The Ultimate Buying Guide for Picking the Right Motorcycle Gloves
I think we can agree on a few key things before you read this report on the 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 most important thing to note from this post 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 in merely wearing any gloves and wearing specific gloves to match your riding style, common conditions, weather and other factors.
In looking at creating this motorcycle glove guide we wanted to really go into details about what to look for when buying gloves, understand the types of gloves on the market, know the questions to ask yourself and things to look for when shopping for motorcycle gloves.
As you will see there is more to motorcycle gloves than just whether they look cool. You need to consider comfort, function, durability, protection, materials and much more. From the materials used in their construction, to the research and development that goes into making sure a glove can withstand a race crash or off-road fall.
For new motorcycle riders please make sure to spend the time reading and researching motorcycle gloves. Experience 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 conditions. 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 driving you do, the weather rider in and ultimately the safety they provide for your hands and fingers in the case of an accident.
Clearly we all have budgets too so you will likely have to make tradeoffs or invest in five pairs of gloves. There is nothing wrong with the tradeoffs, just make sure you understand them and make an informed decision.
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 cold wind and the 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, 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 up things like pencils, grapes, and even small mammals.
Therefore to have a glove that only protects your palms but it 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. Moto-cross Gloves
These “moto cross” style gloves are perfectly acceptable, especially on the street. The protect the palm of your hand, your fingers, and have reinforcements on the knuckles which look very intimidating if you were ever to get in a fight with something besides the pavement.
Gloves like these would serve most people well, although the one thing that can happen is if you crash your jacket could ride up which would leave your wrists exposed to the grindstone.
Gloves like these also work really well as ‘summer gloves’ if you get them with perforated leather.
4. Gauntlet Gloves
Finally my favorite types of gloves, the gauntlet style gloves. They have multiple reinforcements on the knuckles and the fingers as well as extra leather on the palm and wrist. They are called gaunlet gloves because they go about halfway up the forearm over the jacket when you wear them and prevent your wrists from being torn to shreds in case of a fall. I’ve crash tested a pair of gloves like this and they held up really well so I would definitely but something in this style again.
5. Off-road Motorcycle Gloves
Often the same (or at least similar) to “moto cross” style gloves these gloves are for trail bike riders and dirt-bike riders who are spending real time out in dirt and mud. These gloves are almost always of man-made textiles.
These riders are normally crashing on dirt and not concrete so you will find that off-road motorcycle gloves are all about comfort with vents and breathability as well as lightness being main features. The other thing that is hugely important when you are taking jumps on trying to control a motorcycle on loose dirt is grip so we’ve found that off-road gloves are the pick of the bunch when it comes to sticky grippy goodness.
6. Street Gloves
Street gloves are normally referred to as cruising gloves but we believe they’re slightly different. In the last decade as “street” bikes have become more powerful and more varieties have come onto market, we are finding that the gloves those riders want are changing slightly.
When we refer to street motorcycle gloves, we’re going to focus on the new generation of riders and bikes. Clearly one area where street bike gloves and cruising gloves are similar is that they both are focused on protecting a rider during a fall onto hard road surfaces. Traditionally these gloves have been made of leather but we’re seeing some nice sets in the last five years made of thick textile materials or good fake leather.
Street gloves are normally thicker than an off-road glove and are great for most weather conditions. They will keep you warm on a cold fall ride in New York and cool enough on a Miami cruise in the middle of summer. Weather protection (water, wind, vents etc) are pretty varied in this category and you can find gloves in this segment are very varied. Definitely do your research.
7. Summer Cruising Gloves
Most riders like us love to take long summer roadtrips on their bikes. If you’re like us and this is your kind of thing then a pair of warm weather gloves is going to be needed. Sweaty hands are both uncomfortable and dangerous. A summer cruising motorcycle glove will keep your hands comfortable (manufacturers say your hands will stay cool but that’s just true).
The main feature to look for is “ventilation”. Look for gloves that contain vents or lightweight materials strategically placed in less “important” sections so you don’t compromise safety. From a safety perspective look for gloves that have padding and protection around knuckles and palm. The better summer gloves will use Kevlar, carbon and/or hard plastics to give protection in those places.
8. Winter Motorcycle Riding Gloves
Like summer gloves, winter bike gloves are designed to do one thing better – keep your hands warm in cold weather. That means they are often made of thicker leather with additional insulation. We’ve found that the biggest trade off with thicker winter gloves is a loss of some mobility so make sure that any winter gloves you choose still let you move well so you can control your motorcycle.
You can also get heated gloves. We don’t recommend these for anything but really (frigid) cold weather riding because they really do have some downsides in the loss of dexterity likely. If you ride in freezing temperatures though you should seriously consider them because frostbitten fingers is also bad. 🙂
9. Spring/Fall Medium Motorcycle Riding Gloves
We covered cold and hot weather climates but what about Spring and Fall? The milder months aren’t ignored because manufacturers make some pretty great gloves that are perfect for spring, fall or mild temperature conditions.
This is a pretty wide range of gloves and clearly you could choose from many of the above categories to meet your needs for these temperatures. You are looking for ventilation, not too heavy (or light) materials, minimal insulation and middle of the range protective features. We wear gloves like this all year round and find that you can get really versatile, comfortable and safe gloves that really do it all well.
