Thursday, January 23, 2014

Riding Without Gloves

riding without gloves
4th & University, San Diego
Much of my motorcycle riding the past several weeks has been relegated to the core of San Diego, mostly the downtown areas and the immediate neighboring communities.

I haven't done any joy riding in a while.

For one, I've spent a lot of time working on our Internet business. But two, I've been fighting off a flu bug the past 10 days.

But overall, my life has really narrowed down to working all day long and then hanging out at the bar at night. I haven't spent much time riding motorcycles with friends, not like the way I used to a few years ago when weekends seemed made for riding with friends.

I don't even pay much attention to the newest motorcycles out now. A fellow rider could talk about the newest sportbike from BMW or Yamaha, and I would nod my head as if I knew what they're talking about, but yet I wouldn't know a thing. I don't really care about the latest in motorcycle technology right now. I just want to talk about the deep philosophical stuff that only makes sense to a motorcycle rider.

Riding through the big city is a challenge enough. The traffic, the potholes, the tight turns, I never seem to get the Honda ST past 3rd gear. You can't think like a joy rider in these parts. You have to be more aggressive. You have to see yourself as having the advantage of two-wheels and then exploiting it. Otherwise, the cagers, the truckers, and cab drivers can sense the fear in you, and if they sense it you're dead.

Cafe Moto at Barrio Logan
I think somehow, that's made me a different rider.

For one, I don't seem to ride with gloves anymore. They're too bulky. I need to feel my fingers on the grips and levers, it gives me better control. I can fine tune the braking and clutching. Even when it rains, I still find it better to go without gloves.

Why I feel the need to have such fine control, I don't exactly know. Somehow, the steep hills and aggressive driving in the city just made me want to be that way.


  1. I earn my living using my brain, eyes, hands & arms in that order. If I were to lose the ability to use any of them, I would no longer be able to provide for myself and my family. Therefore, proper safety gear is non-negotiable for me. If I can't control the bike with good gear, it's time for me to stop riding. I pray that day never comes.

    1. And I don't question that rationale Paul. But oddly, I find that I've developed a new set of priorities after spending so much time living in the downtown area of San Diego. The way of living here somehow changes me to where I find myself seeing the world from a different perspective.

  2. For my own part, gloves (and helmet and jacket) are an extension of the riding process. They are part of the psychological transformation into Motorcycle Guy, i.e. the version of myself that is alert and ever-thinking when on a motorcycle. I would feel uncomfortable and distracted navigating the tight urban scenes of Britain without my gear on. I'd feel like Hal Jordan without his ring.

    But that's obviously a reflection of my conditioning. You've been riding motorcycles a hell of a long time and perhaps you originally learned to ride without gloves. I would guess that your interaction with a motorcycle is similar to my interaction with a bicycle. I can rock city navigation on my bicycle. I can push to 27 mph on a flat (though, admittedly, I can only sustain that speed for a few hundred yards but it works when sprinting from light to light). I can hit any corner, any space, and I can do it at speed. Seriously, I'm awesome. And if the weather's right I'm happy to do it all in just a T-shirt and shorts. Indeed, I'd prefer to do it that way -- let me breathe, let me move.

    From a logical standpoint it makes no sense. On my bicycle I am in far greater danger than even if I were on my motorcycle. Yet I wear less gear. But because I feel I can react better I feel "safer." Perhaps it's more accurate to say I feel more in control.

    So, I can get where you're coming from. Though, we'll both end up feeling pretty stupid when we end up turning our hands to hamburger in a fall...

  3. Interesting post on how living downtown has changed you.

    I have a tendency to 'kick the lid off the IF bucket' and always wear my gloves on the off chance something bad happens and I go down. The thoughts of an ER nurse scrubbing dirt out of my palms trumps all else, lol.

    That said when I first started riding I hated wearing gloves and had the thinnest I could find as I felt I couldn't feel the controls. Now I wear my winter Aquasports(ie bulky, but waterproof) and I am fine.

    All a matter of personal preference.

  4. I definitely understand your perspective. I've always worn gloves to provide at least some protection (not sure if fingerless gloves count in the protection department, though). I really dislike riding with winter gloves because they do hamper your ability to "feel" the controls. At the end of the day, each of us has to make a risk assessment we're comfortable with. ~Curt

    p.s. Glad to hear you're feeling better...the flu sucks!

  5. Steve:

    I used to ride without gear. Then one day I came to the realization that we are not invincible. I also never wore riding boots but I started to wear riding gear and now it just feels "not right" when not wearing them, even in the hottest weather but I change as soon as I stop.

    I used to read magazines and knew the specs from every model but now it doesn't matter. I don't find it important anymore. A bike is a bike and they all have 2 wheels.

    hope you are getting better

    Riding the Wet Coast

  6. Yeah, Steve, I want to be an ATGATT guy, but sometimes I just ride downdown in shorts and flip flops (and helmet).

    We're big boys. We get to enjoy the wind in our hair and are tough enough to pay any ER bills.

    See you down in the Gaslamp for some craft brew soon.


  7. First time you eat the street you will be saying dam i happy i was wearing gloves. Plus your riding city something i try to avoid if possible gloves are the least of your problems.

  8. Riding without gloves feels good but is not a good idea. I would rather ride in a t-shirt and jeans but wear gloves. The moment you go off a bike your hands will be the first thing to hit the ground, it's just a natural reaction, hands first to slow the impact.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)