Throwing Down The Gauntlet

Prompted by a discussion thread about women’s motorcycle gear on the Facebook group “Women’s Sportbike Rally”, I posted a rant about Dainese’s SteelT Lady gloves and my experience as a crash test dummy. I hadn’t previously brought this up on my blog, even though I had planned on ripping Dainese a new one about it, until a woman on the group commented that she was looking at a Dainese glove she really liked, which of course got me on my soap box immediately.

Yes, I am that pissed off at Dainese and the inferior quality of that particular product. I am happy with all the other Dainese products that I own, save for the Yu Lady gloves, which I only bought to match my Yu Lady one-piece leather suit. I knew that to be a mistake when I opened the package. Needless to say I hardly ever worn them and after my crash, I knew the reason as to why this was a good decision. Shame on Dainese for making what is essentially just a beautiful looking piece of clothing accessory with no protection whatsoever and then match it up with a track suit!!! I see something wrong with this picture. Seriously. Wrong.

But enough ripping on Dainese’s abysmal failure. The other manufacturers aren’t really up to snuff either, not in my book anyway; not for the street nor the track, maybe for preventing blisters if you should ever find yourself in need of shoveling snow (in mid-eastern Georgia?) or chopping fire wood for that romantic evening, however I prefer just logging into Netflix and watching 60 minutes worth of fireplace footage in 5.1 surround sound. I don’t need gloves for that. I do need some for motorcycle riding, though.

I dredged up the entire collection of gloves I have collected over the three years I’ve been riding, piled them up and compared them to each other and the crash-tested Dainese pair. I have found that my standards have evolved with my riding skill and my base expectations are a lot harder to meet these days.

So, let’s talk gloves, girls! In the order of purchase. =D You’ll get a kick out of this, I promise.

Harley Davidson Women’s Fingerless Gloves

I bought these because I needed something cheap while I was waiting for my H-D FXRG gauntlet gloves to come in. I wore these over a pair of colorful stretch knit gloves when it turned cold and my FXRG gloves were still on backorder, along with the FXRG jacket to match the overpants that I had bought when I got the Sporty.

A little background here: My husband agreed to let me start riding a motorcycle to work (rather than buying another car) under two conditions: I would buy the best gear I could afford and wear it always and I had to sign up for the MSF Basic Rider Course. When I started riding, my gear consisted of the H-D FXRG full-face carbon fiber helmet; a Harley Davidson textile jacket without any type of armor or padding; the H-D FXRG textile overpants; and a pair of H-D leather boots, also sans armor or padding. I tossed the fingerless gloves into the pile as soon as my FXRG gauntlets arrived. The same went for the jacket. Eventually, I snagged a pair of (then already discontinued) FXRG-2 riding boots for half price to replace the fashion footwear I had previously bought.

That is how I geared up for quite some time. Dressed in Harley Davidson’s FXRG gear head to toe. The FXRG line is Harley’s top-of-the-line collection in protective apparel.

”]These are driving gloves at best and bike night gloves at worst. In all fairness, when you decide to buy these, you know what you have: they’re for show and at the price they’re a steal. These have no business on your paws when you’re riding a sportbike. None!

Harley Davidson Women’s FXRG Gauntlet Gloves

Harley markets these “for all riding conditions”. I loved these gloves. They have a Goretex liner, are water-resistant, have a comfortable fit and sport a generous gauntlet. I spent one winter riding my Hayabusa in these with added stretch knit liners. My fingers were frozen turkey talons by the end of my 25-mile commute when the temperatures dipped below freezing; however, I didn’t see another motorcyclist out there all winter, so I suppose there’s a reason for me being the only idiot on a motorcycle on the road in the dead of winter. They were hard to get off and on in the summer time due to the liners getting sweaty; however their wicking properties kept my hands feeling dry.

