The Ultimate Buying Guide for Picking the Right Motorcycle Gloves
I think we should agree on a few key things before you read this ultimate guide to motorcycle gloves. Your hands are pretty important to living a full life. You would like to be able to use them for the rest of your life. Protecting them is key to being able to do that.
The big takeaway here is that you have to wear motorcycle gloves. Like a helmet, good motorcycle gloves aren’t a nice-to-have; they are a must-have if you want to protect your precious hands.
The second thing to remember is that not all gloves are created equal. There is a large difference between merely wearing gloves and wearing specific gloves to match your riding style—as well as riding conditions, weather, and other factors.
When creating this motorcycle glove guide, we wanted to really go into detail about what to look for when buying gloves. We want you to understand the types of gloves on the market, know the right questions to ask when shopping, and look for the right features.
As you will see, there’s a lot more to motorcycle gloves than whether they look cool. You need to consider comfort, function, durability, protection, materials, and much more.
For new motorcycle riders, please make sure to spend time reading and researching your motorcycle gloves. Experienced riders may find that some of this is obvious, but we think education is a huge part of protecting yourself and enjoying riding for a long time.
Just like anything else these days, motorcycle glove manufacturers have very specialized options for every riding style, type, and condition. One pair of gloves is not necessarily suitable for every type of riding style or condition, so it is important to understand the differences and make the right choice.
We’ve added all the categories we could think of below. Note that there may be some repetition in features and types, as different people refer to these glove types in unique ways.
Always remember that your goal with choosing motorcycle gloves is matching the glove to your riding style, the type of riding you do, the weather you ride in—and ultimately, the safety they provide for your hands and fingers in case of an accident.
Clearly, we all have budgets too, so you may have to make tradeoffs. There is nothing wrong with that; just make sure you understand them and make an informed decision.
The list below is ranked according to features and protection, from worst to best.
1. No Gloves
Some people aren’t aware that you should wear gloves when riding a motorcycle, but I’m sure after a few rides they will realize the protection it offers. Leather gloves look great, and they also protect you against the wind blast and some vibrations of the motorcycle.
Also, in the unfortunate event that you do crash, most people try and catch themselves with their hands—it’s just a gut reaction. On a motorcycle, you could be going 20, 30, or 60+ miles per hour when you crash, and your hands will take a lot of the damage.
For those of you that are still skeptical, you should try running as fast as you can (probably less than 20 mph for most people), and then throwing yourself onto the ground while bracing yourself with your hands. You will find that your hands are scraped up and bloody, and that’s only at running speed! So, wear gloves!
2. Fingerless Gloves
I play the guitar, so my fingers are very important to me, they need to be tough and also sensitive for me to feel the strings of the instrument. Fingers are also great for picking things up, so they’re pretty important.
Therefore, to have a glove that only protects your palms but leaves your most delicate tools unprotected is just foolish to me. Without fingers, hands would suck! Protect your whole hand, not just your fingers.
In my opinion, fingerless gloves are only slightly better than no gloves at all. These may offer some hand and knuckle protection, but that’s about it. Stay away.
3. Dirt Gloves
When you are riding motocross or other off-road disciplines, there are four main points of contact: your feet, your inner leg, your buttocks, and your hands! The main function of these four points is to help you maintain grip, so they all need to be protected. Out of all these points of contact, your hands and feet are arguably the most important.
Your hands have a lot to do when riding dirt. Not only are they responsible for throttle and brakes, but they need to keep you in contact with the bike. When riding hard over rough terrain and catching colossal air, the level of grip required can be significant. Your next set of dirt bike gloves needs to be able to withstand the rigors of the dirt track. They should be able to fend off the worst of bad weather and inspire you to push harder and faster.
These gloves will mostly always be made with textiles and mesh. Look for features such as grip, ventilation, and protection (ranked in that order). Since you will mainly ride on a well-groomed track, protection is the least of your worries. Grip and ventilation are needed to make sure your hands stay comfortable even when riding hard. If impact protection is needed, traditional low-profile TPR or EVA should do the job.
