The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Protective Gear
If you ride motorcycles without a pair of gloves, you’re opening yourself up to numerous potential injuries.
In fact, there are a couple different types of motorcycle gloves different types of riding styles that we’ll get into below.
We’ve been riding and working on motorcycles for almost two decades. Half of that time has also been spent reviewing moto-gear. Suffice it to say, we know a thing or two about motorcycle gloves.
Keep reading to find out how you can find the perfect pair of motorcycle gloves that fits your unique needs.
You might not be able to tell just by looking at them, but motorcycle gloves are one of the most essential pieces of motorcycle gear.
In fact, whenever we’re asked for advice by folks on a budget, a high quality pair of gloves is the second thing we recommend buying after a helmet!
But too often, we see riders riding without any kind of hand protection at all. By doing so, they significantly increase the risk of serious injury.
After talking to a number of riders, we found that many weren’t even aware of why motorcycle gloves are so important. Others who had stopped wearing gloves were disillusioned by the poor quality of their purchase.
That’s why this ultimate guide for buying motorcycle gloves is so important.
Here, we will dispel some myths and misconceptions about wearing motorcycle gloves, and also give you all the info you need to pick out a pair of gloves that fits your hand, your use case, and your budget.
Why Motorcycle Gloves Are Just So Important
When it comes to motorcycle crashes, the rider is often dismounted from the bike and falls on the ground. When humans fall, we instinctively try to catch ourselves by extending our arms.
This knee-jerk reaction (or would it be elbow-jerk?) means that our palms and fingers are some of the first points of contact with the ground. And because of the way we fall, our hands end up taking the full weight of our bodies.
This sudden impact can result in tons of injuries. In fact, since the arm is all one continuous chain of muscle and bone, the force of the impact transfers from the hands to the wrists and elbows, and even the shoulder.
A common injury seen in motorcyclists who ride without gloves is abrasion injuries on the palm. Imagine rubbing your hand against a smooth wooden tabletop.
Now, replace the tabletop with rough pavement or gravel, and imagine how much force will be applied on your hand by the weight of your body suddenly falling on top of it.
This type of crash often results in swelling, blisters, road rash, and punctured skin. The wound may even get infected by contaminants from the road surface, which can lead to various diseases.
In extreme cases, you may even experience a degloving injury (Google with caution!). This happens when entire layers of skin get peeled away due to the friction between your hand and the road surface.
Besides abrasion injuries, glove-less riding also runs the risk of fracturing bones. The wrist is especially susceptible to this, since it’s taking the brunt of the crash, but it’s not uncommon for bones higher up in the arm to experience fractures.
What Makes A Great Pair Of Motorcycle Gloves?
So now that we’ve established motorcycle gloves are extremely important, what should you look for in a high quality pair?
Modern motorcycle gloves come with a ton of features and designs that help protect your hands in the event of a crash. They also offer a lot of quality of life improvements.
However, there are some essential considerations you need to make when picking out a pair of motorcycle gloves.
Most motorcycle gloves you see on the market are made of leather, fabric, or a combination of the two. Leather motorcycle gloves are usually better in terms of abrasion resistance, which is why most riders prefer them over fabric gloves.
That’s not to say that fabric gloves can’t offer some abrasion resistance, but the fact is that leather is the superior material when it comes to providing protection from abrasion injuries.
You can find leather gloves made from different types of leather, all at different price points. Fabric gloves will usually be the cheaper option, but not nearly as beneficial.
So how exactly does a motorcycle glove protect your hands? There are a couple different features that help gloves keep your palms and fingers safe.
One feature that we think any high quality pair of motorcycle gloves should have is palm sliders. Palm sliders are small pieces of hard plastic, TPU, carbon fiber, or other such material that goes around the palm area of your glove.
The function of a palm slider is to be a barrier between the actual glove and the asphalt. Palm sliders ‘slide’ on pavement, and prevent a lot of the abrasion injuries that can occur in the event of a crash.
But even more importantly, palm sliders reduce chances of your hand binding to the pavement, which can lead to the scaphoid bone breaking. The scaphoid is a small bone in your wrist that is quite prone to breaking in the event of a crash.
A lot of motorcycle gloves also offer protection for your knuckles, by having inserts that prevent similar abrasion injuries.
Most motorcycle gloves these days come with a long list of…handy features. Which ones you value will depend on what kind of riding you do, where you do it, and how much you’re willing to spend.
One feature that we always recommend a glove should have is some type of waterproof membrane. This is great for when you get caught in the rain and need all the protection from the elements that you can get.
Touring and adventure bike riders benefit most from this feature when they’re out on the road, thousands of miles from civilization and it starts pouring. But other types of riders may also find this feature useful.
Another great feature that some gloves come with is a special conductive layer on the fingers. This allows you to use your phone and other touch-enabled devices without having to take the glove off.
