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Common Tread

How to size and buy motorcycle gloves

Jul 20, 2019

With a good pair of motorcycle gloves, you add both protection and comfort to your motorcycling experience. Poorly fitting mitts will only hamper your ride, and the gloves' protective elements can't do their jobs very well if they don't fit your hands. Using this guide, you’ll be able to understand the wide variety of gloves available, find your glove size, and buy the perfect pair for your next ride. Let’s dive in.

Motorcycle glove materials

Motorcycle gloves fall into three categories, in terms materials: leather, textile, and leather/textile hybrid.

Leather motorcycle gloves
Black leather gloves have been a motorcycling staple for ages, though there are plenty of other leather glove styles out there.

Leather gloves

Leather gloves have been popular with motorcyclists since the earliest days of riding, and for good reason. Leather is durable, and it also offers good feel when properly fit. Another of leather’s strengths is its ability to mold to the rider’s hand. That “broken-in” feel is something I really like about my favorite riding gloves. Like motorcycle jackets, leather gloves are usually more expensive than other options, waterproof options are limited, and they are not the best choice for year-round riding. To extend seasonality, look to lined or perforated leather gloves for cold or hot weather, respectively. One more thing: If you’re heading to the track, leather’s the only way to go.

Textile motorcycle gloves
Textile gloves take advantage of advanced materials to deliver specialized features and protection. RevZilla photo.

Textile gloves

Modern textiles allow manufacturers to create motorcycle gloves for any riding condition. The best waterproof gloves available use textile constructions. If I’m riding into foul weather, extreme heat, or deep cold, I’m reaching for some of the textile options in my closet. Textile gloves will also be the most versatile, so if you need a glove that can be worn for most seasons, consider textile. Be aware that textile doesn’t form to your hand like leather, so the fit from new is how the gloves will continue to feel long-term. Also keep in mind that some of the thermal liners found in cold-weather gloves can feel a bit bulky. Beats cold hands, right?

textile and leather motorcycle gloves
Combining leather and textile creates a hybrid glove. RevZilla photo.

Hybrid leather-textile gloves

Leather has its advantages, and so does textile. Why not combine them? A glove utilizing a hybrid construction typically puts leather where slide protection is needed, then adds textile for comfort. This could mean waterproofing, stretch panels, thermal linings, or mesh for high airflow. Hybrid gloves can offer the best of both worlds, so they're definitely worth a look.

Types of motorcycle gloves

Different riding disciplines place different demands on gloves, so you’ll find a wide range of glove types. That’s great news, because you can match your gloves to the riding you intend to do for the best possible experience. Riding glove types break down into five main categories: street, race, touring, ADV, and dirt.

Street motorcycle gloves
Street gloves will be right at home with most road-going motorcycles out there. RevZilla photo.

Street gloves

If you’re spending most of your time on a street bike, you’ll want to look at some street gloves. Some are on the sporty side, some more classic, but the overall formula is the same. These gloves usually have short cuffs for comfort, plus some form of impact protection. Touchscreen fingertips are another feature to look for with so many riders using touch-capable devices for navigation and more. Street gloves are made with all three material types.

Race motorcycle gloves
Race gloves are built to protect your hands in the event of a high-speed crash. RevZilla photo.

Race gloves

Race gloves are for track use and aggressive riding. They use leather construction and a full gauntlet design. Gauntlets keep the glove on your hand in the event of a crash, and they might also carry additional protective features. Expect knuckle protection, pinkie reinforcements, and other track-oriented details. They’re usually more expensive than other glove options due to their performance nature.

Touring glove
A touring glove like this is a good idea when riding in a range of weather conditions. RevZilla photo.

Touring gloves

For touring and other street rides in all conditions, a good touring glove is hard to beat. These gloves usually have a full gauntlet design to maximize protection from the elements, though shorter versions are out there. Typical construction is textile or textile-leather hybrid. Depending on what you opt for, touring gloves can also get expensive with their technical features and materials. It’s all worth it, though, when riding in less-than-fair weather. Even if I’m riding with street gloves on a trip, I’ll keep a pair of warm, waterproof touring gloves in my pack. They’ve saved my hands from misery more than once.

ADV motorcycle gloves
Adventure gloves must perform in a variety of conditions. RevZilla photo.

ADV gloves

Adventurers and dual-sport riders have their own unique demands to make of gloves, and that’s where the ADV category comes in. These short-cuff gloves are typically textile or textile-leather hybrid. Dexterity and impact protection are priorities, as ADV/dual-sport riders need to transition from the street to the trail and back again.

Dirt bike gloves
Dirt gloves are all about agility. They are designed for off-road riding, not the street. RevZilla photo.

Dirt gloves

Dirt gloves are short, light, and all about feel. They offer no impact protection, and as a result, they really aren’t appropriate for the street. Dirt riders prioritize control and mobility at the expense of bulky armor or abrasion resistance. A thin, breathable protective layer is just fine for most uses. Due to their thin textile construction and brutal life, dirt gloves might last a season or two. Fortunately for dirt riders, gloves don’t come much cheaper than this.

American European glove fit
Icon, an American company, offers gloves with roomier palms and shorter, wider fingers. Alpinestars is based in Italy, and their tighter, longer gloves are what you'd expect from a Euro fit. RevZilla photo.

Glove fit

Glove fit breaks down to American fit and European fit. Generally, you can guess which fit a glove will have by looking at where the manufacturer is based. There are exceptions, and we'll do our best to note any unusual fitment on glove product pages. Most American fit gloves leave some room around the palm and finger, with shorter fingers overall. European gloves are just the opposite: a longer, thinner fit with less room around the palm. Gloves should feel snug all around. Your fingers should fill out the fingertips of the glove, and there shouldn’t be excessively loose material anywhere.

How to size motorcycle gloves

Nearly there, glove seeker. You’ve picked out the glove style that best fits your riding scenario, and you’ve navigated the difference between American and European fit. It’s time to actually find your glove size. Grab a soft measuring tape to find your hand width and hand circumference. (If you don’t have one, you can always use a piece of string and lay it against a ruler later.) Pull up the size chart for a glove you’re interested in and see if the manufacturer is using width or circumference to size. 

Motorcycle glove sizing
Lay your palm flat on the tape and measure the widest part. RevZilla photo.

To measure your hand width, lay your measuring device flat on the table and place your palm down on top of it. Measure the widest part of the palm, then repeat the process for your other hand. Use the larger of the two numbers when ordering after checking the size chart. Hands can vary in size slightly, even though we assume them to be equal. 

Sizing for motorcycle gloves
Wrap the tape around your palm, but don't count your thumb. RevZilla photo.

If the gloves you're looking at are sized by hand circumference, wrap the measuring tape around your palm behind the knuckles, keeping it taut to ensure an accurate measurement. Don’t include the thumb. Easy! Compare to the size chart, and you should be good to go.

Sweet, I’ve got some gloves. What next?

Pull those spiffy new gloves on and sit on your bike. Work the controls as though you were riding to make sure that everything feels good. Any binding? Bunching? Pinching? If the gloves feel a little too snug, keep in mind that leather gloves with stretch up to 10 to 15 percent after about 15 to 20 hours of riding. 

That should be it! Grip it and rip it.