Sunday, June 19, 2011

Funny Fingers

One of the things that makes each of us unique are the little genetic anomalies that only we own. Those of you who know me understand that my body is one major collection of genetic anomalies, so you won't be surprised to learn that I have funny fingers.

It turns out that my hand would be an XL glove size, but my index finger is about 1/4 inch longer than average which means I'm poking out of end of the first finger of any XL glove.

This has been a particular problem with motorcycle gloves where you are constantly using all your glove's finger length as your hand is wrapped around a motorcycle grip. For years, I've been seeking out XXXL or larger gloves, just to get the index finger long enough. The trouble with that is that the body of the glove is too large and wouldn't stay on in a crash.

This winter, I was trying to upgrade all of my safety equipment, including finding gloves with a combination of good fit, improved crash protection, cool in summer, some vibration absorption, and a reasonable amount of "feel" for the controls. Not an easy task, but it led me to an interesting glove and an interesting person.

First the person. Helmut Kluckner is the tall, skinny guy standing in the Michigan pullover in his shop. Helmut had sent me some insoles to improve the fit of my boots and didn't charge me for them. I sent him the pullover as compensation.

In addition to the curly hair and the Austrian accent, he is both a searcher for truth (in motorcycle safety gear) and an artist. I was lucky to visit his shop in San Jose and get the chance to meet Helmut in person.

As soon as I walked into his shop, he greeted me and as soon as I expressed an interest in gloves, he asked me to show him my hands. From a distance of 5 feet, he noticed that I have a long index finger and said that I must have trouble finding gloves to fit. Then, 'you look like an XL to me.' I guess all true artist are very visual people.

Then we wandered around the shop has he showed me how the gloves were made and had me try on several gloves of different types and sizes. In the end, he took a tracing of my hand and explained how they would use the length of an XXL index finger in an XL glove and then shorten the length of the little finger a little bit to get a perfect fit.

Through all this was a philosophical discussion about what it takes to design a safe motorcycle glove, the materials they use to make gloves, an example of a glove worn in a 100 + mph motorcycle racing crash, and finally, as we moved to try on boots, a discussions of motorcycle handling development and the way that your foot changes shape as you age.

Helmut is a proponent of having strong, tear resistant materials properly sewn together to avoid ripping while sliding. This is combined with padding materials which spread the force of an impact and absorb energy. He doesn't care for hard shell knuckle or finger protection and says that the edges between the hard material and the leather is often a place where the sewing fails and opens a hole in the glove during the accident. The vents and other edges are just a place for the ground to grab and tear the glove while you a sliding.

I am definitely buying into these ideas and am happy to get beyond the carbon knuckle, mass media approach to gloves. It comes third hand, but I read a blog online where a MotoGP doctor was quoted as saying that he wished more glove manufacturers would emulate the Helimot glove with it's padding instead of hard armor. If true, then Helimot is on the cutting edge of safety technology.

The gloves I bought are the F 108 hot weather gloves. The palms and all the leather are kangaroo leather which is strong but thin and with good feel. The back of the gloves are made of stretch Kevlar fabric which breathes easily. The fingers, upper palm, and thumb are just one thickness of kangaroo leather for good feel. The lower palm and the entire back of the glove are lined with an open cell foam that provides protection. The knuckles have multiple types of foam and thicker foam to provide impact protection.

The idea is good protection in a glove that is also breathable, but it doesn't stop there. When it gets truly hot, you just pour water into the inside of the glove. The open cell foam absorbs the water and it slowly evaporates and keeps your hand cool. Although it hasn't been hot enough to try it yet, Helmut says that the evaporation cooling will last 45 to 90 minutes, depending on how much air flows over the gloves.

Naturally, the fit was just right. The gloves are definitely stiff when new, but I'm breaking them in over time. So far, I have maybe 5 hours of riding in the gloves and I'm really enjoying them. Although you can't feel the airflow directly, the gloves definitely breath and stay cool. With all that protection, the gloves absolutely feel stout, but you don't feel restricted in your motion. The padding on the palm is very clever. It adds enough isolation that my fingers aren't buzzed after a couple hours riding, but the padding ends in just the right place. The finger and thumb feel practically naked with excellent touch and control on the bike.

For Doug's sake, I'll mention that they also make a nice touring glove, made entirely out of deer skin, Doug's favorite. The gloves don't come cheap, around $200, but then again, they are hand made, to fit my goofy hand, and made right here in the US. From the quality I see, they will probably last a lot longer than the cheap stuff I'm used to. Happy riding.


  1. Jac, You get an A for finally buying gloves that fit. Riding gear that actually fits well and is comfortable is key to enjoying the ride.

    You get an D- in promotion though; where is the web address for Herr Kluckner's business?

    As for me, during the summer I wear a very nice set of Lee Parks deerskin gloves that are the best I've ever owned next to my old Thurlow deerskin gloves which I couldn't replace because Thurlow is gone. For winter wear I'm still using a pair of Thurlow deerskin (those words again!)winter gloves I bought back in 1992. Great gloves and still going strong after nearly 20 years.

  2. Sorry, I didn't know I was selling.

  3. It's the way of the web, Jac. Networking, helping a fellow enthusiast, and maybe getting a discount on the next pair!