Words Dean Mellor
Feeling comfortable on your bike is of absolute importance, as is having the best possible protection, and these two priorities don’t have to be exclusive of one another, so long as you’re wearing the right gear to suit the conditions.
Gloves are some of the most affordable motorcycle accessories you can buy, so there’s no excuse for persisting with thick winter warmers when you’re riding in the height of summer. Of course, not all summer gloves are the same – there are different styles, different materials, different price points and different levels of protection – so choosing the right summer gloves to suit your riding can depend on many factors.
Here’s how to pick the right summer gloves to suit your needs.
Leather or textile
Gloves are manufactured from a variety of materials but if protection is the priority, there’s no beating leather construction.
Leather offers better abrasion resistance than even the toughest textile materials, which is why the world’s best racers wear it no matter how hot or humid it is on track.
Manufacturers use a variety of leathers depending on what the requirements are for a specific pair of gloves. For example, cow leather offers excellent abrasion resistance necessary in the event of a fall, while goat leather, which contains lanolin, offers a supple comfort suited to the palm of the glove where a rider grips the handlebar. Kangaroo leather offers a great combination of abrasion resistance and comfort and is, in fact, lighter and stronger than both cow and goat leather. Some gloves are manufactured from a combination of leather types, such as cow skin on the outside of the hand and goat skin on the inside.
Regardless of the thickness of the gloves, manufacturers are able to provide cooling to the hands by perforating the leather. Obviously, the more perforations the better the ventilation. On the downside, perforated leather gloves offer virtually no water resistance so, if it starts to rain, you’ll end up with wet and soggy hands unless you have a spare pair of wet-weather gloves, or some waterproof over-gloves, which are manufactured from a material such as PU-coated polyester.
An alternative to leather gloves is a pair of textile gloves, which can be manufactured from breathable yet waterproof material, to allow for ventilation as well as wet-weather resistance. The base material for these gloves is usually nylon or polyester, or a combination of these and other materials, combined with a separate or incorporated layer of one-way moisture wicking material such as Gore-Tex, eVent or Hyvent.
As textile materials don’t offer the same abrasion resistance as leathers, glove manufacturers often add extra materials and armour at key points to protect the rider’s hands in the event of an accident, such as on the ‘heel’ of the palms and on the knuckles. On gloves fitted with protectors like these, it’s important to ensure comfort when gripping the handlebar so, if possible, try the gloves on and then jump on your bike to see how they feel, or ask if there’s another bike in the shop you can sit on, or at the very least a handlebar you can grip.
Some summer gloves are manufactured from a combination of leathers and textile materials. These will generally have leather on high-wear areas or impact zones, such as the palm, and a textile mesh material for ventilation on the back of the hands, albeit with added impact protection around the knuckles.
Style and fit
Most summer gloves have a short cuff that allows them to easily fit under your jacket’s sleeves rather than over the top, allowing for better ventilation of the arms. When trying on gloves, check the closure to ensure they fit snugly around your wrist, so they won’t come off in the event of a fall. Most gloves will feature a simple Velcro wrist closure.
Regardless of the material the gloves are made of, they will need to offer enough flexibility for you to easily grip the handlebar and operate the controls, so ensure the fingers are long enough to suit your hands and look for stretch panels on the fingers and the back of the hand, and clench your fist tightly while wearing the gloves to ensure there’s enough movement. Some textile gloves will feature flexible materials such as neoprene in the stretch zones. Depending on the size and shape of your hands, you might just have to go up or down a size to find a suitable glove, but sometimes the style will simply not suit you and you’ll have to opt for another glove altogether.
Many gloves will also have pre-curved fingers, which reduces ‘bunching’ of the material when gripping the handlebar. Bunching can be uncomfortable and downright annoying on longer rides.
Make sure the seams of the fingers are unobtrusive, because what might feel like a small irritation when you first try on a glove can become a literal pain over a long distance on a vibrating motorcycle.
If the glove has a reinforced palm, and/or a slider on the palm, make sure it doesn’t cause discomfort when gripping the handlebar, especially on a sportsbike where a lot of your body weight needs to be supported by your hands.
Another feature to look for in any motorcycle glove is touchscreen compatibility, which should be in at least the index finger and thumb so you can operate your smartphone or GPS device without having to remove your glove.
Just because you wear lighter gloves in the summer months doesn’t mean you have to compromise on safety. Whether the glove is manufactured from leather or a textile material, or a combination of both, look for extra layers on high-wear areas and impact zones.
Other protection features to look for include hard-shell protectors on the knuckles and the back of the fingers, and a slider on ‘heel’ of hand, which can also double a vibration damper while riding.
Have a good look at the quality of the materials and the stitching, and how components such as Velcro closures are attached. As a general rule, you get what you pay for when buying gloves, but having said that there are some high-quality gloves available at very reasonable prices.