Similarly, some gloves offer pre-curved fingers. New leather gloves tend to be stiff, especially in the fingers, and it can take a while before they conform to the unique shape of your hand.
Pre-curved fingers on gloves are specifically designed to mimic the natural shape of our fingers, thus making it easier to pull in levers, grab handlebars, and perform other tasks while wearing gloves.
Finding a motorcycle glove that fits your hand properly is essential. As a rule of…thumb, your motorcycle gloves should be ‘comfortably uncomfortable’.
That means the fit should be snug enough to protect your hand in the event of a crash, but not so tight that it causes discomfort for regular use.
The Different Types Of Motorcycle Gloves
There are quite a few types of motorcycle gloves, each with their own designs and use cases.
As the name suggests, race gloves are purpose-built for use on the racetrack. These types of gloves are popular with professional sportbike racers who push their machines to the absolute limit and also street-bound sportbike riders who wish they could be that cool.
The design of race gloves is meant to balance maximum protection and feedback. That means these gloves use the highest quality materials such as cow hide, kangaroo skin, and the like. The palms are usually thinner, allowing for better throttle feel, and more ergonomic control.
At the same time, protection is through the roof with these gloves. They are almost always offered in the full-gauntlet style that extends past your wrist. In fact, a lot of tracks and race officials require them!
They feature inserts that safeguard the most vulnerable parts of your hand, such as the knuckles, palms, and even fingers.
Short gloves are gloves that end at the wrist. They are very easy to put on or take off, while still providing ample protection.
These are the most common type of motorcycle gloves, used by the vast majority of street riders. There is a lot of variation in this category, and you can get gloves with different feature combos.
For example, a short glove for summer might get a mesh and leather combination for the materials. This provides enhanced ventilation, alongside good protection from abrasion injuries and the like.
Similarly, a short glove for winter might include a waterproof membrane, or a thermal lining that keeps your fingers warm. These gloves might even opt for fabric and synthetic materials, since leather doesn’t fare particularly well in the damp and cold.
Gauntlet gloves often offer the best and most useful features. They are larger gloves that go past your wrist, offering more coverage and protection.
Gauntlet-style gloves can be used by pretty much any type of rider who wants maximum protection for their hands.
They are popular with touring enthusiasts and ADV riders who want the most protection in case of a crash, but also the best protection from the elements in case of inclement weather.
Heated gloves are gloves that use a battery-powered heating element, integrated into the glove to keep your hands warm while you ride. These types of gloves are usually seen in the gauntlet or short styles.
They are ideal for any rider who knows they’ll be up against cold winds and doesn’t want to rely on just their body heat to get them through.
And while they are most commonly used by tourers and ADV riders, even the sportbike community has come to embrace these gloves for winter riding.
How To Find The Perfect Fit
Your motorcycle gloves should fit your hand perfectly. If the glove is too tight, it will cause discomfort, and also make it harder to use the bike’s controls.
Too loose, and the gloves won’t be as effective for protecting your hands in the event of a crash. In fact, it is possible for very loose gloves to come off when you crash, rendering them completely useless.
Most glove manufacturers give sizing information for their gloves in terms of hand width or circumference. You can easily measure both at home and get the most accurate size for your hand.
To measure your hand width, lay a measuring tape flat on a table. Place your hand on the measuring tape and measure it at the widest point. Repeat the process for your other hand. The larger of the two widths is the one you should look for in the sizing chart.
If the manufacturer uses hand circumference instead of width, you can measure that just as easily. Wrap the measuring tape around your hand, behind the knuckles to get your hand circumference.
Make sure the measuring tape stays nice and tight so you get an accurate measurement. Repeat the process for the other hand and the larger of the two measurements is the one you should use. Also be sure to not include your thumb in this measurement!
Now, you can use these measurements to find the perfect size of motorcycle glove for your hand. If you still aren’t sure, check to see if the exact glove you are looking to buy is carried by any local stores and try it on before buying.
How Much Should Motorcycle Gloves Cost?
Motorcycle gloves are offered at just about every price point you can think of. You might be tempted to allocate no more than a couple bucks when planning your next motorcycle gear upgrade, but that will only get you bottom-of-the-barrel stuff.
A high quality pair of motorcycle gloves uses premium materials, has extra protection for the most vulnerable parts of your hand, and comes with some special features that make the whole experience that much better.
All of that hardware and features come at a cost, though. And while you can find budget-friendly gloves for under $20, we would never recommend getting anything that cheap. You don’t want to find out where the manufacturer cut costs to get the price that low!
At the same time, most riders don’t need the absolute pinnacle of performance and features when it comes to motorcycle gloves. These gloves can easily get well into the hundreds of dollars for a pair!
The sweet spot for us is in the $50-$100 range. Most gloves offered in this range will have a good balance of features, build quality, materials, and overall design.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at pricier options. In fact, some features you need may only be offered at those price points. The idea is that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg, just to get gloves for your hands!