Rain often ruins a ride, with the first signs of disaster coming from your hands, as the water works its way in and your fingers feel progressively colder. It doesn’t have to be this way. Waterproof yet breathable, thermally insulated gloves are now widely available and let you keep on riding, if they work as advertised. The question is – do they live up to the manufacturer’s promises?
Yes – in the case of Racer’s "Novus-Aquapoint" touring glove. I’ve been using this glove for a month now under all kinds of riding conditions including rain. But its most severe test came on a sunny, dry California day, with the bucket test. I was frankly skeptical of the claim "waterproof," thinking that maybe they really had "water-resistant" in mind. After filling the bucket with cold water, I put on the gloves and submerged them to within a couple of inches of the top. I waited and waited for that familiar feeling of cold and wet (at its worst when experienced in the crotch) but it never came. After ten minutes I gave up and tried some other tests, one of which was to submerge an old pair of water-resistant gloves. They lasted five seconds.
How well will the Novus gloves keep their waterproof capability over time? I can’t say, but I’ve got an insurance policy just in case – a three-year guarantee.
Other features, such as comfort, styling, and that hard-to-define quality called "feel" are important as well. These gloves feel good, but they also feel very different than the leather winter gloves I was used to. Though there is some leather on several parts of the glove’s outer shell, it’s basically a synthetic fabric creation, with a totally different feel than an all-leather glove. The lighter weight of the synthetic gloves is part of it, but this different feel is something you get used to, then decide you like.
The Novus has four layers in its construction.
> Outer shell – a mix of nylon and high tensile strength fabrics ("Keprotec") of different weights, plus leather, and hard-shell protection over the knuckles and the on the palm, plus a mini-squeegee for wiping your visor.
> Waterproof membrane – the "HIPORA" glove insert is used by a number of different manufacturers.
> Thermal insulation – polyester and polyurethane
> Inner liner – also made of polyester and polyurethane.
The gauntlet has both an in-fabric elastic band and an adjustable outer strap over the wrist. The main part of the gauntlet can be tightened with a large Velcro flap and, finally, there is a storm cuff equipped with an elastic cord. The overall design is catchy and attractive from a moto-cool perspective but, in my view, styling has determined the complexity of the stitched patterns and the large number of adjustments as much as function. The workmanship is excellent.
Fit is essential for comfort and that means having a variety of sizes to choose from. Racer offers six sizes to ensure that you can select a glove that works well for your own personal pair of hands. They vary from S to 3XL. I’m very glad to have the top of the line – 3XL. They fit great. The hard-shell protective components over the knuckles and on the palms are designed so you don’t notice or feel them at all when riding or otherwise wearing the glove in normal use. In a crash they could be very noticeable and very valuable.
Normally one wears the gauntlet of a glove over the top of the cuff of the riding jacket. That position is optimum for keeping the wind out and also looks best. If, when you are on your bike in your normal riding position, your forearm slopes upward from elbow to handle bar, you can always use the gauntlet-over-cuff position. But if your forearm slopes downward (as does mine) – and it’s raining – you will want to put your jacket cuff over the gauntlet to prevent water from running down your jacket sleeve into your glove. The design of the Novus gauntlet works well with my Darien jacket to enable both positions.
Putting these gloves on and taking them off requires a little skill. In removing them, remember to pinch the fingertips of the glove you’re pulling off to keep the innermost liner in position. (If you forget, it’s just a lot of finger wiggling to get it back in position.) Putting on the first glove is easy. The second one goes on fine until you get to the point of working the gauntlet over the outside of the jacket cuff. You have to use your gloved hand to do this and it can be hard (especially with the storm cuff) to get the storm cuff in place, with no part of jacket cuff extruding. Your experience may vary.
The Novus is billed as a winter glove. The insulation worked well in the bucket test, but experience suggests that during extended riding at temperatures much below 50 degrees, you’ll want to turn on the heated grips. During the spring and fall the gloves should be perfect, but I’m going to take them along on summer tours as well, particularly if mountain riding is involved. Cool mornings and late-night rides at higher altitudes will call for an insulated glove. For dual-sport riding, touring and commuting, this glove will be my mainstay.
The Novus is designed and manufactured by an Austrian company – Racer – which produces an entire line of motorcycle apparel, racer.at. Available at many Bay Area dealerships and motorcycle shops, the Novus is distributed by Pacific Powersports Dist. of San Jose and has an MSRP of $150. Check racerusa.net for your nearest dealer or inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.