While your head is a very important thing to protect, so too are your hands and fingers. They are the things that operate the most important parts of the bike, namely the front brake, the throttle, the clutch, and the steering.
Keeping your fingers intact is also important in the case of a crash, as the instinctive reaction of the human body when falling to the ground is to place the hands out to take the brunt of the impact and protect the head. If you are wearing poor gloves, inappropriate gloves, or, horror of horrors, no gloves at all, it is incredibly easy to do massive damage to the fingers.
However, finding the right gloves for your riding style and choice of aesthetic can be daunting, with the market filled with so many options that it feels like playing the lottery. Rest assured, however, as we have taken on the brunt of that task and found the two or three best leather gloves for each major aesthetic of motorcycle riders: Casual, Sport, and Adventure.
The casual rider likes having gear that looks understated. No flashy logos, no neon colors screaming out. They are the rider that enjoys a Saturday ride through the streets on their retro-modern bike or a day cruise out of the city on their sport cruiser.
The Dainese Blackjack gloves are an elegant solution to the casual rider question. Made of goatskin leather, these gloves are excellent in terms of protection, with soft armor in the knuckles and over the fingers, padded and reinforced palms, and very subtle but present side reinforcement should you need to slide out on the edges of your hands in a lowside.
They are specifically noted as being warm to hot weather gloves, but should stand up to most weather. If your jacket has thumb hooks to pull a liner down and over the back of your hand, these gloves would marry very well with those types of jackets.
The Klim Induction glove might be a little too flashy to be truly a casual glove, but the tradeoff in having one of the most protective gloves in the casual style is worth it. Full carbon fiber at the knuckles offers excellent impact resistance, while the entire body of the glove is made of goatskin leather.
Where the gloves offer the maximum protection is in that they are reinforced and layered much like a sport glove, with double reinforcement on the palm and heel, along the outside edge of the hand, and on the outside of the thumb. Kevlar-reinforced Poron impact absorbing armor likes the fingers, outside edge, palm, heel, and thumb. A wrist adjustment strap and YKK autolocking zipper complete the glove.
While the two previous gloves do carry unisex fitment, we do also understand that there are ladies out there that like to ride their cafe or standard bikes with a bit of an understated look. For them, Highway 21 has made the Black Ivy, a cafe-inspired glove that features a full goatskin leather construction.
There are impact foam knuckles, double stitched fingers and thumbs, impact padding on the heel and palm, and accordion stretch zones so that you can have a full range of motion despite the pre-curved fingers of the glove. They are also quite understated when looking at the range of women’s gloves available, as many are quite simply leather without and impact protection, or sport gloves with flashy logos and massive, protruding protection features.
The sport rider is one that mostly prefers a glove that will protect their knuckles, palms, and hand edges due to the the more track-oriented nature of their bikes. Gauntlet style reinforced gloves are king there, as they offer some of the best protection available, but can also be a bit expensive.
The Alpinestars SP-8 V2 is one of their best gloves at the $100 mark for both men and women. You get full grain leather construction, with resilient double stitching and reinforcements on the palm and heel of the glove. Knuckle and finger armor is in the form of a polymer impact structure knuckle guard and finger guards, and outside and inside edge slide zones with reinforced dual layer leather.
A neat feature of the glove is that without compromising on safety, Alpinestars have managed to add a capacitive touch area to the index finger tip. As more and more bikes feature smartphone integration or touch screen GPS and computer systems, having that touch screen capability is a forward-thinking move.
REV’IT! League and Xena 3 gloves are technically the same glove, but named differently for men and women. Featuring a combination of goatskin leather and cowhide leather, the gloves feature a full range of protective armor and slide zones to keep your hands safe.
The knuckles are protected by a dual set of TPU hard shell impact plastic with EVA foam behind it. The palms, heel, and gauntlet closure all feature impact absorbing EVA foam, while the cuff, base of the outer thumb, and outer edge of the hand feature hard TPU sliders. The cuff and gauntlet also feature a secure double closure with Velcro fastening.
For the more budget oriented sport rider that may not want a full gauntlet glove, the Cortech Impulse ST is the answer. Developed off of the massively successful Cortech Impulse RR racing gloves, the Impact ST’s feature a full cowhide leather construction, with double stitching and double layering on all impact areas.
There is hard TPU armor mounted on the knuckles and fingers, as well as two hard TPU slides on the heel of the hand. The palm features a silicon insert that is anti-slip, so even in humid or wet conditions, your throttle grip is sure. The outside edge of the hand also features a TPU slider and double layered leather, and the cuff is fastened with a Velcro loop that is resilient and double density to prevent it being ripped open in a slide.
The adventure rider is one that wants a combination of high quality, durable leather, with breathability and moisture wicking linings to keep their hands dry. They also look for something most other riders don’t look for: penetration resistance, as adventure riding can take one over rocky fields or gravel.
The REV’IT! Fly 3 gloves are made out of perforated goatskin leather, giving them excellent ventilation and great tactile feedback from the handlebars. There is a polyester lining backed by a tri-fleece lining that will keep your hands warm if the wind picks up, but will also wick away the moisture if you’re riding on a hot day.
Armor comes in the form of hardshell knuckle guards backed by foam, as well as armor down the outside of the fingers. There is an impact resistant polyethylene pad across the heel of the hand to provide both a sliding area, as well as penetration resistance should you come off the bike on rocks or gravel. There is a full width accordion stretch zone across the back of the hand, which allows the cuff to be pulled tight and fastened without stretching the leather out.
Klim Dakar Pro
Fit: Short cuff, race fit
The Klim Dakar Pro gloves are mostly leather, but include a few areas of stretch woven fabric to allow the back of the hand to breathe. In the important areas of impact and abrasion resistance, however, the gloves feature goatskin leather. The fingers, knuckles, and outer edge of the base of the thumb feature TPU impact resistant foam, and the heel of the palm features impact foam that also doubles as penetration resistance.
The entire palm is double layered leather with discreet perforations to allow for moisture to be wicked away by air passing through the glove from the finger perforations or the breathable stretch fabric. The cuff is secured with durable Velcro.