Which is better, short-cuff gloves or gauntlet gloves? It's a question I'm often asked and the answer is "Both."
Each of these two styles has its advantages and your decision will come down to personal preferences and what you're asking from your glove. Personally, I utilize short-cuff gloves more often as most of my riding these days is commuting to the office. But, as soon as I’m going for a spirited ride with a few buddies on some twisty roads or I’m headed to my local track, I’ll be in my Held EVO Thrux gloves with full gauntlets.
So what are the differences? Let's break it down.
What is a short-cuff glove? What is a gauntlet glove?
As the name implies, short-cuff gloves feature a shorter cuff than their counterparts, the gauntlet-style gloves. If you’re looking for something that is low-profile, easy to put on and take off, and very comfortable, short-cuff gloves typically have the advantage. Generally speaking, they also cost a bit less than gauntlet gloves, too. They often utilize the same materials and offer the same amount of protection, minus the added coverage around the wrist.
Gauntlet gloves often provide greater seasonality and they’re generally the preferred option during inclement weather. For that reason, you’ll find a lot more waterproof and thermal options with gauntlet gloves. In addition to weather protection, gauntlet gloves often provide more coverage and crash protection, and that's why they are required by most track day organizations.
So which one is better for you? There is no right or wrong answer here and no particular pair of gloves is ever going to be limited to just one kind of ride. With that said, there are plenty of instances where a gauntlet-style glove will simply make more sense over a short-cuff glove and vice versa.
From my personal experience, short-cuff gloves are better for commuting, dirt riding, and touring. You could just as easily argue that gauntlet-style gloves are the perfect option for commuters and you wouldn't be wrong. It really just comes down to the features you’re looking for and what works best for your riding needs. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart…
One of the differences between the two kinds of gloves is that short-cuff gloves are usually worn under the jacket sleeve while gauntlet gloves are designed to be worn over the sleeve. That's why I am typically rocking short-cuff gloves during the summer when I want all the airflow I can get running up my sleeve. In inclement weather, I want to keep cold air and rain out of my sleeves, so the gauntlet glove provides more weather protection.
As I mentioned before, there are always exceptions. A few manufacturers such as Dainese and Alpinestars have introduced a few “gauntlet” gloves that are specifically designed to be worn under the cuff of your jacket or race suit, but this design is less common. While I think the “under-the-cuff” gauntlet design is really comfortable and helps reduce bulk around the wrist, they are a bit of a pain to wrestle on and off. So for zipping around town or commuting, I personally stick with a simple short-cuff glove.
Kinds of motorcycle gloves
Within the two general categories of short-cuff and gauntlet gloves, there are many options in motorcycle gloves to cover all kinds of comfort, performance, and protection needs. With so many manufacturers and different kinds of materials these days, the choices can be overwhelming. So let's break it down into some general categories.
Summer gloves will often have a combination of mesh and leather as the main construction. Leather provides excellent abrasion resistance and tactile feel while the mesh portions provide a great amount of airflow without sacrificing protection. Summer gloves are often have a short-cuff design to reduce bulk and because there's generally no need to block the wind or rain.
Winter gloves typically utilize a textile main construction in addition to sporting a waterproof membrane, a thermal lining, or a combination of the two. While you can easily find a handful of winter-oriented gloves utilizing leather as the main construction, leather typically doesn’t handle inclement weather as well as textile. Textile provides great versatility with protection from the elements and often comes equipped with features such as a Gore-Tex membrane. If you’re not sure what Gore-Tex is, well it’s arguably one of the best waterproof membranes available. It’s incredibly breathable and almost never fails. You’ll often find manufacturers utilizing their own proprietary waterproofing. It may not be as breathable as Gore-Tex, but from my experience, it still gets the job done. Winter gloves are just about always a full gauntlet design to provide maximum weather protection.
Race gloves are also full gauntlet gloves with a leather main chassis, but the focus is on protection from a crash, not from cold and rain. They’ll often be sporting hard knuckle protection, TPU wrist coverage, palm sliders, covered outer seams, and goat or kangaroo leather on the inside of the palm. These gloves are designed to maximize impact protection and abrasion resistance while still providing riders with excellent tactile feel.
Dirt gloves focus on air flow and feature minimal impact protection. Most riders are simply looking for excellent tactile feel and a bit of roost protection since off-road riders aren't worried about sliding down abrasive asphalt. These gloves almost always have a short-cuff design and typically utilize a combination of textile and mesh as their main construction.
Dual-sport gloves are a great option for riders who spend just as much time riding in the dirt as they do out on the street. They often combine leather and textile in their main construction and combine both street and off-road features, providing more comfort and airflow than pure street-riding gloves. Dual-sport gloves are available in both short-cuff and gauntlet-style options.
Touring gloves are often a more comfortable and relaxed full-gauntlet-style glove. They may be made of leather, textile, mesh, or combination of those. They usually have less serious protection than race gloves to make them more comfortable for long rides. Many touring gloves are waterproof. The gauntlet design adds to weather protection.
Increasingly, many of these kinds of gloves are now available with fingertip panels that allow you to use your smartphone or GPS device without having to remove your gloves. The phrases “touchtech,” “touchscreen capable,” “smart fingertips,” etc, are all referring to gloves with this capability. You probably won't find that feature on full-race gauntlet gloves, but luckily it’s becoming more of an industry standard for everyday gloves of most styles.
So, whether you’re rocking some short-cuff gloves or a pair of gauntlets, just make sure everything fits appropriately and you’ve got the right glove for the task at hand. Pun intended.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Jim Hopper, from "Stranger Things," filled in for Spurgeon and shot a great “How To Size and Buy Motorcycle Gloves” video. He provides some great insight if you’re looking for some additional info. Who knew Hopper was such a moto enthusiast?