Motorcycle gear is as specialized as the stuff NASA uses to equip astronauts and as personal as a toothbrush. Helmets, jackets, pants, and boots are now made of materials that didn’t exist five years ago and are guaranteed to be form-fitting, water-proof (or at least moisture-resistant), while capable of standing up to giant insects, rocks, and space debris. New body armor is said to be so good that at least one company is making car bumpers out of it. Practicality need not be sacrificed for fashion. Some men’s riding gear is designed to subtly augment “abs and pecs” in a manner that suggests every saddle-free hour is spent in a gym. Many riders who favor motorcycles built in the US choose “cod piece” riding pants, that provide a groin compartment suitable for stashing a pipe wrench. A lot of these guys find themselves jammed against bars by hot women new to this kind of fashion statement who ask, “What have you got in there?”
They can honesty reply, “My tool.”
Contemporary motorcycle gear for women not only provides the utmost in riding comfort and protection these days, but accents each curve like rubber skid marks on the Dragon’s Tail. Women who may otherwise appear average-looking in a business suit (though there is no such thing as an average woman biker) become red hot in riding gear, while smoking-hot women (all of the ones I know) reach the temperature of magma in an Aerostitch suit. Many gear manufacturers catering to current men’s physique trends in the United States are now using Clydesdale horses as sizing models, so riders whose asses hang down on each side of the back wheel are still encouraged to annually spend thousands of dollars attempting to look the part.
A rider will find that perfect fitting helmet, that ideally-cut jacket, those great pants, and the most comfortable boots at least once in a lifetime. If that person is smart, they will buy five of that item instantly. It is a well-known fact that once a rider discovers equipment that he or she loves, it will vanish forever to be replaced by some shit that sort of looks like the original, except:
• Instead of costing $159 (USD), it is now the price of the average divorce;
• It only comes in colors typically found in a bag of “Skittles” candy;
• It now has new zippers that dissolve when wet, or jam when pulled upward with a right hand;
• The “XXX” size is made for someone in an Asian city who last ate three years ago;
• It has new “design” features that offer no value to you or anyone you know.
Sometimes gear disappears from a catalogue like an unsolved murder, with manufacturers immediately discontinuing it, firing all the people involved in making it, and destroying all of the records, molds, or patterns used in its design. I once called a jacket manufacturer to inquire if any of a previous model run were still available. The person on the other end of the phone told me “no.” Then they pleaded with me not to call back.
“Why,” I demanded.
A shot rang out, and I heard an ominous thud, like a sales rep hitting the floor.
“That’s why,” said a different voice, and the line went dead.
This is especially true with motorcycle gloves. I once read that medical science has determined there are 2,823,921 nerve endings in each fingertip. This is what helps the average male determine the difference between an erect nipple and the buttons on a remote control in a dark room. (I have no idea how the boys in secret medical laboratories have arrived at this exact figure, but I have never looked at my fingertips the same way since. I still remember the first time I touched an erect nipple in a darkened corner of a high school dance, with all 2,823,921 of those nerve endings. Each one worked.)
Considering the tips of one’s fingers are the second most sensitive part of the male motorcycle rider’s body, you would think that glove manufacturers the world over would be dedicated to providing hand protection that also offered the highest degree of sensation. Yet motorcycle gloves remain on the forefront of compromise. There are gloves that fall into the “Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle” category, with fish-scale skid plating, lightning bolts, and raised armor over every joint. There are also gauntlet-type gloves made from exotic leathers. I almost bought a pair that had moose-hide on the back, white rhino-hide on the palm, and individual strips of sperm whale-hide for increased sliding protection. (They were $4,000 and I scrimped and saved for them by eliminating 30-days of alimony payments to an assortment of former wives.)
But I halted my order at the last minute, as one of the 50 or so motorcycle magazines I get each month had just run a piece on the unbelievable protection offered by Kangaroo leather. Sure enough, I found a pair of motorcycle gloves made of “nearly indestructible” kangaroo leather, lined with the pouches of jumping marsupials who succumbed to natural causes, after being hit by cars on Australian freeways. The cost was astronomical. (I’d have had to get married three more times and cut out those additional alimonies to afford these gloves.) Australia seems to be the home of exotic leather and I contacted a BMW rider there looking for advice. He gave me the name of “indigenous craftsman,” who was willing to help.
