Thursday, September 13, 2012


Second in a series…

Recall the good friend and colleague Registered Nurse whose son, after being exposed by his mother to this blog, decided to purchase a Honda Shadow 750 upon his return from Africa, as his first bike.  Her query of me: “What stuff should he have to be as safe as possible?”

“If something happens to my hands, I’ll find myself livin’ under a bridge in less than month.”  So spoke an affiliate of mine who works with his hands, freelancing as a piano mover and a mid-weight equipment operator. 

“So why’re you wearing THOSE gloves?” I asked pointing to the pair of hardware store Wells Lamonts. Great for wrapping around a shovel I’m thinking but not so hot on a twist grip. 

It’s been said that the cheapest thing on a BMW is the rider, and this guy is no exception.  Dismounting his meticulously cared for 80s era vintage R80RT, he as much as said, Gloves schmuvs.  “I get these for twelve bucks a pair an use ‘em for everything.  Why should I spend five times that?” 

“I don’t know.  Because you don’t want to end up under a bridge somewhere?”

Gloves are an important piece of motorcycle safety equipment.  I’m no expert, but chances are, if one takes an unintended dismount at any kind of speed, hands, or portions of them, will be worn off as they skid along an unforgiving section of pavement.  Quality motorcycle gloves provide extra protection in such an event.  Constructed of combinations of leather and a synthetic fabric sometimes known as Cordura (a trademark registered product of DuPont Corporation.)  High quality gloves may include an envelope of gel that can provide extra cushion for impact points in the event of a fall.   
While leather palms may abrade as one skids across the pavement, better the leather than the flesh. 

Motorcycle gloves are engineered for specific purposes.  As a road rider who occasionally finds some gravel to enjoy, I have four pair.  I choose the glove for the ride I anticipate I’ll be taking.

Around town in spring summer and fall, I wear a short glove with a hook and loop strap (Velcro®) that secures them at my wrist.  Made fully of leather, a gel pack pads the palm and a portion of the back.  The gloves fit nicely at the end of any jacket I may choose to wear, but usually, these are worn with a light leather jacket or with a summer weight mesh jacket. 

They are stylish (the least of my concerns) and fit nicely in my helmet or tank bag for storage – or in a jacket pocket if that’s more convenient when checking out some local bookstore or bistro in town.

On a road trip or if I know I’m doing some gravel, I choose ventilated gloves with a longer gauntlet that is snugged under the end of the jacket sleeve.  This pair has a poly-plastic vent atop the knuckles that allows the flow of air in.  The fingers are leather (kangaroo, I believe) but the body is perforated thus aiding in cooling and breathability.  There is a gel pad in the palm. 

A Velcro attachment secures the wrists.  These gloves are durable and have proven to be my go to choice for versatility.  If I were counseling a beginner, something like this might be my first choice for an “only pair.”  They aren’t cheap, but remember the whole living-under-a-bridge concern…

Winter and rainy day riding can be quite an experience – and a good thing to do to keep one’s skills fresh in the “off season.”  My waterproof winter gloves are thickly padded providing some insulation from cold blasts at speed.  Their long gauntlets stuff inside the sleeves of my three-quarter length three-season jacket, but can slip over the ends of the insulated leather jacket I sometimes wear. 

I find that the middle finger of my throttle hand sometimes gets very cold – even numb – a situation that is both uncomfortable and distracting.  I stop occasionally and dip the finger in hot coffee (a dumb thing to do) while the waitress stares at me incredulously.  Still, well-insulated winter gloves are essential because hand dexterity is exceptionally critical when operating the bike.  I try to always have these with me – particularly on  long trips – in order to accommodate changing weather conditions.

My back up pair of gloves is a pair of lambskin leather jobs from Germany.  Their interior lining is softer than the proverbial baby’s bottom.  They have the gel and they’re really attractive.  They’ve proven to be rugged and durable, providing a little bit more coverage and warmth than the shorties mentioned earlier.   Although this pair is pricy, something of similar design and construction would be another excellent choice for an “only pair.”

Properly fitting gloves need to, well, fit like a glove.  They should not be so tight as to restrict hand movement or bind fingers.  They should not be so loose as to compromise positive contact with controls and switchgear.  They should be thick enough to protect from impact and/or cold, but not so thick as to inhibit one’s ability to feel those switches and levers.  They should be kept clean and allowed to dry thoroughly after wet-weather or hot, sweaty use.  And they should be replaced regularly.  The last thing a rider wants to find out is that their gloves have rotted out 3/100ths of a second after having met the pavement.

Gloves are an essential part of the safe rider’s gear.  On that bad day, they could prove to be the difference between simply an unfortunate spill and finding yourself living under a bridge somewhere.  Don’t skimp.


[Update (14 Sep 12):  Check the thoughtful words shared by Tina Ingle, Cordura brand account manager, regarding the Church's representation /misrepresentation of Cordura applications in motorcycle gear.  It is located in our comment section below this post.  Thanks for the clarification, Tina.]