4. Short Cuff Gloves
If you’re doing mostly street riding or commuting to the office, short cuff gloves are the way to go. As the name implies, short cuff gloves feature a shorter cuff that is low-profile, easy to put on and take off, and very comfortable.
These short cuff gloves are usually worn under the jacket, so I typically use them during the summer—when I want all the airflow I can get running up my sleeves.
There are many short cuff glove options to cover all kinds of comfort, performance, and protection needs. It depends on your riding style and when you ride. Here are the different types of short cuff gloves you will find on the market:
Summer gloves: will often have a combination of mesh and leather as the main construction. Leather provides the needed abrasion resistance on the palm and tactile feel while the mesh provides the airflow on the back of the hand without sacrificing protection.
Winter gloves: will often come in a textile main construction in addition to sporting a waterproof membrane, a thermal liner, or a combination of the two. While you can probably find winter-oriented leather gloves, leather typically doesn’t handle inclement weather as well as textile. Textile and synthetic materials provide great versatility and protection from the elements and often come with features such as Gore-Tex.
Dual-sport gloves: are great options for riders who spend time riding in the dirt as well as the street. These types of gloves usually combine leather and textile in their main construction and combine both street and off-road features, providing more comfort and airflow than pure street riding gloves. Some even come with hyperextension and compression protection.
5. Gauntlet Gloves
If I am going for a spirited ride with my A group buddies on some twisty roads or heading to a track day, you will see me in my gauntlet gloves. Gauntlet gloves often use more materials and offer more protection, since they provide added coverage around the wrist.
Gauntlet gloves don’t just have crash protection in mind; they also provide greater seasonality, and they’re generally the preferred option during inclement weather. For that reason, you will find a lot more waterproof and thermal options within this category.
Here are the kind of gauntlet gloves you will find on the market:
Winter gloves: like short cuff gloves, these will also utilize a textile main construction in addition to sporting a waterproof membrane and thermal liner, or a combination of the two. You will usually see Gore-Tex or the manufacturer’s own proprietary waterproofing technology. For thermal regulation, Thinsulate (or something similar) is a feature you should look for. Since gauntlet gloves are also worn above the jacket sleeve to stop wind and water from getting into the jacket, winter gloves are just about always a full gauntlet design to provide maximum weather protection.
Touring / ADV gloves: are often a more comfortable and relaxed full gauntlet design. They may be made of leather, textile, mesh, or a combination of those. They usually have less serious protection than race gloves to make them more comfortable for long rides. Many touring / ADV gloves are waterproof. The gauntlet design adds to their weatherproofing.
Last but not least, we have race gloves. Read on below.
6. Race Gloves
Manufacturers put a lot of effort into designing and developing race gloves, due to the demands put on these gloves along with the exposure they get. Race gloves are always full gauntlets as required by all track day providers. Race gloves also have serious armor and protection for high-speed crashes. They usually have thin palms for good throttle control and lots of ventilation when you are pushing your hardest.
A full leather race glove will usually be made from a combination of cow and goat hide, or kangaroo skin. Cowhide is tough and is most often used on the back of hand, where dexterity and tactile feel is less important. Goatskin is less crash-resistant than cowhide, but it gives greater levels of feel for the controls, so it is generally used for the palms of the glove.
In more premium race gloves, you’ll find the palm is made from kangaroo leather. Kangaroo leather provides excellent dexterity and lets you feel the bike’s controls while having the same level of protection as goatskin.
Race gloves will also have extra reinforcement and protection. Expect to find an extra layer of leather around the heel of the palm and the outer side of the hand. Hard plastic sliders are also usually incorporated into the palm areas to help alleviate the most common wrist injuries when your hands are out. Most race gloves use plastic or carbon backed by a thin layer of foam for comfort to provide impact protection for your knuckles.
7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Motorcycle Gloves
You can’t just jump into buying the nicest-looking motorcycle gloves or the ones your friend recommends. Picking a set of gloves is important for your safety and for your comfort.
