Gloves – an equally important piece of protective equipment as leathers and helmets when considering our needs as riders, whether it be on the road or on the track.
I was unfortunate enough to break my hand in an accident back in 2009 and I still suffer with what I call the gimpy finger. The gimpy finger spends its life flapping around on its own, not following the others into the required fist but instead sticking out like an aristocrat preparing to drink tea. It’s more irritating than anything else but for me, gloves are hugely important.
Your hands and wrists are intricate and delicate –a quarter of all the bones in your body are found in your hands. They can take a long time to heal and there’s almost no way to ride when either is injured. If anyone has seen James Toseland’s attempts to bend his wrist even to this day, you will see why his career ended in the way it did.
Plans for a group gloves test
Now, at first I was going to do a group test – select the top crop of gloves, add in a couple of lesser-known gloves and a few budget options to compile a well-rounded article with the pros and cons of each, rounding off with my favourite. However, in doing the research for the article, I found that the same gloves had been reviewed countless times, with the same results, from almost every other media avenue. Therefore, all I’d be doing would be reiterating the same points again and no-one is going to benefit from hearing information they already know so wanted to do something a bit different.
The SBF alternative
Each of us has chosen a pair of gloves after much consideration to review on a long-term basis.
Marc has had some custom Held Phantom 2 gloves made, the premier, top-of-the-range gloves, so we will be hearing about those soon, and Richard is getting to grips with his new Arc-on Apex gloves. While doing research for another article, I came across a pair of Kushitani GPR-6. Kushitani had showed us some of the best quality custom leathers money could buy so I was keen to see what their gloves had to offer and, in doing so, the gloves group test has evolved into this stand-alone ramble.
For anyone who missed the Leathers article, Kushitani is an iconic leathers manufacturer from Japan, producing world-class suits for 60 years. Their presence in the UK has been quiet for some years until recently when they launched a new store in Lincolnshire in August and invited SBF to cover the launch.
The GPR-6 is Kushitani’s premium racing glove, developed with 6 layers of construction utilising kangaroo skin and K-foam as the protection. K-foam is not an actual foam; it is a patented material, similar to the D30 armour which Furygan fits in their leather suits. The difference between K-foam and D30 is the K-foam doesn’t go fully hard on impact, meaning it can absorb impacts better as the full force never passes through and transfers to the squidgy human inside.
The foam itself feels firm yet pliable; you can bend it and push into it the same as D30. However, if you strike D30 against a hard surface, even though it’s soft in your hand, upon impact the noise is that of a hard plastic as it solidifies on impact. K-foam doesn’t solidify like D30 – you get a resounding thud as you bash the glove against a hard surface but as it never goes hard so all the energy from the impact is absorbed and dispersed.
One of Kushitani’s biggest selling points is the comfort. The gloves themselves felt immediately softer and more broken in than the RST Tractechs I’ve been using for 3 years. The kangaroo leather is soft and supple with no tightness across the palm and the armour on the back of the hand works exactly as intended. You can clench your fist and the armour stays completely still as your fingers curl up underneath, moving independently with the finger straps keeping every together.
If you put on many other pairs of bike gloves and close your fist, you can usually feel the armour and reinforced knuckles pulling across the back of the hand. On one of my other pairs of gloves, the knuckles end up halfway down the back of my hand. Kushitani have overcome this by having the armour attached at the side of the glove and held onto each individual finger with sliders, allowing the hand armour to move independently from the glove itself.
On the wrist there are two overlaying velcro straps and a separate, smaller strap that tightens up the armour and secures it in position.
Another little touch I really like is the shape of the cuff where it meets the hand armour: there’s a unique cut-away piece between the two so if you bend your wrist back, the two don’t meet. One of my biggest criticisms of my RST gloves is that, after a full day on track or riding a naked road bike, my wrists felt fatigued due pushing against the large cuffs all day.
Does it all work?
In a word, yes. Extremely well.
The overall finish is excellent; every part of the glove moves and stretches exactly as you want it to. There seems to be no resistance from any part and you can really feel the development and thought process that has gone into these gloves.
We learnt from Kushitani that these gloves are developed by their Honda MotoGP test rider, Hiroshi Aoyama, a seriously fast gentlemen who knows his way around a track. Being a test rider, he needs the best protection and comfort available and the GPR-6 you can buy is exactly the same glove Hiroshi wears on his GP bike.
There is a bewildering array of gloves available in the market. If you read any group test, you’ll see the same familiar names rising to the top of the crop. The Knox Handroids have long been test winners and are hugely popular so this is where I set the Kushitani’s benchmark. The two pairs are are both priced at £199 which really helps with the comparison so what it boils down to is which I would spend my own money on. I always thought the Handroids were a little gimmicky, but they are proven to be effective and the rest of the glove was made to a high standard.
So which would I buy?
Put simply, the Kushitani. And I did, as you can see in the pictures where I’m wearing them.
They are without question the most comfortable, well-made and brilliant pair of gloves I’ve ever owned. Kushitani demonstrate their excellence in the quality of their leather suits and that translates fully into their gloves. The work and development process is clear to see and feel. If you’re looking at purchasing a new pair of gloves for the road or track, despite their presence on the market not being as prominent as other brands, the Kushitani GPR-6 absolutely need to be considered.
I have definitely found the gloves for me.
By Ben Wiskin