While most people won’t (and often legally can’t) go out riding without a helmet, many people don’t even bother to buy gloves for riding.

While a injury to your fingers or hands may not be as life-threatening as a cracked skull, you can still suffer permanent and life-changing disability and disfigurement from injuries sustained during falls from a moving bike. That’s not even taking into account how biting cold or other nasty weather can be highly uncomfortable and hard on your hands. Believe me, you don’t ever want to go riding without good gloves and they aren’t a bother to have. You can easily stow them in a underseat compartment, a bag, or even inside your helmet while you aren’t wearing it.

There’s no excuse not to have riding gloves, but you shouldn’t just buy the first thing that looks cool. Have a look at my glove reviews where I take a look at some good (and not so good) riding gloves. If you don’t see anything that strikes your fancy, then here is the place you’ll find the info you’ll need to choose the right pair when you go out riding.

Like a Glove

As with most clothing items, it is very important that the gloves you buy fit properly. This is essential for three reasons. Firstly and most obviously, gloves that fit right are more comfortable. Secondly, if they fit correctly you can operate the controls of your motorcycle or ATV correctly. Thirdly, if they don’t fit right they won’t protect you properly and may actually cause additional injuries because of an ill fit.

So how do you know if a glove fits properly? The only way to make sure a glove fits is to test it, but luckily most online retailers these days will happily accept a return if there is a sizing issue. To test your glove for the proper fit, put it on and grip onto an actual motorcycle grip. Closing your fist is inaccurate since it will over-tighten the glove. When gripping, the glove should be snug without feeling restrictive or cutting off your circulation. There shouldn’t be a lot of bunched material in the palm, and your fingers should almost, but not quite, touch the fingertips from the inside. Keep in mind that there will be a little stretch from gloves made of leather.

What Type of Glove?

There are different kinds of glove for different conditions and types of riding. You should choose gloves that are appropriate for each of these factors.

Racing gloves are meant to give you high dexterity and fine feel and feedback. They won’t give you any thermal protection and they are very snug, with an aggressive finger pre-curve. They will, however, protect you well from road rash.

Touring gloves are the best all-round, everyday choice. They let you feel the controls well, but also give better protection against the elements and, of course, against crashes at normal road speeds.

Winter gloves are self-explanatory. The extra thermal protection may, however, diminish your sense of touch more than usual.

Sportsbike Gloves

Cruiser Gloves

Gender Bender

It should be noted that men’s and women’s gloves are cut differently, since there is a difference in hand proportions across genders. So try to get the glove version that’s right for your gender.

Asymmetry: Nobody is Perfect

There are usually sizing instructions and charts on the sites of online retailers, but something they forget to mention is that you should measure both your left and right hands. Everyone is asymmetrical in some way. Your hands are likely to be of unequal size, so make sure you choose a glove size to accommodate the larger of the two. The difference is usually slight, so it should not affect the fit of the smaller hand.

National Differences

There’s also a difference in the cut of American-made gloves and European ones. In general, Euro gloves are a size smaller for a given size rating compared to American cuts. Weird, huh?

Materials

Gloves and other motorcycle gear can be made from all sorts of materials. You can still get basic leather gloves, but modern motorcycle gloves use a variety of synthetic textiles and plastics to achieve their goals. You don’t have to really know much about specific patented materials such as Gore Tex, just that better gloves will use different materials for different parts of the glove, playing to the strengths of each. Basically, I prefer composite gloves to leather ones any day of the week, but your taste may run to the more traditional material.

Protection

This is one of the main areas that distinguish motorcycle gloves from other types of glove. Good gloves are armored over the knuckles and fingers, and will have palm protection and finger pre-curves and bridges – all to keep your hands in one piece should you fall. This is the main reason you should not use fingerless gloves, or gloves that look tough but are not meant for motorcycling. Believe me, at 50 mph they’ll shear away to nothing in seconds and you’ll wish you’d bought the right thing.

Money, Money, Money

A good pair of gloves will give you years of service, so it is worth spending a bit on them. You can get gloves for $50 or less, but the very best day-to-day products are over $100, which I consider the mid-range. If you cheap out on your gloves you’ll have to buy new ones often, as things like stitching and regular wear and tear will wipe them out.

High Five

These are the most important considerations when buying motorcycle gloves. A good pair of gloves can be like your best friends. They make the whole riding experience better and you’ll really appreciate them on cold winter days, when the wind chill can almost give you frostbite.