A whole bunch of factors should be considered when choosing motorcycle gloves, and we outlined the questions you should ask yourself to better narrow down what you should be looking for. Remember, if you fit into multiple categories (which most riders do), it basically means you should be looking to purchase a few sets of gloves to suit each use case you encounter.
1. What type of motorcycle riding do I do most?
This seems obvious, but it is a hugely important factor to consider when shopping for motorcycle gloves. For example, the needs of a rider who is using his/her motorcycle around town on a daily basis are very different than the needs of somebody who rides mostly on weekends and takes long road trips all the time.
2. How many hours do I ride for on average?
If you are taking lots of ten to twenty minute (small) trips and constantly jumping on and off your bike, that’s a totally different game than spending three or four hours straight on the open road. You probably don’t need touring gloves for short trips, but you’ll definitely need them if you’re gonna be spending whole days on your bike.
Think hard about what you normally do, and invest in gloves that will suit your style. You may find you need a few pairs of gloves for different use-cases—and we advocate for that, since it makes life way easier.
3. Do I ride in crappy weather?
If you’re the kind of rider who isn’t afraid of a little rain, then the motorcycle gloves you want should be able to handle the toughest weather conditions while still having great grip and keeping your hands nice and dry.
Again, identify the gloves you’ll need for the kind of riding you want to do—and understand that you will probably need multiple pairs of gloves to provide comfort and protection across all your riding styles.
4. Do I mainly ride in warm or cold weather?
Just like with wet weather, this question goes to the heart of keeping your hands comfortable. If you ride in a cold climate, you don’t want to have freezing cold or stiff fingers. A pair of motorcycle gloves that keeps you warm is paramount—so you might want to look for all-weather touring gloves made of textile.
The opposite is also true in warm weather riding. Sweating hands and fingers in 90 degree weather sucks. Warm/dry weather riders should look for lightweight leather gloves.
5. Do I ride on-road and/or off-road?
Clearly, if you’re the kind of person who is tearing up motocross tracks on weekends, you probably need a different set of gloves than the person who rides their bike on a manicured race track. Same goes for the farmer with a bike in the Australian outback versus the Harley rider cruising across America.
6. What’s my riding style? Do I ride aggressively or do I cruise?
If you are a cruising-and-taking-it-easy kind of rider, you should look for a simpler, more traditional glove (probably made of leather). If you’re an aggressive rider, or maybe even a risky one, then you want more robust gloves that have carbon and armor. Be honest with yourself about the style of rider you are and find a pair of gloves that are appropriate.
7. What is my budget?
As we shared in our very popular Inexpensive Motorcycle Gear Guide, you can find great gloves at rock-bottom prices. These aren’t gloves from no-name brands but from solid motorcycle apparel labels with a long history in the industry.
But (there is always a “but”) just like anything else, budget matters—and often you get what you pay for. If you are a beginner motorcycle rider or on a limited budget for buying motorcycle gear, then you are really trying to make sure you balance safety, comfort and cost.
If you have a bigger budget, feel free to go nuts with $200+ gloves that are packed with features. But remember to be honest with yourself about what you can afford before spending more than you should.
Four Things to Think about When Buying Motorcycle Gloves
1. Finger Feel
A lot of people buy motorcycle gloves without really paying attention to how they feel. Make sure you put the gloves on and understand how they feel. Is there room to move, or are your fingers too snug? Is there too much inner liner (or too little), and does the liner impede your movement? Are the gloves going to be comfortable during warm/cold weather?
2. Size & Fit
This is a simple question. Do the gloves fit well and offer a good balance of snugness and room to move? You don’t want gloves that are too restrictive or too loose. Also, getting the wrong size gloves can make air running up your arm a not-so-fun prospect.
3. Features & Protection
Important features to look for might include cool carbon knuckles to protect your hands or air vents to make long riding more comfortable. Things like the length of the gloves (are they below the wrist or do they go higher up your arm?) and the style of the glove fit into this category as well.