Mulitangilowe Walllawallaballa, or “Ted,” as he likes to be called, offered to make me a pair of gloves out of platypus leather for $50. I gladly sent the money only to have the gloves arrive with four fingers in place — and the rider’s thumbs to be inserted in the still attached platypus beaks. The gloves were not as sensitive as I imagined, and gave a strange puppet-show like air to operation of the clutch and front brake.
Above — "Pursuit" Gloves by Icon offer excellent control touch, good ventillation, and a skin-tight fit for me in 3X (which I prefer). They are lightly armored but a good value for $55. Photo taken from the "New Enough," website, a vendor I have been buying gear from for the past 6 years.
I currently own four pairs of motorcycle gloves. My summer gloves are Icon “Pursuit” perforated leather (full fingers) with minimal armor on the knuckles. I got them from “New Enough” for $55. Made in China, the sizing seems to have gotten better this year. The 3X size is skin-tight on me and offers excellent feel for the controls. The glove is made of sheepskin leather, with a goatskin palm, and offers a Velcro® closure at the short cuff. These have two zillion little holes in them and work very well for my style of riding. The will not however deflect a death beam from Skeletor.
The gloves I wear for transitional fall riding (45º to 60º) are Icon’s “Sub Stealth” model, which is the same as the above (without the perfs) for $45, also from New Enough. Performance is about the same too. The best transitional fall riding gloves I owned were simple deerskin leather gloves from Timberline. Dick Bregstein gave them to me. They were stolen off my bike when it was parked in a shopping center in Frazier, Pa. I sincerely hope they were taken by a someone who had freezing cold hands that day and was desperate to get warm. (In which case, they were welcome to them.) I was only a few miles from home and managed okay, as I carry spares for just about everything.
Above — Icon's "Sub Stealth" gloves are virtually identical to the "Pursuit" gloves but without the perforations. I can wear these down to 45º, or a little cooler, in perfect comfort with excellent handelbar touch. Price was right: $45. Photo from "New Enough's" site.
The second best transitional gloves I ever owned were branded by Harley-Davidson. These were a slightly heavier kind of nubuck suede that were great in temperatures down to 35º. I wore them cold one day at noon, when the temperature warmed up to 35º, and came back in the dark when it was much colder than that. I nearly got frostbit hands. But for warmth, flexibility, and sensitivity (in their temperature range), they couldn’t be beat. I left these on a shelf in the garage last winter and mice ate them, shredding the fingers for nesting material.
Interestingly enough, I recently returned to a couple of local Harley-Davidson shops to see if I could replace those gloves. (That effort was as gratifying as yodeling up my own ass.) But then I thought, “Harley is a company that embraces practical change. They might have something better.” I decided I wanted to try on a pair of “Men’s Torque Gauntlet Gloves.” I found these online and I liked them because:
• They appeared to be simple leather.
• They did not appear to be bulky.
• They came back over the sleeve of a riding jacket
• They did not have a huge Orange Harley-Davidson Eagle logo or skull cast into the leather, (offering a rather nice embossing job instead.)
• They were $65.
Above — The "Men's Torque Gauntlet Gloves" from Harley-Davidson really appealed to me too... I just couldn't find a pair to try on. Harley does market some very good gear. They had a mesh jacket one year that I absolutely loved. But it the largest size in came in was a 48. Photo from the internet.
This too, however, was like yodeling up my own ass. I couldn’t seem to order *them online, and was constantly being referred to one of three local Harley Dealers. This was okay with me... I like looking at new Harley-Davidsons (who doesn’t?) and I believe in supporting local dealerships. (I have a enduring fondness for the Harley-Davidson company, especially their dealership in Willow Street, Pa.) Not a single dealer had the gloves. (This was in September.) All offered to order them for me.
“Will you order them in two different sizes so I can see which pair I want,” I asked. That question drew blank stares. I said “Thanks,” and moved on, with money for gloves still burning a hole in my pocket.
