Requiem for a pair of gloves
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
This is my pair of Held Air n Dry gloves. They are, quite simply <engage Clarkson voice> the best gloves... in the world…
I say that not because I rode round the world in them – though I did – but because that was just an 18,000-mile, four-month stint. A mere drop in the ocean of the service they’ve given me over nearly six years and the better part of 200,000 miles.
Let’s go back a step and look at what they are: long-cuffed, leather-and-cloth gloves with a Velcro cuff adjuster and a Velcro wrist strap to secure them. They have a hard plastic knuckle protector, padding on the outside of the wrist and a padded Superfabric panel on the heel of the hand to give extra protection to the scaphoid (bit late for mine – it was pinned in 1990).
The clever bit is that they’re two-chamber gloves. One chamber is waterproof, the other isn't. On dry days, your hand sits behind the perforated kangaroo leather palm: it’s thin, giving great feel for the controls, while all the perforations let plenty of air in to keep hands cool but, as it's kangaroo leather, it's properly tough.
But these are waterproof gloves. Now, the first time I saw a pair, a designer had just put them on and exclaimed, “But I can see my wedding ring through the perforations – they can’t be waterproof. I’ll test them…” And he ran his hand under a tap. And it got wet.
That’s because when it rains, you don’t leave your hand in the perforated side. You take take the glove off and put it back on again – this time shoving your hand into the Gore-Tex glove that sits, piggyback, behind the nice breezy side.
I know: when I explain it like that, it sounds a bit odd. But when you try a pair on, it becomes obvious and so simple – and it’s so effective. They are properly waterproof and though there isn’t the same level of direct feedback as you get from the thin kangaroo side, the Gore-Tex half still gives really good feel – these aren't oven-mitt-style winter gloves. Far from it.
Wet, dry, hot, cold, they just work. They’re three-season gloves: something warmer is needed for December to February (and maybe for chilly days in November and March on bikes without heated grips). But for the bulk of the spring/summer/autumn riding season, they're brilliant.
The best aspect is the speed with which you can adapt to the weather: if it starts raining, pull over and take them off, put them on again. Simple. No going into the luggage looking for spare gloves. You already have your spare, waterproof gloves – on your hands. It is like the old shampoo-and-conditioner adverts: take two bottles into the shower with you? Take two pairs of gloves on tour with you? Not with these two-in-one gloves…
I have been struggling to work out when I got my pair – it feels like I’ve had them forever. I worked out they arrived in the spring of 2014, which was my highest-mile year. That’s when I did more or less 50,000 miles between March and November – complete laps of Spain and Italy, three trips around the North Coast 500 (before it was called that), a tourers test to Germany, the BMW run to Garmisch, a couple of trips to the Alps… it all added up. Since getting them, the miles have kept coming – ironically, 2019 was one of my lower-mile years, despite riding across the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Since getting them, I’d say roughly two-thirds of my riding has been in the Air n Drys (with the rest evenly divided between Held Cold Champs or a pair of heated gloves in winter and my Held Phantom race gloves in summer). How many miles have they done altogether? It is almost impossible to be certain, but at the low end I’d say 120,000 miles – but it’s more likely to be nearer 180,000 miles… maybe even a whisker more.
But now, finally, I’m retiring them. Though the dry side, the perforated side, still has plenty of life left. Indeed, the right hand still has plenty of life left in it. The left-hand, though… it hasn’t been the same since riding through Tropical Storm Barry last year. To its credit, it still hasn’t leaked, but now the Gore-Tex liner tends to come out when I take my hand out and sometimes it’s hard to get my hand back in. That does happen to all waterproof gloves eventually – and to be fair, I think this one’s lasted amazingly well.
So what am I replacing them with? No question: another pair of Air n Drys. My mileage is likely to be a lot lower now I’m not on a motorcycle magazine, so these should last a good ten years. If not more.
Of course, they are expensive gloves: £175 a pair usually (money off at the moment at Sportsbikeshop). I still think that’s amazing value for money. You can rationalise it any way you want – you’d spend more on two pairs of decent gloves, etc – but for me they justify the price tag not by doing two jobs brilliantly, but by doing two jobs brilliantly for a really, really long time. They are the most comfortable, flexible, reliable gloves I've used. You absolutely get your money’s worth from the Held Air n Dry gloves – they really are <Clarkson voice again> the best gloves… in the world.