Sorry if this blog has turned into motorcycle product reviews recently. I'll try to get to some other subjects in future.
I guess riding a thumper, I've been more interested in the subject of vibration than maybe other riders have. Although, I've had other people tell me my bike has less vibration than their multi-cylinder bikes. In fact, even the 4 cylinder ZRX buzzes my hands after an hour.
There are several sources online that suggest that vibration can be damaging long term and I want to be riding a long time. They say that, if your hands tingle or become numb after riding, its a sign of temporary nerve damage from the vibration. The problem is that the nerve damage is cumulative and will eventually become permanent.
Wanting to avoid damage, I started out with Olympia Gel gloves and foam hand grips. On the way, I've tried Qwi gloves (which were probably worse than normal gloves), bar end weights (both bought and home made, better), and rubber isolated handlebar risers. About the only thing I haven't tried is a bar snake.
With the possible exception of the bar end weights which made highway wobble a little worse, everything has been "somewhat" helpful and haven't degraded the riding experience. The isolated risers did the most, but still, there is some buzz in the handlebars.
This spring, I came upon Chase Ergonomics (chaseergo.com) who makes gloves with a vibration absorbing foam in the palm and fingers. These are actually aimed at industrial use, but they weren't too expensive, so I gave them a try. I bought a pair of Decade Drivers Style gloves with Gfom padding for vibration absorption. Although called a drivers glove, they are really just goatskin work gloves. As motorcycle gloves, they are not perfect. But what wonderful vibration control! These were easily the biggest step in my quest for vibration isolation.
So what does it feel like? Imagine you put a 1/4" of soft foam inside all of the fingers and palm and tried to grip through this sponge and you will have a pretty good idea. There are those who talk about dexterity and "feel" and this is not the glove for them. That said, I don't feel I'm giving up any control and I'm gaining a lot in isolation. I guess its not for everybody and its an acquired taste for some others.
What does this stuff do? A single cylinder engine like the KLR is running about 5000 rpm down the highway. Just to make the math easier, we'll call it 4800 rpm. At that speed, the piston is going up and down at 80 Hz. The engine fires every other revolution, so the engine firing frequency is 40 Hz. That will be the fundamental vibration frequency coming into the handlebars. Traditionally, engines make vibration at 2x, 3x, and 4x the firing frequency, so we should see vibration from 40 Hz up to 160 Hz from the engine and more as the bike resonates. As you can see from the graph, Gfom reduces the vibration by more than half at 40 Hz. Even more at higher frequencies.
OK, great idea but the driver style gloves are not a perfect motorcycle glove. As they currently have motorcycle gloves with gel padding, I emailed Chase Ergonomics and got a nice reply from their president.
"We are aware that some of the most popular bikes present hand/arm vibration exposure for serious riders. We will build on our initial Decade MC glove styles. We chose to open with a Gpact(R) line because existing brands already had established "gel" gloves on the market and we thought that we could make better ones. As we build our line, you make a very good point that adding full palm and finger Gfom(R) pads makes a lot of sense.
Gary D. Shumate
Chase Ergonomics, Inc."
First of all, thanks to Gary for responding and his interest in motorcycle gloves. On his suggestion, I purchased a pair of the new Decade Summerweight gloves which are a lot closer to a motorcycle application. The white goatskin will undoubtedly show road grime with time, but at less than $34 on Amazon, I'm impressed with the quality and comfort. The best thing is the little pad of foam and leather sewn in the junction between the finger and thumb that fits perfectly on the handlebar grips.
I know I sound like an advertisement for these gloves, but what I'm really trying to do is generate enough interest in this market that Chase will move forward with a motorcycle specific glove using this technology.
Ain't technology grand?