Look at your fingers. Compare them to your arms and legs. Skinny little things, aren’t they? They break so easily, don’t they? So vulnerable. And just try riding a motorcycle without them.
And yet, almost every rider we see spends way less than $50 on gloves, and I’m among them, with bins of cheap gloves cluttering my garage shelves. Gloves still stiff from the package, never worn enough to break in.
That’s because I, like you, have some great pairs of go-to gloves I wear every day. One pair is the Helimot Buffalo Pro all-season gloves, ($210). It’s an all-deerhide, full-gauntlet design based on Helimot’s 365 glove, but with some more protective features from Helimot’s H20 racing design. That means it retains the comfort and street features of the 365, like the index-finger squeegee and reflective tape, with racing features like the retaining strap, pre-curved fingers and memory-foam armor over the fingers and knuckles.
Here’s the thing about a pair of Helimot gloves—if they fit you, they require almost no break in, wear like iron and are incredibly comfortable. If they don’t fit, try on a different pair—these are hand-crafted in Helimot’s Fremont, California facility and vary slightly from glove to glove. Helimot will also custom-size the fingers once break-in is complete.
Constructed with no liner out of durable USA deerskin, my Buffalo Pros are everything a glove should be. They are warm (or cool) enough to be usable in a broad temperature range (from the 50s to the low 80s, which covers about 10 months of the year here in the Bay Area), and use construction techniques and armor that Helimot co-founder Helmut Kluckner knows will protect you. Contrast that with your average pair of “top-of-the-line” race gloves from the big brands that cost the same, are made in China, are covered with complex features and “systems,” yet often burst apart the moment they touch the pavement.
Complaints are few and minor. To be comfortable, they must fit perfectly, which may not be so good if you’re mail-ordering, but Helimot will bend over backwards to get you a good fit. And the little leather squeegee on the left index finger doesn’t do much more than the leather of the finger itself. Nice idea, though.
Still, for fit, comfort, protection and sensible, no-nonsense style, you can’t beat these. They are pricey but will pay for themselves by lasting far longer than cheap (or even expensive) gloves. It’s like buying tiny custom leathers for your fingers. You like your fingers, don’t you? Put good gloves on them.
Visit the Helimot website for info on gloves, custom leathers and other products.
MD Contributor John Joss sat down with Helimot’s Helmut Kluckner to find out more about gloves. Here are some of the highlights, but if you have questions about gloves, leathers, body armor or riding apparel in general, call Helimot at 510/252-1509, or visit the website.
MD: What should a rider look for in gloves?
Helmut: Beyond fit, does the palm area have enough protection? Is finger and knuckle protection incorporated? Are seams minimized? Will the gloves discolor the hands? Then—essential—will the manufacturer undertake repairs? It’s less costly than replacement, with well-designed gloves.
MD: What problems have you seen with gloves in crashes?
Helmut: Carbon fiber often grinds down, the fingers rotate and tear, the palms shows holes, thumbs are often ground through and many pieces are shredded. Many such gloves are not repairable.
MD: What about materials choices and compromises?
Helmut: Most gloves are cowhide, kangaroo, sheepskin or deerskin—each must be stitched differently. Each behaves differently. Cowhide stretches a little, kangaroo hardly stretches and deerskin stretches more over time.
Colorfast leathers cost more. Thickness matters. Thick hides give more abrasion resistance, but in a small thing like a glove it’s hard to stitch and work, turning the glove after stitching, given fit and feel on the hand. Riders like to ‘feel’ what the bike is doing through the bars so thickness must be controlled carefully.
It’s a trade-off. Thin skins give good feel but abrasion resistance drops (even kangaroo—it’s not a magic skin). Skins absorb sweat and heat differently. Sweat rots leather. Second season, maybe end of first season, a racer is using gloves that should be tossed. He falls and the glove blows up, not because it’s a bad glove but from sweat. He says: “See how those [Brand X] gloves came apart? [Brand X] must make terrible gloves.” Maybe it had bad construction, leather, whatever, maybe not.
Twenty years ago most gloves were plain leather. Racers loved them. It was just how they were made and how they felt. Some companies started to use more layers and more foam. Foam replaced studs and worked better. Media coverage forced manufacturers to think more about safety.
Sadly, we see riders with, yes, gardening gloves, riding $15,000 bikes, too frugal to protect their hands with $200 gloves. A strange economy.
MD: How does a rider pick the ‘one pair’ he or she needs for racing, sport riding and touring?
Helmut: Riders who trust the company they’re dealing with may get the gloves they want if the salesperson is knowledgeable. For touring and winter riding, leave room for inner gloves. The bottom line with all gloves is this: the pavement doesn’t care. Most gloves look good until the pavement judges their performance.