10. Race Gloves
A crash during a race on hard track at high speeds is probably the worst case scenario for a motorcycle rider. That’s why makers of racing gloves invest a lot in R&D, high-end materials, advanced protection features and lots of testing.
Race gloves are always full gauntlet style gloves to protect forearms and have lots of additional armor made of carbon with Kevlar and other materials used to as protection for fast crashes.
Race gloves aren’t just about safety because riders on a track needs lots of minute control of throttle and other inputs in order to maximize track speeds and lap times. You also want lots of vents in order to keep hands and fingers cool (and not sweaty).
11. Adventure/Touring Gloves
These have a big job to do; they have to be able to protect you from extreme climates, moisture, and crashes. They are usually textile, and use a lot of modern materials. These gloves aren’t cheap.
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.
What type of motorcycle riding you I do the most of?
This seems obvious but it is a hugely important factor in the type of motorcycle glove you should consider. 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 on weekends mostly and takes long road trips all the time?
How many hours do I ride for on average?
If you are taking lots of ten to twenty minute (small) trips and constantly jump on and off your bike that is a totally different game that spending three or four hours straight on the open road. 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 as it does make life way easier.
Do I ride in crappy weather?
If you are the kind of rider who isn’t afraid of a little monsoon weather then clearly 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, the idea here is to understand the gloves you need for your main purpose and/or to understand that you will need multiple pairs of gloves to provide comfort and protection across all your riding scenarios.
Do I mainly ride in warm or cold weather?
Like crappy wet weather, this question goes to the heart of keeping your hands comfortable. If you ride in a cold climate then you don’t want to have freezin cold and stiff fingers. A pair of motorcycle glove that keeps you warm is paramount so 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.
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 perfectly race track. Same goes for the farmer with a bike in the Australian outback and the Harley rider cruising across America.
What’s my riding style? Do I ride aggressively or do I cruise?
If you are cruising and take it easy kind of rider then you should look for a simpler, more traditional glove probably made of leather. If you’re an aggressive rider maybe even risky (dare we say) 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.
What is my budget?
As we shared in 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 brands who have a long history in the industry. But (there is always a But) just like anything else budget matters and often you pay for what you get. 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 or unlimited budget you can really get everything you ever wanted and go nuts with $200+ gloves. Budget matters so be honest with yourself upfront before spending more than you should.
Four Things to Think About When Buying Motorcycle Gloves
1. Finger Feel
This one seems obvious but a lot of people buy motorcycle gloves without full thinking through how the gloves will fit for their given situation. Make sure you put 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 the 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 is there a good balance of snug 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
This can be everything from the gloves have cool carbon knuckles to protect your hands or air vents to make long riding more comfortable. Things like the length of the gloves (are the below the wrist or do they go higher up your arm?) and style of glove all fit into this category. Read the rest of this article to understand the options when it comes to gloves so you can make the right choice.
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 impact how the gloves feel as well as the quality and likely working life of the gloves.
Special Note. Fit is Hugely Important.
Yes we know we already mentioned fit. We’re mentioning it again because it is by far the most important factor. Proper fitting gloves are important for 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 always important so snug gloves that give you full, direct control is hugely important.
The best balance is having gloves that are nice and snug but not too tight. There should be no excess leather/textile at the end of your fingers. At the bottom (towards your wrists/forearms) the glove should be tight and definitely not loose at all. If you live close to a bike shop you should visit them in person and try 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 fashion statement. While it is great if you find motorcycle gloves that make you look cool, please remember that gloves (like most other motorcycle gear) is designed to help you operate a motorbike and keep you safe. When it comes to motorcycle gloves they do the following:
Control Your Motorcycle
A pair of good motorbike gloves will allow you to maintain a grip and operate your motorcycle’s controls, always. Another obvious statement you might think but yet again we see people everyday who buy gloves that look great but aren’t great 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 for example. It just means that you should make sure that if you buy thicker gloves that you check in a store that you can still manage to operate your bikes 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 be a nightmare if you can’t manage your bike in the rain.
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.
Safety & Protection
Your gloves keep your hands protected. Even a small fall can do some big damage to your hands so picking the right gloves that can keep your hands safe from smaller bruises and scrapes. In addition, all sorts of things get flung up during rides and your gloves make sure your hands are taken care of when they are hit by gravel, rocks and bugs. Of course protecting your hands from a big fall is 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? (& The Best Motorcycle Glove Materials).
In the good old days motorcycle gloves were basically made out of leather. While a lot of gloves are still leather, in more recent decades there has 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 don’t require additional protection or reinforcement whereas textile gloves will need things like Kevlar, hard plastics or carbon fiber in specific places in order to best protect. There are benefits to advanced textiles when you consider weather 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 protection and fancy features. Gore-Tex for example is perfect for wet-weather proofing gloves while increasing comfort. The material is waterproof and is also breathable so it is a great material for balancing those two factors by preventing water getting in and letting air out so your hands can keep cool 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. Areas like knuckles, palms and fingers can be protected with the addition of these materials.
Back to leather for a moment. These days there a lot of choices for the type of leather you can get in gloves. While the vast majority continue to be traditional cow leather, we’ve heard wonderful things about deer leather and others. Make sure to check those out.