What material is the glove made of? It is leather or textile? If it is leather, what kind of animal? The material choice and construction will affect how the gloves feel, as well as their quality and likely lifespan.
Special Note: Fit Really Matters!
Yes, we know—we already mentioned fit. We’re mentioning it again because it is by far the most important factor. Gloves that fit properly are important for plenty of non-obvious reasons, like making sure they stay on your hands if you get flung off your bike (loose gloves can fall off). Having full control of your bike is key, so snug gloves that give you full, direct control are essential.
The best thing to do is to buy gloves that are nice and snug but not too tight. There should be no excess leather/textile at the ends of your fingers. At the bottom (towards your wrists/forearms) the glove should be tight—definitely not loose at all!
If you live close to a bike shop, you should visit them in person and try on lots of gloves because every brand is different. If you’re buying online, like most people do these days, then most glove companies will have a sizing chart you should check first.
Motorcycle Gloves Are Hugely Important
Most people buy gloves like some kind of fashion statement. While it is great to find motorcycle gloves that make you look cool, please remember that gloves (like most other motorcycle gear) are designed to help you operate a motorbike and keep you safe. Good-quality motorcycle gloves need to help you do the following:
Control Your Motorcycle
A pair of good motorbike gloves will allow you to maintain your grip and operate your motorcycle’s controls, always. We see people every day who buy great-looking gloves that aren’t ideal for managing indicators, touching buttons, flipping switches, pushing buttons, or pulling levers.
That doesn’t mean you can’t buy thick gloves that are well insulated for your winter riding. It just means that if you do, you should make sure they can operate your bike’s hand controls easily.
Don’t forget that bad weather can happen at any time. Make sure that if your gloves get wet, they don’t slip and you can still maintain a firm grip. Fashionable gloves are awesome but can soon become a nightmare if they prevent you from managing your bike safely in the rain.
Ride in Comfort
Your motorcycle riding gloves should feel comfortable. And they should keep you comfortable when you encounter hot sun, cold winds, drenching rain, and other rugged riding conditions. By keeping you comfortable, your motorcycle riding gloves help you to stay alert and safe.
Provide Safety & Protection
Your gloves keep your hands protected. Even a small fall can do some big damage to your hands, so choose gloves that can keep your hands safe from bruises and scrapes.
In addition, all sorts of things get flung up during rides. Your gloves make sure your hands are covered when they are hit by gravel, rocks, and bugs.
Of course, protecting your hands from a big fall is also vital. When things go wrong, a good pair of gloves can make the difference between permanent injury and no damage at all.
What Are Motorcycle Gloves Made From (& What Are the Best Motorcycle Glove Materials)?
In the good old days, motorcycle gloves were basically all made out of leather. While a lot of gloves are still leather, there has recently been a big increase in the use of textile materials for bike gloves.
We prefer leather gloves here at Best Beginner Motorcycles, mainly because they require less additional protection or reinforcement—whereas textile gloves usually need things like Kevlar, hard plastics, or carbon fiber in specific places in order to protect properly. There are benefits to advanced textiles when you consider weather, however, as it is much easier to make a cooler or warmer glove using those materials.
In the last five years or so, we’ve seen glove makers integrate even more advanced materials into leather and textile gloves to increase their protection and offer fancy features. Gore-Tex, for example, is perfect for waterproofing gloves while increasing comfort. The material is both waterproof and breathable, so it is ideal for wet conditions—preventing water from getting in and letting air out so your hands can stay comfortable and dry.
We mentioned them above, but miracle materials like Kevlar, titanium, carbon fiber, and very hard plastics are used in places to beef up impact protection on certain gloves. Sensitive areas like knuckles, palms, and fingers can be protected with the addition of these materials.
Back to leather for a moment. As we mentioned in a previous section, there are a lot of choices when it comes to the type of leather you can get in gloves. While the vast majority continue to be made from traditional cow leather, we’ve heard wonderful things about deer leather and other types as well. Make sure to check those out.