Above — Gerbings Nubuck Heated Gloves for $119, are my choice for most colder weather riding days as they seem warm enough for my hands (even without plugging them in). This winter will tell. I am impressed with the way Gerbings packages their products, giving you a number of connections options and making things as "plug and play" as possible. Photo from the internet.
Gerbings got that $65, plus another just like it. I bought a pair of heated Nubuck gloves for $119, which came complete with a wiring harness, even though I will connect these to my Gerbings heated jacket liner. These gloves are a tad heavier than I would have liked, but not to the point of being overly bulky. I suspect they will be warm enough for my hands, which are always hot, without being plugged in. But in truth, they could easily replace my heaviest, and most impressive winter riding gloves. (I should be as warm as toast with these gloves, the jacket liner, and the heated seat. I still think it was really smart to install the voltmeter.)
Lee Parks Design is one of the most recognized brands in heavy touring motorcycle gloves. I got my fourth pair of gloves on a recommendation from the Mac-Pac’s legendary Doug Raymond. (Raymond has crossed the Rockies in a snowstorm, and rode from Philadelpha to Prudhoe Bay, above the Arctic Circle in Alaska — and back — in 14 days. Both trips were on a venerable BMW “R” bike.) They are also the cold weather gloves of choice, preferred by Horst Oberst, a man who has ridden in some of the mountainous parts of the world at a time when motorcycles were regarded as truly primitive. (Oberst also has a marked preference for the BMW “R” bike as well. There is no accounting for taste.)
Above — The warmest motorcycle gloves I have ever owned... The Deersports®PCI Black and Tan gloves from Lee Parks Designs. Photo from Lee Parks Designs Website.
At a pricey $184, my Deersports®PCI Black and Tan gloves by Lee Parks Design remain the warmest, non-electrical gloves I have ever worn. At 70mph, in ambient air under 25º, my hands felt warmer than room temperature. These gloves claim to combine a unique stitching technique, along with equally unique leather products, plus a some highly-advanced thermo-liner, to provide the warmest, strongest, and most comfortable motorcycle gloves on the market.
Here are some of the fine points as presented by their website:
• 2.75+ oz. deerskin (palm) and 4.0+ oz. elkskin (back) are more abrasion-resistant than cowhide
• Outlast® phase-change lining material changes it properties depending on temperature giving it an incredibly wide temperature range (35-75 degrees)
• Thinsulate Flex® insulation on the backside of hand helps keep heat in without adding bulk to the palm side of the glove
Lee Parks Design makes less expensive models, including several short-cuff street gloves, which I did not consider for one reason. The warmest gloves I have ever owned, are also the bulkiest, and insulate my hands from the clutch and the brake. Wearing these gloves, I can tell when I have entered the friction zone only as the motorcycle has started to move. You can deal with bulky gloves over time... You cannot ride with frozen hands. (Naturally, the muscle memory in your left hand tells you when you are in the friction zone too, but it’s nice to feel the clutch grip. It may be argued that the less expensive Lee Parks gloves are also less bulky. I simply don’t know.)
Also, I would be remiss if I neglected to point out that a number of Mac-Pac riders did not like various pairs of Lee Parks Gloves, finding fault with the stitching. (The company website claims they are delighted to make inexpensive repairs.)
It should be noted that none of my sub-freezing riding has ever been conducted in wet conditions. I love riding but not when there is the potential for ice on the road. I have no idea how these cold weather gloves work when wet. It is my plan to ride while wearing the Gerbings, but with the Lee Parks gauntlets in my side bags as back-up.
I do not promote myself as an expert on motorcycle riding or biking gear. Those people are few are far between... And with rare exception, they are tedious to listen to and worse to read. Rather, I make my recommendations based only on my personal experience — which is limited in some regards, but very typical to the common man in many others.
*Note to any Harley-Davidson representative — While I have spent my last dollar on gloves this year, I would be delighted to road test and review a pair of the Men’s Torque Gauntlet Gloves. I’d be delighted to either return the gloves at the end of the season — with my review — or buy them.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The LInkbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain — PS (With A Shrug)