I crash tested these gloves personally on my Hayabusa when I dragged tailpipe and consequently hit a curb and highsided myself onto the sidewalk at approximately 60 mph. The palms were rashed, but not a single seam came undone. I kept wearing these babies until I lost them somewhere. I still wear their gear, sans the helmet, which I gave to a Harley rider who needed a real lid.

Harley Davidson FXRG Gauntlet Gloves

The model pictured here is the men’s version Harley sells currently. The women’s version of the gauntlet-style FXRG glove was discontinued. The men’s gauntlets retail for $120.00, and I think that’s about what I paid at the end of 2008 for mine.

Joe Rocket Women’s Cleo Gloves

I was getting tired of turning the liners of my FXRG gloves inside out and then having to poke around with my fingers to get them back aligned inside the glove’s fingers when putting them on. Took forever and they were way too warm for Georgia’s summers. I had bought a mesh jacket for summer riding, and wanted gloves to match. I bought these before I ever crashed anything on two wheels. I didn’t know about the dangers I was subjecting my wrists to when riding in short gloves. I didn’t know that the palms needed protection, too. This was definitely another uneducated fashion conscious purchase. I still wear these on occasion, usually when I hop onto my bike just to run to the store to grab something I need. And the only reason I can think of that these are better than bare hands: the controls feel funny to me when riding “naked”.

Joe Rocket Women's Cleo Gloves (MSRP $39.99)

As with the fingerless gloves, these really have no place on your precious paws when you’re riding a sportbike. But the price is right for what they are. Even though I didn’t know what I had (or didn’t have) when I purchased the Cleo gloves in the Spring of 2009, I still wear them on occasion; however, I do understand the risks involved. Personally, I cannot recommend any type of “short” glove that leaves the wrists exposed. Joe Rocket’s Cleo gloves are only one step up from Harley’s fingerless models and barely better than riding naked.

Dainese SteelT Lady Gloves

I ranted about these enough now. They are overpriced pieces of crap marketed to the lady track day rider. Even though Dainese doesn’t specify it directly on their website, these are — believe it or not — as good as it’s going to get for the woman who wants Dainese gloves. So, by extension, Dainese infers this is what the girl racers slip over their paws. But girl racers really wear men’s race gauntlets. 🙂 Makes me wonder what gloves the fast chicks of the likes of Elena Myers or Melissa Paris get to (or choose to) wear…

Dainese SteelT Lady Gloves (MSRP $229)

I’ve said it before: I’m not down with Dainese women’s gloves anymore. Screw roadrash! My Harley gauntlets had better padding in the palms, not to mention thicker leather. Would they have held up better under the same conditions? Not sure, but comparing the damage done by the two lower speed crashes, I would have to guess that I may have gotten a few more feet out of my FXRGs before I got to test the abrasion resistance of human skin. That’s a sad statement to make, right there. Especially since the Harley gloves were $109 cheaper.

Dainese Yu Lady Gloves

Another girly purchase. I just had to have the gloves that matched the leathers. I’ve said it above. I would expect that if a manufacturer sells coordinating gloves to go with one of their women’s suits, that it is ASSUMED that said girl will take that shit to the track! And when aforementioned girl is at the track it is ASSUMED that she’ll go a little faster than the putt-putt she is accustomed to around town. Shame on you, Dainese!

Dainese RS-Yu Lady Gloves (MSRP $119)

I’ve only worn them a few times, since they felt flimsy to me even before I knew better. I kept wearing my SteelT gloves instead. The Yu Lady gloves are thin, have a little padding not even worth mentioning, but they are oh-so-effing-cute. Spare me another of Dainese’s horrid failures! I don’t even want to put these on eBay, I’m too freaking embarrassed to let anybody know I actually own a pair of these. Too bad really, since the Yu Lady suit is everything I had hoped it would be (with the exception of maybe a bigger aerodynamic hump) and hasn’t failed me yet.

