Choose the warmest winter motorcycle gloves [8-Point Check List]
Anyone can ride 20 minutes in freezing temperatures with even the worst winter motorcycle gloves and they wouldn’t know what all the fuss is about: “Winter gloves?! Who needs those!” And, that’s right: If you only ride 2 or 3 miles at a time, stop reading and have a warm, toasty cocoa instead. This blog post is not for you!
Otherwise, and if you are still reading, you clearly know where we are going with this: Winter riding = cold hands = pain; UNLESS you know how to pick out a decent pair of winter motorcycle gloves to keep you warm! This is our definitive 8-Step Check List for you to find the best winter motorcycle gloves:
Your hands chill down first!
Your hands are at the very end of a one-way street for your blood, right at the end of the arm with nowhere further to go. Your blood is also the precious liquid that keeps you warm. Your hands (and feet) are called ‘extremities’ for a reason and they are the bits of your body that cool down first, cool down the most, and can really start to hurt even after only a short while. Letting your hands cool down is a sure-fire street to real pain (which oddly only seems to get worse when you then stick your hands under the hot water tap)!
Keeping your hands warm starts with keeping your upper body warm: Keep your upper body warm by layering up, and you automatically keep your body temperature up and your blood warmer: The battle to keep your hands warm is half-way won!
Now to the second part of winning the war against the cold: Your gloves!
There are 4 important layers to a great winter motorcycle glove!
The inner lining wicks moisture away and provides an insulating dry air layer
Insulated padding provides an effective barrier against wind-chill passing to your body and retains body heat while allowing body moisture to pass through
The waterproof membrane allows the body moisture to escape and allows no external moisture to enter
The outer shell provides the abrasion resistance and impact protection
Warm means insulation, insulation means padding, padding means ‘bad’ (maybe)
The problem with warm gloves is that they are padded. At the very least, this means a less precise feel and handling of the grips, never mind grabbing the indicator lever. And the additional bulk means more tension over the back of the hand as we change gear or brake, which turns into fatigue of the hands. With improvements in technical materials, there is some good news on this subject further down!
For now, let’s plough on as to a which type of insulation you really need in a glove
Wind-chill defence is what you require at the back of the hand: Quality, heavy insulation to keep the chill factor from winter riding OUT and keeping your body heat in. The BIG thing is keeping the wind-chill out! Surprised? Maybe, but that is how it works! Wind-chill cools down the back of your hand rapidly: At 40mph and an outer temperature of 0deg C, the actual temperature attacking the back of your hand, if you allow for the wind-chill factor, is between -10deg C and -20deg C (depending on which calculation you use). Still ready to skimp on your winter motorcycle gloves? I did not think so! 🙂
On the under-hand and palm, your defence against direct & indirect contact with temperature conducting (and therefore ice cold) metal is the main issue. The handlebar under your grips permanently cools down the grip, even though covered in rubber (which is insulating) the cooling factor still gets to you; And the brake and clutch lever cool down the finger tips with every bike manoeuvre. Traditionally, your under-hand and palm enjoy only around half the thickness of padding as a protection that the back of your hand is covered in; This is mainly to reduce a ‘spongy’ grip and imprecise control of the bike.
Learn to love padded gloves with the latest innovations from Primaloft & Thinsulate
Getting older means poorer circulation, which in turn means colder hands. And, that is just in summer! Allow the temperatures to drop and this turns into a problem really quickly.
The answer to reduce the downsides of padding is new style insulation. Primaloft is the most insulating man-made material there is but it was always ‘spongy’; The latest versions of Primaloft (such as Primaloft Gold) are no longer as thick and nowhere near as spongy AND they achieve the same level of wind-chill protection with reduced thickness. Up to now, Thinsulate was always the preferred alternative: thin and hugely insulating. But even Thinsulate has moved up a gear to rival the developments of Primaloft. One word of caution on Thinsulate though: The Thinsulate label alone is not enough; even a small amount of Thinsulate used in the overall padding allows a manufacturer to use the Thinsulate label. Therefore, trust the established brands and remember that the price tells you something about the components used! Thinsulate and Primaloft do not come in cheap; so if something is better priced than it should be, it does not have the love built in! (If you question this, think about the Thinsulate gloves your local garage sells for £3.99 – there is a reason for that!).
Regardless of your set-up, choose gloves with significant back of hand insulation; ideally, choose Primaloft Gold or the comparable level of Thinsulate advanced insulation.
GetGeared Guru Take-Away 1: Quality of the back of hand padding makes or breaks how much you are protected from wind-chill and how much heat is retained in your hands as you ride faster roads.
The under-hand insulation will always be thinner, BUT in some cases it is almost non-existent. Motorcycle gloves manufacturers have woken up to the fact that many of us have heated grips, and are reducing the padding on the palm to allow for more heat to pass through. That’s fine to a point: Even with heated grips, your finger tips will freeze off if you mainly ride in urban traffic with frequent lever contact.
GetGeared Guru Take-Away 2: Inside hand and palm padding impacts the precision of your grip but it also determines how quickly your hands cool down in urban riding, when a large number of bike manoeuvres increase contact with the levers.
