It was (glove) love at first sight. Call it a crush, infatuation or mild obsession; from the moment I laid eyes on Abel Brown’s motorcycle gloves, I knew I couldn’t wait long to own a pair.
The Boulder, CO based apparel company launched in 2011 but recently shifted their focus to outdoors and riding gear with a more rugged style. Their first new offerings are a collection of motorcycle gloves that impress with their combination of smart looks, features and reasonable prices. Unlike the “work in progress” products that often comprise a company’s initial foray into the powersports market, the Abel Brown gloves have the design and quality of a mature line of gear.
The four models in the AB glove lineup offer increasing levels of coverage and protection, from the $70 “Dual” mid-length to the $100 “X” full gauntlet. I spent a few weeks hemming, hawing, drooling and deliberating which pair to purchase before an online sale shaved enough off the “X” for me to go for the top of the line.
As any John Hughes teen movie can demonstrate, realizing a crush is precarious. Sometimes you’re Jake Ryan, kissing Samantha over a birthday cake. Sometimes you’re Duckie, left alone and bewildered at prom as your dream girl departs with a guy named for an appliance. The “X” glove does not disappoint, though I wouldn’t go so far as to compare wearing them to making out with Molly Ringwald on the dining room table.
Those who eschew obvious motorcycle gear should probably opt for the more understated “Dual” or “Hero” gloves. Every inch of the “X” reveals its purpose, though it does so without the garishness of some sportbike gear. The aesthetic aims more at the plaid-clad cafe bike, bearded bobber and cheap beer-swilling cruiser crowds, but its refined styling should also appeal to scooterists looking for high levels of protection. Function isn’t sacrificed for fashion.
Special attention is paid to the most vulnerable parts of the top of the hand, with a hard, molded shield over the knuckles and padding over each finger joint. Much of the surface is covered in multiple layers of leather, including the palm and fingers. There’s additional padding at the heel of the palm. The essential seams are all double-stitched for extra durability.
For flexibility, the fingers are ribbed and the top of the hand is segmented below the knuckle shield. A textured patch (laser-engraved) on the underside provides a solid grip. Dual hook-and-loop straps at the wrist and cuff provide a secure closure.
The two-tone black and brown two-tone color schemes and relatively subtle branding embossed into the leather round out the gloves’ distinct look. It’s unlikely that anyone would ever mistake these for another brand.
If you’ve never worn a heavy leather glove, you may find these bulky and rigid at first. As with any new leather glove, the initial fit is snug, sometimes to the point of discomfort. It should be tight enough to make you question whether you should have purchased a size larger. There are as many methods for breaking in leather as for breaking in a new engine. But there’s something gratifying about the mild soreness giving way over time as the glove softens and learns to bend.
For the first couple of days of commuting, the “X” glove felt stiff and left me with aching fingers. After a week, the leather had started to soften, not quite buttery (yet) but wearable. Over time, the gloves will continue to break in and conform to my hands, offering the customized fit you can only get from leather.
The “X” is a two- or three-season glove (depending on where you live) and should be comfortable from fairly cool temps in the 50s to 80° or so. I can definitely feel a chill in the mid-50s or colder, particularly on a long, high speed ride. Once fully broken in, a thin merino wool or silk glove liner will probably add more than ten degrees to that lower limit.
“Comfortable” is relative, though. The interior of the “X’ glove is fairly soft, but only the top part is lined. They’ll never feel as luxurious cashmere-lined lambskin, but that’s not what you want to be wearing in the unfortunate event that you go down while riding.
If the “X” glove is an indicator of the quality of the rest of the line, Abel Brown is off to a good start and we’re eager to see where they go next in the motorcycle gear segment. (They’ve added a couple accessories and a motorcycle tour tent to their products, with apparel coming soon.) At the moment, my Abel Brown glove crush is only temporarily sated; I see another pair in my future.