Alpinestars Women’s Stella SP-3 Gloves

I bought these to wear over my Gerbing’s heated glove liners, since I had no room in any of my other gloves and was cutting off the circulation to my fingers. I retired these when I returned the heated liners to Gerbing’s in exchange for their lady gloves. I can’t really wear them because the are a size ‘L’ and way too big. This is the pair I’ve tested the quirky Digits on, because it was the only set I was willing to pierce to install the conductive finger pins on.

Alpinestars Women's Stella SP-3 Gloves (MSRP $49.99) Notice the quirky Digits dot on the left index finger for texting while riding. ;P.

The Stella SP-3 falls into the same class as the Yu Lady glove, although they seem a little sturdier than their Dainese counterpart. The padding is slightly thicker and can be found in more places. The price point alone puts them way above the Yu Lady gloves.

Gerbing 12V Lady Rider Heated Gloves

These replaced the heated glove liners I had gotten for Christmas in 2010 from my hubby. The liners were too much of a hassle to put on and take off and they didn’t fit into any of the gloves I owned without cutting the circulation off to my fingers. I had the smallest liners Gerbing made and they still bunched up when slipping on the glove. Gerbing was kind enough to let me exchange them a FULL YEAR later, even though their exchange period is only 30 days. Gerbing has some of the best customer service in the industry!

Obviously, these gloves are not a purchase made with protection as the first and foremost consideration. I needed my paws to stay warm and that they did. They never got along with the thumbs though, it’s in the cut and the shape of my hand. Wearing them for even short rides induced cramps in the thumb and wrist of my throttle hand. I could have probably solved the problem by going up a size, but since I didn’t like the gauntlet being so narrow, I opted to buy one of their men’s gloves the following winter.

Gerbing's 12V Lady Rider Heated Gloves ($169.95)

These gloves are well-made and I trust that they would hold up well-enough in a crash at highway speeds. They are comprised of several layers of leather and textiles, including the Microwire layer that keeps your digits from turning into ice cubes. Until someone starts making armored heated gloves, this is as good as it’s going to get. A risk I am willing to take when it’s cold as crap outside and there is a thick layer of frost on my damn bike seat!

Knox Handroid Hand Armour

These are the puppies I have now. I don’t even have to say much, the picture speaks for itself. Yes, that’s Kangaroo hide on the inside of the palms. Kangaroo leather is more abrasion resistant than cow, is thinner yet stronger and is much more pliable. It’s downright soft to the touch. Yes, momma, slap some of that right there! I can caress my controls and rest assured in the knowledge that this is going to protect me a lot better in the event of a crash.

All the stitching is on the outside, so your fingers remain unmolested by scratchy, bothersome seams and little bits to get your nails snagged on, which in turn drives you bonkers as you haul Mach 3 down the front straight (or the Interstate ;)).

Note the exoskeletal armor on the back of the hand, along all fingers, and the scaphoid sliders. Yeah, baby!

The BOA lacing system makes those puppies easy to get on and off; just pull the dial to release the cables when taking off your gloves. When putting them on, push the dial back in and twist until the desired tightness of the wrist braces is reached.

Knox Handroid Hand Armour Gloves (MSRP $249.95)

The only qualm I have with Knox Armour about these gloves is that they could have sewn the “#1” on the middle finger instead. =D I look so much cooler now when I do the Robot and for $20 more than the Dainese SteelT, I finally can say I got what I paid for! Too bad it took me three years and a few get-offs to understand the importance of proper protection in all the right places. These are race gloves, however I find myself wearing them on the street, too. They are that comfortable and I just don’t want to get sporty in anything less than my best anymore.

Gerbing 12V Battery Hybrid Heated Gloves

What can I say? They are Gerbing. I chose to upgrade to the men’s since they have the more generous gauntlet, which makes putting them on and taking them off easier and faster. They can also be operated with optionally available rechargeable batteries, which makes wires and heat controllers obsolete on rides that are under an hour (on High) and under four hours (on Low). As far as I can tell, the men’s gloves and the women’s gloves are made with the same attention to detail, have roughly the same amount of padding, the stitching is of very similar design, and both seem to fall under the same stringent quality standards. Gerbing, for one, does not differentiate by gender and build the same quality product for both.

