Gloves are terribly important for motorcyclists. Now I’m not going to get all preachy about the need for wearing them – if I have to tell you why you should wear gloves you probably have someone reading this to you. No, they’re important because bad gloves are often uncomfortable and rob you of feel. Actually that’s not fair. Bad summer gloves are uncomfortable and probably chafe because they don’t fit properly. They also often bleed colour when they get wet (and that non-waterproof dye suddenly becomes extraordinarily water resistant when you try to wash it off your hands) and have the added bonus of falling apart when you need them most. Personally I will always buy the best gloves I can afford and never, ever ride without them. No matter how hot it is. But you are free to make your own choice, of course.
To assist with that choice, may I present the Knox Handroid Mk4. Yes, Knox. The people who make armour for lots of other people also make quite a lot of stuff for their own label. The Handroid has been around since 2010, and this latest version builds on what’s already established as a strong contender for the “Best (or at least safest) sports glove on the market” award.
It's quite a striking looking thing, with the H.R. Giger-esque exoskeleton on the back of the fingers, no Velcro fasteners anywhere to be seen and serious looking bits of armour dotted around the place. It is not an especially pretty glove, but there’s no doubting its purpose.
Let’s have a closer look. Starting on the back of the fingers with the most obvious feature of the glove. The flexible spines running down the back of each finger, starting under the metacarpal protector providing impact and abrasion protection to the whole finger, rather than just the parts covered by plates on conventional gloves. The metacarpal protector sits over the back of your hand and is gel lined to reduce shock transmission in the event of a hard knock.
Moving further up the back of the glove you’ll see some thin cord laced across from one side to the other, criss-crossing until it comes to a dial on the back of the wrist. This, as you’ll see from the label on that dial, is the Boa fastening system. That thin cord is ludicrously strong, (it's actually woven stainless steel inside a plastic coating) and is laced through the parts of the glove that would normally be fastened with Velcro. Turn the dial and the glove is neatly and uniformly tightened. Pull the dial out and you can release the bindings easily. Leave the dial in and once you’ve done it up there’s no chance I can see of that glove coming off.
Flipping over to the palm side, there are no less than three patches of armour – one high up in the middle of the wrist, one protecting the scaphoid (that’s an awkward triangular bone near the base of your thumb) and one on the opposite side of the wrist. These last two aren’t just armour, they’re sliders as well. A broken scaphoid is one of the most common injuries we get, and it’s actually really easy to do. The alternative, if something is going to break, is the forearm or the collarbone. What the Scaphoid Protection System does, as I understand it, is not only absorbing impact directly to the scaphoid and reducing the chance of a break there, but also reducing injuries further up the arm by sliding instead of grabbing the road. That minimises the shock transmitted to all the other fragile bits, as well as reducing the risk of getting fingers hyperextended and so makes it more likely that you can walk away with both arms still working as planned. Which is nice.
You’ll also notice the palm is a different colour and slightly different texture to the rest of the glove. It’s kangaroo hide. Kangaroos lead a tough life, fight each other like demons and are generally pretty hardy. And their hides are correspondingly tough – kangaroo hide is by far the strongest leather you’ll find, weight for weight, and is still flexible enough to be comfortable on a glove. So it stands to reason that Knox would make the palm and finger faces out of it, right?
OK, we’ve looked and fiddled. Time to see what they’re like to actually use.
So I used the sizing tool on the Knox website www.planet-knox.com to work out which size to go for and actually double checked with one of their very helpful team before ordering. My gloves are the right size. But there is no room for me to get fat hands. It wouldn’t be wrong to say they fit like a glove, obviously. But they are…snug. Yes, snug is a good word. Having said that, having worn them for a good few hours on the bike they are definitely adjusting to my hands. Or maybe my hands are adjusting to them. Either way they are easier to get on and off than they were, though once on there was never any discomfort, even before. The fingers are the right length for my hands (not always the case) and the armour sits in the right place without pressing or chafing. After an hour or so the finger spines became a little uncomfortable on the first journey, and then that went away. Talking to another bloke with a pair at a trackday it seems they all do that as the spines soften up a bit. The several hours on track and the long ride home were fine, so I think we can chalk that up to a bit more breaking in.
It's pretty hot in the UK at the moment, but the Handroids seem to be adequately vented through the channels under the metacarpal cover which spread air across the top of the hand, and there’s no sign of my sweaty hands leaching colour from the leather, which is nice. What’s even nicer is the degree of feel you get with them. My previous gloves were the best I have ever worn for feel and sensitivity. They were also rather more than twice the price. The Handroids are so close that I couldn’t say which are better – it is literally like not having gloves on.
The Boa system takes some getting used to. It’s not ideal if you want to wear your gloves inside your cuffs because it’s quite bulky, but it does allow you to open the glove cuff a really long way to get over your sleeve. And then you can ratchet it down tight to make an almost waterproof seal. It’s never going to be completely waterproof of course, but then again, neither is the glove… Aside from that little quirk, Boa is quick and easy to use, and after the second or third time you’ll be wondering why you ever messed around with Velcro straps. By the way, the system is licenced from Boa in the USA, and one of the great things is that you can get a repair kit, should you need one, free of charge from https://www.boafit.com/en-gb/support
So to sum up, the Knox Handroid Mk4 is a brilliant glove. It’s comfortable, it’s safe, it looks cool and it is stupendous value for money at £229.99 delivered from www.planet-knox.com, which is around half the cost of premium gloves from other brands. I can’t actually see any reason why, if you’re looking for a sporty summer glove, you’d look at anything else.