibration and movement these gloves must provide the best possible grip. Underneath the glove (using the same Fox model as above):
You can see that the palm reinforcement is mainly for gripping using silicon based materials. That said, you can easily deduce that this type of gloves is usually cheaper than the next categories. However, they are designed for a very specific use and they are ideal for this type of riding. Finally, since such gloves are always used with normal weather conditions they do not have any special design issues for air flow, cold, rain, etc.
For everyday riding there are some specially designed gloves for using during the hot summer days. An example is the below Alpinestars Sledge model.
As you can see in the picture above, such gloves have some additional reinforcement on finger joints usually manufactured by some semi-hard material (in this case leather) in order to provide some basic protection. Usually, such gloves are short so that they let air flow move across rider’s arm freely. In addition, even though the outer side of each hand’s knuckles is reinforced with some composite material for protection, the internal side usually doesn’t include such attachments. Of course, the whole design concept is to make a comfortable pair of gloves that will let the skin breath using designs that allow air to come in and out. Of course, the palm has some extra attachments to assist on the best possible grip of the handlebar grips. In this category, prices vary between different manufacturers and models depending on the provided features. Nevertheless, most models have affordable prices.
As the name suggests, this type is for use during cold/winter periods to provide both comfort and protection. Here is a well known model (Tempest H2O) by Rev’it…
And their inner side looks like this:
The first difference most people notice is their length. Depending on the design this is done so that the rider seals its upper body by putting his/her gloves on top of the jacket and thus disallowing air from flowing inside the jacket from the sleeves. The core protection characteristics remain the same using some harder material for knuckles and reinforced finger tips as well as material that will provide comfortable and secure grip. The main concern of this design is thermal insulation which is performed using numerous layers of different materials. In the specific model shown above, you can see an additional feature which is a special layer at the index and middle fingers to provide secure grip of the brake and clutch levers.
Although some products are waterproof there are some others that aren’t. If this is the case, a common move is to go and buy some over-gloves like these:
In the above image you see a model designed by Rain-Off. They are easy to use and they provide 100% water resistance. As you can see, the fingers are separated in two groups (not including the thumb) to allow usage of brake/clutch levers. Their main disadvantage is that they can easily become slippery since they don’t have any special reinforcement to assist on secure grip and they require wearing gloves. At last, their price is most of the times very low.
Medium Racing Gloves
This is the most common type used by everyday riders who use some protective gear. An example is the below Shift Racing Bullet pair of gloves:
From this side we can clearly see the knuckle carbon protection as well as the leather reinforcement on each finger joint. Behind the knuckle is another softer plastic protection to allow the rider open and close his/her grip without any additional force. The length of the glove allows riders to use it along with motorcycle jackets or suit. Moving in the inner part of this glove we can see this:
You can clearly see the two-level adjustment which allows minor adjustments for fitting as well as adjustments based on the jacket you are wearing or the size of your wrist. Underneath, we can also see the special padding for secure grip as well as the leather reinforcement of the outer side of the hand to avoid burn injuries in case of sliding after an accident. Such gloves are usually affordable but definitely more expensive than the previously discusses types. They provide excellent level of protection for everyday riding and they work fine with weather even slightly above normal. This type of gloves also includes the Dainese Carbon Cover I have recently purchased. :)
Heavy Racing Gloves
Here we have the let’s say, pro-series like the below Dainese Steel Core Carbon:
Although the protection reinforcement design remains similar to the medium racing gloves’ one, this type uses some extreme materials such as stainless steel, kevlar and various thermoplastics. Here is a nice diagram I found on Google that shows these features for the aforementioned model.
A great feature is the little finger distortion control which is usually missing from lower price gloves. The downside of such gloves are the usually limited allowed finger movement. However, most models (including the above one) have pre-curved fingers to help the rider. They are designed to work under various weather conditions and they are expensive compared to all other motorcycle gloves. However, the provided protection exceeds all of the other types.
In my opinion, this is the most crappy type for wearing for riding a motorcycle. To get an idea, here is the Bikers’ Den Fingerless Leather gloves:
Obviously, even though this particular model has some knuckle protection (using kevlar reinforcement), it still leaves the most sensitive parts of the hands unprotected. I would never suggest this type of gloves for any kind of riding. Nevertheless, from technical perspective, the naked fingers do not provide the ideal grip of brake and clutch levers and in most gloves of this design there is no protective reinforcement. Additionally, they are only suited for riding with good weather and because of their construction material (usually common leather), they don’t have the best results for hands’ breathability. On the upside, they are pretty low priced (some some reason…).
Sizing/Fitting and Choosing the Right Gloves
So, the best option you have to choose the appropriate size is using the internationally accepted sizing which is pretty simple. Check out this diagram:
However, if you don’t have that option. Try some different gloves until you find the one you’re feeling comfortable with. Then, stretch your fingers a few times (like using your brake/clutch levers) and check that your fingertips do not touch the gloves’ fingertips. If they do, you almost certainly need one size larger. The gloves must be tight but not so tight making you feel uncomfortable. You must have the feeling that they cannot be removed unless you unfasten them and pull them off. Always, wear them for a couple of minutes (2-3) before deciding if they suit your needs. When buying a new pair of gloves always consider the following questions:
– Where are you going to use them?
For example, everyday riding, racing, touring, etc.
– Under what conditions?
Like cold periods, you want them for summer days, etc.
– What level of protection do you need?
Depending on your riding style which could vary from racing, cruising, everyday/for work, motocross etc.
– What’s your budget?
You cannot have anything you want in this world. Show me the money! :P
Finally, since I have seen this a few times. If you are not willing to wear your gloves, simply don’t buy them at all. I have seen people wasting 180 Euro (about $255) buying a pro-level pair of gloves and never using them. In my humble opinion, it’s one of the most important components of a rider’s protective gear but if you think otherwise don’t waste your money.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Although this depends on the model and all of the products I know come with strict instructions for cleaning maintenance, here are a few generic advises.
The most sane option is to buy some ready-to-use cleaning product. Now, to keep the inside smelling fresh a good advise is to place some scented dryer sheets for a night. It works every time. This is similar to using anti-bacterial wipes to clean dirt from the leather gloves. In any case, avoid using chemicals that could alter the properties of the gloves’ materials. That said, you must also be aware that reinforced protective gloves have limited lifetime based on their materials. For example, a carbon based pair gloves would theoretically last forever but it’s a good practice to change them after 5-6 years (regardless of the construction materials). Finally, don’t expose your gloves to extreme conditions if there is no need and try to keep them clean from bacteria of your hands which are that what produces that perspiration smell in the inside of the gloves.
I hope that you find this post useful because its intention was to give a brief overview of the importance and technical details involved in nowadays motorcycle gloves. Always wear your protective gear and have fun! :)
All of the above pictures except the “Dainese Carbon Cover gloves” were found using Google Image Search. They aren’t mine.