The main issue is keeping your pinkies warm. No? Make sure you pick a glove with insulation appropriate to your own winter riding conditions – winter to those of us here in the North is an entirely different animal than to you in Texas. And the commuter who only rides for an hour at a time has different needs that a touring rider who is out there for 500+ mile days! The thinnest and most efficient insulation materials today are synthetics with brand names like Thinsulate, Exkin, Thermolite. Look closely for all over insulation - the glove backs, the palms and even between the fingers. Gauntlet style gloves cover the gap between your glove and jacket at the wrist and keep those icy winds out. That's a good thing!
|"Wet" is a given. (At least in our part of the world.)|
Here in the Northeast it’s been about the wettest year on record. In 2011, if you didn’t ride in the wet then you just didn’t ride much at all. Now that rain is going to get a lot colder and maybe even morph into (don’t say it!) s**w! Keeping your hands dry also keeps them warm. While inspecting winter gloves you will find several approaches to water-proofing. Textile gloves will sometimes utilize a water resistant outer like nylon and/or an inner waterproof-breathable membrane like Gore-Tex or Hipora which is both impermeable to water but breathable. The "breathability" factor allows you to sweat without getting eventually clammy and uncomfortable. Waterproof and breathable inner layers are also the strategy employed by most leather glove makers since leather outer shells are generally not waterproof by themselves. Whatever you prefer--leather or textile--you’re going to want to make sure they’re water tight as you head into the less desirable weather.
You’ve still got to control your bike. Remember what your MSF Instructor told you about a “light touch” on the controls. You want to make sure your new winter gloves afford you the necessary dexterity. Gloves need to be tight enough so as to not move around on your hand but loose enough to prevent constriction and the resultant numbness or pain. Take a close look at the fingers – too tight? Too loose? Too long or short? Heavier/thicker gloves may be a bit warmer but can you effectively modulate the brakes with one or two fingers? Also, remember that some leather gloves, unlike their textile counterparts, may require a “break-in.” And just one last thing to think about if you are tempted by those “lobster claw” or mitten type gloves that leave you looking like a cartoon character. Can you still effectively operate the controls and switch gear on your bike? When trying on gloves you may want to throw a leg over a bike and grab the handlebars for a test. As the glove gets thicker, pay special attention to the the crook between you thumb and index finger. How's that turn signal working for ya?
You don’t want to buy another set of winter gloves anytime soon, do you? Carefully check out candidates for features like double stitching and use of premium materials. Is there reinforcement in that heavily abused area between the thumb and index finger? How about the high wear areas of the palm of the glove or the edge of the cuff where you would pull the glove on and off?
Safety & Protection:
Winter riding may actually place an increased emphasis on safety features because there are just that many more riding conditions waiting to catch you. Think wet leaves or icy patches. Do the gloves that you are evaluating have protection over the knuckles? How about a cinching strap to retain the glove in the event of a “rider down?” We all know that leather may have abrasion and impact resistance slightly better than many textiles, especially in the heavier thicknesses. Of course reinforcement materials like Kevlar may provide many of the same benefits. Winter also brings along with it fewer hours of daylight. Gonna ride in the dark? Extra points to those gloves with reflective panels.Other things to think about are palm, pinky and mid-digital hard parts. It may seem overkill at times and add some cost, but the right level of protection in the midst of a get-off will make you a believer in that extra investment you made.
Cold. Wet. Dark. Winter's not for sissy riders. But with the correct gear, including the right gloves, it can be very rideable. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of winter gloves in the marketplace but by using these five evaluation criteria you can narrow the playing field a great deal. Make a selection that works for you and get out there and ride. Oh yes, with regard to color and style? You're on your own on that. Good luck.
Ride safe and don't forget to use RevZilla's 2011 Cold Weather Gear Guides to see our picks for the best available options this Fall riding season. Cold Weather Gear Guides
Jack Broomall is a lifelong motorcyclist. His motorcycle adventures have taken him across the North American continent several times, to Alaska, the Alps, the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man. He is a member of the Iron Butt Association and also owns several motorcycle Land Speed Records set at the Bonneville Salt Flats where he is a member of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club. He has been known to do occasional restorations of his favorite bikes from the 1970s and enjoys track days as well.