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Give it a tug: your hands deserve it

By Mario

Have you ever considered how important your hands are? From the cavalier approach of some riders to choosing and using gloves, you’d think many don’t. Here’s a short guide to making the best choice.

Here’s a simple question: if you’re about to fall, what’s the first thing you do? Simple answer: put your hands out to either arrest the fall or cushion your landing.

So why is it you can regularly see people riding scooters and motorcycles without gloves? Effective hand protection has to be right up there at the top of the list when it comes to gear, and the operative word there is ‘effective’. There’s a world of difference between the best and the rest, as MotoCAP testing makes clear. So what should you look for if you’d like to, you know, keep your hands in the event of a crash?

Get the facts

If you really want to know how effective a particular glove is at protecting your hands the first port of call is the MotoCAP website. Led by Dr. Chris Hurren of Deakin University, MotoCAP is entirely independent and conducts the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of protective motorcycle clothing anywhere in the world.

When it comes to gloves, MotoCAP tests five crucial performance criteria. These comprise abrasion resistance, impact resistance, seam tensile strength, wrist restraint strength and water/spray resistance (where relevant). All the info is very clear, so relying on MotoCAP makes assessing the safety of a pair gloves easy.

But what if...

As diligent and hard-working as Dr. Hurren and his team are, keeping up with testing all the gloves available in the NZ market is a big ask. So if the pair of gloves you have your eye on don’t appear on MotoCAP, what should you do?

1. Look for leather.

MotoCAP’s tests show, time and again, that gloves made of leather typically perform better in abrasion tests. But it doesn’t end there. The palm is the area most exposed to abrasion in a crash and you’ll want to see multiple layers of material on the palm, not a single layer. Plastic protectors here also help with abrasion resistance, and can help reduce the risk of a broken scaphoid by letting the palm slide rather than ‘grab’ on impact. 

Leather Gloves

2. Aim for armour.

Impact protectors or armour–usually made of plastic but can also be titanium or a carbon composite–absorb and spread the effect of a blow. You want it on the knuckles, wrist and palm, ideally, plus sliders or protectors on the side of the hand are good too. Check they sit and remain in the right place when you try the glove on. You will see a lot of gloves that have foam pads, sometimes mixed with hard armour. They’re not necessarily a disaster but they do not offer the impact protection of the hard stuff.

Finally, it’s good to have a finger bridge between the little finger and ring finger to reduce the risk of your small finger getting twisted out of shape and badly.injured.

Protective Gloves

3. Give it a tug

A glove’s no good to you if it doesn’t stay on in a crash. That’s why the additional wrist restraint you get with a long, gauntlet glove is so worthwhile. However, as MotoCAP testing proves, not all wrist closures are created equal. To emulate the drag-off test done in Deakin’s labs put the glove on, do up the closures then grab the hand area with your other hand and give it a good tug to try to wrench it off your hand. If the wrist restraint opens or loosens, and the glove starts to come off your hand, best look for another choice.

Have you done this test with your current gloves? Go ahead and give out a tug. If the glove comes off, or even starts to open the wrist restraint, you know what to list as an early Christmas present…

4. Scrutinise the sewing.

The shop staff won’t thank you for conducting an impromptu burst test on their shiny stock, so the next best thing is to have a really good look at the seam stitching that holds the glove together. This should be double-stitched and internally seamed, just like a jacket or leathers, wherever possible. Make sure there are no loose threads or stitches and that everything looks even and well-sewn.

5. Crave some comfort.

However well a glove does in terms of testing or features, if it doesn’t fit your hand it isn’t going to be a success. It needs to be a snug fit so that it won’t move around on your hand, but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable or makes your fingers numb. Finger length is important: you do not want any loose material at the ends nor the end crushing the top of your finger. Comfort is not a soft option: it’s essential that your hands feel relaxed for control.

If you need help with your choice you can usually rely on the shop staff. Typically, they’ll be very knowledgeable and will work to get the right choice for you, including that all-important fit.

If you need help with your choice you can usually rely on the shop staff. Typically, they’ll be very knowledgeable and will work to get the right choice for you, including that all-important fit.


One of the good things about gloves is that they can be very long-lasting. Just keep an eye for threads coming loose or the material getting thin. Look after them though: if you get leather gloves wet do not be tempted to dry them out with a heater. Instead, fill them with newspaper and leave them to dry out slowly with ambient heat. That way you won’t drive all the natural oils out of the leather, which would make it become stiff. If your gloves do stiffen up a little they can usually be rejuvenated with a leather cleaner/restorer or good old-fashioned dubbin.

Check out the MotoCAP website for full details on glove performance.