This is the continuing story of the evolution of my gear. What I wore and how I got to what I wear now when riding motorcycles.
When I began riding motorcycles, it was May in 1974, in Denver Colorado. I was young, about to be married and working as a machinist in the aerospace industry. Nice enough weather, well rain for the first four days I owned that bike. Pouring rain. I had no experience with riding a motorcycle in good weather, legally on roads, let alone in an early summer monsoon endless downpour. I waited out the dampness, and bright and early Sunday morning I put a pair of work gloves to work as protection from the early morning chill. Those first horse hide ropers that were five dollar gardening gloves from the local hardware store would years later become custom made deerskin ropers. But, first I faced a Colorado fall and winter. Cold rain, snow, sleet and some hail in the summer. That first winter I experiments with using ski gloves, cotton liners under ski gloves, then old Korean War era army surplus three finger wool, canvas and leather mitts. Those last were the warmest and warded off the sub-freezing weather I found the wee hours of the day to offer in early February in Denver when getting off work after an extra long swing shift. Winter in Denver my afternoon commute could be in sunny 65 degree weather and my after shift ride home could be in a snow storm or as it was one evening twenty-two degrees below zero with slip-sliding car tire slickened iced streets.
My riding slowly evolved from bare bones motorcycles, to frame mounted fairings and custom seats. Along with my commuting, my wife and I began traveling by motorcycle for our short vacations. For that our gloves were those deer skin ropers and sometimes some silk glove liners, though at that time those liners were fragile and would come unraveled after only few uses. Traveling by motorcycle we didn’t worry much about wet hands. Our travel was mostly confined to the Southwestern United States during the summer, so heat was more of a concern than cold. Even when we got soaking wet from the desert monsoon rain, we would be dry in no time.
When we got the RS after moving back to Colorado from California, I found custom made gloves and had a pair made, that I loved. I wore the thumb on the left hand out where it touched the turn signal switch. The people who made the gloves for me repaired them adding a little bit longer thumb. That fix never got worn much, thanks to somebody stealing the gloves from my helmet where I used to keep it at the motorcycle shop. I replaced the gloves with a pair of very thin Bates road racing gloves. These were very comfortable, but far too tight to fit liners. I had by this time begun wearing Gortex overfits when it was really cold or wet. The BMW heated grips were great behind the RS fairing even with no silk liners in winter. I had a short commute of twelve miles from our house to the shop. And about twice that to college downtown.
When Bates stopped making the gloves, I found Fieldsheer and other road race gloves. All of them seemed to last around twelve months before I wore a hole somewhere, either the heel of the palm or at the seam of the thumb of my left hand. I gradually got to buying two pairs at a time since I seemed to always need to order the large. I also began buying heavier and more race oriented gloves that offered more protection, but were quite a bit more expensive. By this time we were back in California and I didn’t need worry about snow in Orange County. I worked my way through Alpinestars to Dainese settling on a glove that fit me well and wore well enough to last about two years under near daily commuter, travel and trackday use.
Over the course of those years, glove construction evolved as well. Almost all gloves of any quality became pre-curved. No more wad of leather between my palm and the grip. More protection was added. Early road race gloves had thin strip of leather running down the top of each finger. These were replaced with plastic and composite hard points over knuckles.
These early KLIM gloves were from around 2006 or so. I wore Gortex backpacking mittens over these in the wet or cold. With heated grips that combination has worked well. When I remember to pack the mittens and remember where I packed them.
I’d tried some later versions of winter gloves more suited to Southern California winter mornings than elsewhere, but these get soaked like sponges in the wet and take a few days to dry out. They turned out to not be either a good commuter solution or a passable travel solution.
I found a pair of Dainese short full leather gloves that worked well enough for cold mornings, even in the high desert at freezing. I still needed a hot weather solution since a full leather gloves once sweat soaked is a tough thing to remove or get back on.
I wore the Dainese gloves fro several years of commuting and travel. They worked well down to the hottest days. I had ridden a long weekend up to San Jose then to Sacramento for the mile flat track races and was wearing my Dainese gloves. Our ride form San Jose to Sacramento was hot and filled with traffic. By the time we were parked at the track, those gloves were sweat soaked sponges. The after mid-night ride back to San Jose was an exercise in cold fingers even with the heated grips set to maximum.
My search for a lighter weight glove kicked off at that point. At the motorcycle show later that year, I saw a pair I liked, but got sidetracked by talk with old friends and forgot about buying them. I had taken a photo of the gloves so I’d remember when walking back, but never did get back by that vendor and forgot all about them until the next hot commute day. I searched my phone and found the gloves, then called the local dealer that carried the brand. They had none. Didn’t know when they would have any.
Off to the internet I went in search. It took me a few tries before I located a site in Spain who would ship and the price was good enough.
I’d owned one other pair of Held gloves that were an insulated Gortex wet and cold weather glove. They had one glaring failure in that a wet hand could not be forced into them thanks to the liner material sticking like instant adhesive to a wet hand. Those got given away. But, these new gloves were a perfect fit when they arrived.
I’ve now worn these gloves for two trips and they are my around town glove as well. The last trip I was in Colorado in September 2019. In more than forty years of riding, these last are the gloves I’d buy again. And I will when I wear them out. Well, if I wear them out. The Dainese gloves are warmer and I’ll make a point to remember to carry them along as a warm pair when I travel. Even in summer the high mountains can be freezing in the early mornings.
When I look back at all the gloves I’ve worn and worn out over my lifetime. Garden gloves, work gloves, motorcycle gloves, cycling gloves, hockey gloves, they all offered at least basic protection. Some tried to provide protection with ease of finger movement and some feel. Those Bates road race gloves for example were so very thin, I could easily feel the small diamond pattern on grips. The later model BMW ribbed grips of the late seventies and eighties would produce blisters thanks to the thinness of those palms. The evolution of of protection has given us top of the hand armor with easily bendable fingers, finger tip and palm feel enough to accurately modulate powerful front brakes, while feathering the throttle along with heel of the hand slide resistance. Sliding leather creates both wear and heat. Enough heat to burn the flesh the leather is protecting. Our modern gloves, have in my experience accomplished this to a high enough standard, then when I once experienced that building heat, I had enough warning and wherewithal to move my hand off the pavement and in the end, stand up and walk away without so much as a scratch.
An important improvement in gloves over the years has been the curving and fit of the palm and fingers. Eliminating the bunching of extra material between the palm and grip as well as between fingers and levers have all but eliminated blisters for me. This last pair go Held gloves, I received just a month or so prior to a monthlong ride. I think I may have worn them for a total of four hours prior to setting off. I returned home with not one blister. I recall one pair of road race gloves raising blisters after a morning of track day sessions. A total of maybe two hours on the race track. Those gloves went in the dumpster when I got home.
Because I no longer commute and rarely use the motorcycle for much more than travel, I suspect these Held gloves will last me to the end of my motorcycling days. And with that, this concludes my recollection and reflection on the gear I use now, and the long rode to get here. I’ll get back to recounting some riding experiences now.