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Well, depending on your seasons, you local climate and when you plan to ride, I'd recommend at least two pairs of gloves: one for summer and another for winter. For hot summers (it gets pretty hot here in Australia) you need gloves which are going to let your hands breath and remain cool, whilst affording you the protection you need in the event of a mishap. If you don't, your hands are going to get mighty sweaty and uncomfortable.

    One pair I would recommend 100% is Five Gloves Airflow Black. They are awesome, they have a mesh construction paired with leather, carbon and plastic. They feel like motocross gloves, they breathe really well and keep the hands nice and cool. And I can say that I've tested their roadworthiness in a mishap. They have reinforced hard knuckle protection as well as carbon fiber/ padding in the heel of the palm; saved me from some serious road burn. I'm so happy with them, and wouldn't hesitate to buy them again if needs be.

  2. My take on gloves, is that they should be leather. I had a little spill back in may, and they saved my hands from some serious rash. Leather is great for abrasion, as well, at least in my experience, comfort.

  3. My gloves are Chinese made Dainese that were good for the price (some internet remainder sale where they had XXXL, which is what it takes to get Chinese gloves larger than L), but they're pretty thin leather.

    And they're not brand new ... I don't know, maybe 6 years? Leather dries out, loses its stretch. Eventually these gloves will fall apart on my hands, but long before that they'll be too weak to help much in a serious get-off. Maybe already are. It might be time to try something else, maybe a pair of Churchill deerskin gloves.

    On the other hand, fabric ... I see the term "Cordura" in the article. One of my pet peeves. Everyone knows that Cordura is nylon - but it turns out that this trade name can be applied to fabric made of a variety of things other than nylon, some not all that strong. My Motoport jacket is made of the real nylon stuff, tough as all get out, but my old Technik jacket was apparently polyester "Cordura" and fragile as the wings of a butterfly. It doesn't mean anything, in fact different Corduras may be only vaguely similar even in appearance or feel.

  4. Good to hear your thoughts! The CORDURA® brand portfolio actually has many different fabrics in various deniers—from ultra-lightweight nylon to high-tenacity polyester to heavyweight nylon ballistic fibers. However, we don’t allow our polyester CORDURA® fabric technology to be used in motorcycle applications. Therefore, to ensure that you’re getting the real deal, look for the CORDURA® brand hangtag or visit our trusted brands site to see if they’re on the list: Note that 600d and 900d are telltale hints of commodity polyester based motorcycle fabrics and are not CORDURA® fabric. Nylon / CORDURA® fabrics for motorcycle end-use will typically be 500 or 1000 denier.
    You can always send us a note to see if we can help confirm the product is using authentic CORDURA® fabric!
    Tina Ingle
    Account Manager

  5. Gloves are my downfall, I have (I think) eight pairs of them of all different types and variations. Yes, I do wear all of them still, At one time I generally have three pair on my bike. One for extremely hot, one for general use and one for cold and wet. I have a couple pairs for each situation. I also have from general textile water / cold proof with armor to the full on Pro race type that I generally wear every day. The thing is I am a sucker for a good deal too. My son once asked me, "Why you wear all that Moto Gp type stuff?" and my response was " they go down at 150 and jump up and run away, WHEN I go down at 55 I want my biggest concern to be my bike and me."

  6. Your friend should spend the money on a pair of good gauntlet gloves. They take more time to put on, but if you ever go down they will stay on your hands and they usually have better construction. There are lots of different choices by brand. Helds have nothing but good reviews. I personally have a pair of Cortech gauntlet gloves with kangaroo palms that look like heck, but are still kicking after 4 years of riding. He should go try on a few different brands and sizes before buying if he can.

  7. Tina Ingle - Thanks for your comments (keeping us honest) clarifying applications of Cordura fabrics.

  8. Hands are generally the first thing that touch pavement in a fall. I wear Held Steve's. Having crashed quite a few times under different circumstances, I feel naked without gloves on. Anything is better than nothing but as previously mentioned, full gauntlets with a cinch or other mechanism for fastening around the wrist is an excellent idea. I'm not a huge fan of gloves with armored knuckles. They're great for punching side mirrors off SUV's but I think it does little in terms of protecting your hands in a fall. I do think webbing between the ring and little finger is smart.

  9. i must own a good eight or nine pairs of gloves.

    i am poor and broke, but dropped over $three bills for one pair. just for the track. fit good but tight, with metal knuckles.
    full gantlet style.
    but for general riding i have others that are easier to remove all in gantlet style for safety reasons. some vented some not, even have one pair that are heated for winter nights, to get to work.
    i would also be living under a bridge if i lost one hand. who wants a one handed truck driver?
    the road is a cheese grater to skin and bone.
    if i had the money there is a pair of gloves but again over two bills. one gets what they pay for. want junk pay little. want quality you have to pay a price.
    but no glove will do any good if it does not fit and feel right on your hand, as you will not put it on.

    safety is what you make of it. i am selfish i want to go home and sleep in my bed, and be able to attend to my self, not need another to do even the littlest needs for me.
    hands, hard to live with out.

  10. as a test,
    try doing with out your rt hand
    (left hand if a southpaw)
    for a couple days, tape it up and to your belly, and do the things you need to do in your daily life with only one hand.

    but do not drive/ride.
    safety first please.