Gerbing's 12V Battery Hybrid Heated Gloves (MSRP $199.95)

Something worth mentioning: If you call Gerbing, they can pretty much custom tailor any garment to your measurements if you find yourself between sizes or have special wishes. They make all their stuff onsite, here in the USA, and are happy to accommodate their customers if at all possible. I have nothing but good things to say about their customer service. They stand behind their products, before and after the sale. And, like I mentioned before, they let me exchange a product that didn’t work for the size of my hands, almost a year after their 30-day exchange period. Gerbing really deserves a review all their own.

Wake Up Call!

Just browse any of the online motorcycle apparel merchants and you’ll find that if you are a woman looking for equal protection in women’s gloves, you are basically out of luck. You pretty much have to settle for a men’s glove instead. There are hardly any armored gloves out there for women and hardly any women’s gloves that I could wholeheartedly recommend to a girl headed to a track day. Most of us who can get a decent enough fit in a men’s glove will opt in for the added protection and higher quality. The problem is finding a brand and/or model that fits without the headache of the buying, waiting, exchanging, waiting experience of online apparel purchases. Even retail chains and dealers don’t hardly ever stock the smaller men’s sizes in their gear that us women would want to try on. They can special order stuff, but then again, you are stuck waiting, making another trip and have an almost equal chance of having to have the item exchanged for a different size.

The problem, from a business standpoint, is there aren’t enough of us women riders out there (yet), which makes it a losing proposition for most manufacturers to invest too many resources into women’s gear or to stock odd sizes. I get that.

What I don’t get is how some manufacturers can justify the inferior quality in a lot of their women’s gear  when compared to their men’s gear. What is up with that? Is the industry trying to kill us off one crash at a time or is it still not advantageous enough for the collective bottom line to at least bring the women’s gear up to the same quality standards?

Differing price points, differing levels of protection? Yeah, I get that, too. You have the “casual” sector covered, for the most part. But track-worthy female-specific gear is hard to find. This goes back to bringing the female and male versions of gear up to the same standard of quality.

If you haven’t noticed yet, your fastest growing demographic likes to freakin’ shop! And we talk a lot, too! So, if one of us hates something or loves something, she’s sure to pass it on to her friends. Some companies are keeping up with us (more or less), but the industry as a whole needs to understand that making inferior gear for women can’t be justified by any standard. If you can’t make it as good as the men’s version, don’t make it at all! It’ll just get us hurt in the end.

In my personal experience only, since I cannot speak of the products I haven’t used or companies I haven’t dealt with, I can say this: There are only three companies that make premium quality gear, which hold the same philosophy regarding their gear for both sexes. Companies where buying any of the female-specific versions of their products will get you the same quality and level of protection that the men enjoy:

  1. Gerbing
  2. Harley Davidson
  3. Sidi

This is quite sad. Dainese could be on that list, if it weren’t for their crappy women’s gloves. 😦

2 Comments on “Throwing Down The Gauntlet”

  1. Shona says:

    Loved reading this post! So true. Trying to find bike gear that keeps you looking feminine is hard work!
    I currently have the dainese yu suit and use knox biomech gloves.

    I came off on motorway at 60mph and both were almost unscathed.

    • Miss Busa says:

      Shona, thanks for sharing. I’m glad to hear that the Knox gloves held up to your “adventure”. I haven’t crashed in mine (yet), but so far they’ve held up great to almost daily use, track and street. They’re dirty, and the little white plastic shields have long since been lost, they show no signs of weakening or coming apart. I’ve crashed in the Yu three times (well, make that two, one doesn’t count because I landed in the grass and wasn’t going all that fast anyway) but they survived a longish slide/tumble/slide after low-siding at over 120 mph, so that suit’s got my wholehearted approval. It’s still my favorite and still holding up. Too bad Dainese doesn’t make it anymore; but a friend of mine has the Tattoo, and it’s of the same quality as the Yu.

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