Some riders get exercised by whether the combination of heated grips and waterproof membranes is a conflict: heated grips evaporate moisture through the palm of the hand into the gloves even with a waterproof membrane present, which then increases the speed at which wind-chill cools down the hands because moist air conducts heat/cold more efficiently than dry air (and it feels clammy inside the gloves to boot). You win some, you lose some: This is a theoretical argument, rather than a practical one; This type of reverse capillary action is not very efficient and your hands do remain quite dry, not least because that moisture escapes through the back of the hand; And, I’d rather have ever so slightly clammy, toasty hands than cold, dry ones – but you may choose differently! Leave your views below for others!
Waterproof membranes: Performance & reliability has its price
This blog takes only a passing glance at waterproof membranes: It’s a big subject and the truth is really quite simple:
The best membranes are those that let body moisture through fast and that are reliable day-after-day. That leaves you with a handful of options that you should choose between AND the realisation that cheap gloves just do not use those membranes in order to hit their price points. Here are the main performance membranes:
– Gore-Tex: Long-standing king of waterproof membranes, Gore-Tex lets the most moisture escape (it is the most breathable membrane) and is guaranteed to be waterproof for the life of the garment under normal usage conditions. –Alpinestars DryStar:Alpinestars’ own waterproof membrane is almost as breathable as Gore’s offering and has proven to be highly reliable in everyday use. – Rev’It! Hydratex: Very much like Alpinestars’ DryStar, Rev’It!’s premium membrane performs close to Gore standards and is reliable. – Sympatex: Last in this list but very definitely not least. Highly breathable, reliable AND if you care about the environment, this has to be your choice as the other membranes take a gazillion years to break down back to soil. However, it is rarely used in gloves; the options above are less environmentally friendly but far more accessible for you.
GetGeared Guru Take-Away 3: Choose a winter motorcycle glove with one of the above membranes and you will have drier, warmer hands on longer journeys – guaranteed.
The inner lining wraps it all up by wicking away moisture
A quality winter motorcycle glove should feel immediately warm and softly brushed inside. While that feels fantastic, there is purpose: The brushed surface is made up of a million fibres that point away from the fabric and permanently brush over the surface of your skin as your hand moves. That causes a capillary effect, where the body moisture is actively removed from the skin and channelled outwards through the lining fabric. This is so very important: Keeping the air around your hand dry means forming a dry air insulating layer that protects against any wind-chill passing back onto your skin and your body.
GetGeared Guru Take-Away 4: Choose gloves with a soft, fur-like lining to keep your hands drier and warmer (and it feels nice!).
Last, but not least: A bit of impact protection goes a long way
Two things to know about gloves and protection that apply in winter, perhaps more so than other times: during a spill, you stretch out your hands in front of you to break the fall; and, there is more grit on the road in winter, which means more and harsher abrasion.
One quality you must look for is a good set of palm sliders on the base of the thumb and the side of the palm closest to the wrist. That is against impact and the initial sliding. Secondly, you want to see evidence of double leather panels on the palm, good enough to withstand shredding of the leather on a road surface that has just been gritted.
Then, and this is our opinion, the gloves should have hard knuckle armour. While this IS our opinion, it IS also the choice of most customers: Motorcycle winter gloves sold with knuckle armour over those with soft impact armour total 72% compared to 28%; in the case of protection, be a sheep and go with the crowd: choose what they choose, there is safety in numbers!
There are more protective features on a pair of gloves than detailed above; If you are going to set a rule at all for choosing winter gloves, then set the rule that any glove you would buy must have those two safety features!
Important niceties to overlook at your peril
– Rain-wiper: Some winter gloves are delivered with a rain-wiper blade built into the thumb seam or main digit finger seam, usually only on the left-hand glove. Not essential, but ever so handy in misty, mucky winter rain that does not automatically bead off the visor.
– Also, consider your jacket and jacket sleeves: there are different cuff sizes, long or short, double cuff systems, those with complicated tabs to reduce the wrist and those with simple tab systems. The point is, whatever you choose HAS TO fit under your jacket sleeve! Even the greatest winter motorcycle gloves become simply fingered containers collecting rainwater, if the gloves cuff can only be closed over the top of the jacket sleeves. Gloves cuffs belong inside the jacket sleeves when it rains!
GetGeared Guru Take-Away 5: For the gloves to fit like a glove, the cuff needs to fit neatly inside the jacket sleeves with 1 inch of overlap for when it rains.
Your 8-point checklist to choose the best & warmest winter motorcycle gloves
Insulating padding over the back of the hands is substantial?
Under-hand and palm insulation is sufficient for you (do you have heated grips)?
Does the inside of the gloves feel soft and ‘furry’?
The waterproof membrane is highly breathable and durable?
There is impact and abrasion protection panels on the base of the palm and the main surface of the palm?
Do the gloves have comfortable knuckle armour?
Does the cuff of the gloves fit inside your jacket sleeves for rainy days?
Are the gloves equipped with a rain wiper for murky days?
You will find that at the better end of the spectrum, most reputable manufacturers will meet this checklist. And that is the last point: Don’t buy cheap, it’s false economy! If you spend £150 on a pair of winter motorcycle gloves, that will cost you around 65p per day (minimum useful life of 4 years, minimum usage per year of 60 days). Thruppence, really!
So, there you have it: 8 simple checks to make sure YOU buy the best winter motorcycle gloves for your money!