Like sporting a Speedo while snowboarding, wearing improper gear when riding a motorcycle is just plain foolish. But more than just an idiotic act, insufficient gear usage is running rampant in the streetbike community. From gardener gloves and work boots to snow jackets and bicycle helmets, insufficient gear on the street is risky business. Just ask anyone who’s crashed in improper gear–it’s the pits.
We decided to explore the world of gloves to see where the leather meets the road, or in this case, the belt sander. Sure this isn’t scientific, but the longer a glove lasts on the sander the more abrasion resistance it has. Are you as safe with inexpensive motocross gloves as you are with proper street mitts? How about barehanded? Here’s how we got our grind on.
Winding and Grinding
Instead of wrecking a motorcycle several times with gloves on we decided the safer thing to do was use a belt sander. But instead of placing our actual hands inside of a glove and holding it against the spinning wheel (although we did consider it), an orange was selected as the makeshift hand. The ball of citrus has a peel akin to skin and we decided that when the glove wore through to the peel, it was time to stop the clock. The moment the glove hit the belt the timer was started. The clock continued to tick until the grinding surface wore through the glove and hit the orange.
To ensure completeness we tested both the knuckle areas of the gloves as well as the palms since these are the two areas that oftentimes take the largest hits in a crash. Equal pressure was placed on each item since the amount of force behind the glove would alter the results.
The test was kicked off by grinding a bare orange down to the fruit to simulate how quickly a bare hand can grind down to the bone against an abrasive material. With a bare orange as a baseline, a lightweight motocross glove was the next victim followed by a proper leather glove—Alpinestars GP Plus. SSB
Seconds to reach the fruit
(AKA, bone): 1.4
Seconds to reach the orange
Leather street/race glove
Second to reach the orange
Just as we suspected, the heavier the glove the better the protection and simply not wearing any at all is just stupid. Although the method of achieving these numbers isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison of a crash, the ratios are applicable. For instance, the palms of the leather race glove lasts 3.42 times longer than the MX gloves. Over three times longer means leather street mitts have substantially more abrasion resistance than their lightweight off-road counterparts.
A look at the knuckles revealed even more of a discrepancy as the leather race gloves lasted 56.5 times longer than the MX units–how’s that for some sturdiness?
Where the MX gloves use a padded single-layer leather palm and Neoprene knuckles, the leather race gloves sport multiple layers of leather, Kevlar and plastic on the knuckles and palms. How does that compute into safety? Well, the palms offer far superior impact protection when the hands hit the deck. And in the unfortunate event a hand is caught under a sliding bike, well, the big knuckles of the leather race gloves have far more protection in reserve. This means more material between your bones and the abrasive pavement.
As for the bare orange on the grinder, it burned down to the fruit (or bone) in less than a second. While MX gloves add protection over bare palms, it just isn’t enough to combat the rough surface of the road. If the wheels are turning on the street, save the Motocross stuff for the dirt because tarmac has a knack for burning through all but the strongest of materials in a matter of seconds. You’ve been warned.
*All tests were conducted three times and then averaged.