Those who have talked with me about motorcycle touring have more than likely heard me use the phrase, “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” This maxim applies to many aspects of packing for an overnight motorcycle trip, but really hits home when it comes to riding gloves.
If you’re a fair-weather rider who just takes the occasional scoot around town, you can probably get away with having just one or two pairs of dry-weather gloves. You won’t be far from home if wet weather rolls in, and you can check your local forecast to see what the day’s weather will be like.
If you decide to do a long-distance ride, though, you need to be ready to ride in whatever Mother Nature throws at you. You may leave Kansas City one morning in dry conditions with temperatures in the 80s, but then may find yourself in cold, rainy conditions when you reach the Rocky Mountains. Riding gloves are often the least expensive piece of gear a rider buys, and having the right glove — or number of gloves — can greatly increase a motorcyclist’s enjoyment of a multi-day ride.
Weather isn’t the only factor that makes carrying a variety of gloves a good idea. Though some of the motorcycling gloves I’ve owned have provided a decade or more of service, gloves can wear out or become damaged during a ride. I’ve had a glove’s stitching start to come apart during a ride on more than one occasion, and the last thing you want safety-wise is to be stuck between riding with gloves that aren’t up to snuff and riding gloveless.
Does this mean you should drop everything and order a half-dozen new riding gloves right now? No, but it does mean you need to look at your gloves assortment and make sure you have at least one glove for each of the four predominant riding conditions you may find yourself in on the open road (hot-dry; hot-wet; cold-dry; and cold-wet).
Dry Weather Gloves
I carry two or more sets of dry weather gloves with me on a tour. In addition to the above-mentioned risk of one set of gloves getting worn out, ambient temperatures and unexpected weather challenges make carrying several sets of dry-weather gloves a good idea.
Experienced touring riders will tell you that you won’t always have time to stop and change to wet-weather gloves before the raindrops start falling. If you’re on a rural interstate where the exits are 10 or more miles apart — or if you’re riding through mountainous terrain and don’t see a raincloud until its too late — the set of dry-weather gloves you’re wearing could get quite soaked. It’s a good idea to have a back-up set of dry-weather gloves ready to go instead of having to wear your still-soaked gloves for the rest of the day.
One of the more underrated features of dry-weather gloves is a gauntlet, which extends past the wrist and over a riding jacket’s sleeve. Full-gauntlet gloves are safer than non-gauntlet gloves and are required for some forms of motorcycle competition like road racing. For road riding, the gauntlet also can help in cooler weather conditions, as it seals off the end of a riding jacket’s arms from the oncoming wind. This greatly reduces how much cold air can travel up your sleeve and into your jacket’s interior.
I do carry at least one pair of non-gauntlet gloves on a tour. As backup gloves, they pack down easier than full-gauntlet gloves, taking up less space in one’s luggage. Non-gauntlet gloves also allow air to travel up the sleeve on hot days, which can help wick heat and moisture away from the body in jackets that are mesh or feature exhaust vents.
Wet Weather Gloves
Like dry-weather gloves, it’s a good idea to have at least two pairs of wet weather gloves on a tour. Could you get by with just one? It’s certainly possible, especially in regions of the United States that don’t see a lot of rain.
However, in addition to the above-mentioned advice about how gloves can wear out unexpectedly, rain gloves can be hard to put back on after they’ve gotten wet. This is especially true if the inner liner isn’t sewn into the outer glove. You’ll figure that out the first time you’ve ridden through a moderate or heavy rain with them on, then take them off at a stop. As you draw your hand out of the glove, the dampness on your finger can pull the inner liner into the palm area of the glove. It can be a chore to get the liner pushed back into the fingers of the glove.
The better option is to have a second set of rain gloves to put on, then place your already-wet set of gloves in your luggage to dry out. By the time you get to your next stop, the first set of rain gloves will likely be at least somewhat dry and easier to put on.
If wet-weather gloves are supposed to be waterproof, shouldn’t this be a non-issue? Well, in short, no. Many rain gloves use waterproof materials in their construction, such as Gore-Tex. However, those “waterproof but breathable” fabrics can let some moisture through, especially near stitched seams. If conditions are warm and wet, there’s also the possibility of sweat and/or condensation building up inside the glove liner.
Another factor to consider is ambient temperature. If the temperature is high and it’s raining, a lighter rain glove that doesn’t have a lot of insulation may have better breathability, which helps prevent sweat build-up and may help the glove dry out more quickly. If it’s wet and cold, additional insulation may keep moisture out and help the glove retain and distribute heat from heated grips.
I use a set of Tourmaster Dri-Mesh gloves for warm, wet conditions and recently purchased a pair of Olympia Cold Throttle gloves for cold, wet riding.