Mr. Subjective on Insulated Elkskin Roper Gloves
The Insulated Elk Ropers are different than every other winter riding glove on the market. They are not the bulky thick common cold weather glove ski/snowmobile type glove made in Asia, with a textile and cowhide outer and a fleece inner. They are based on the Elk Ropers (our most popular glove) but feature a knit merino wool lining. The gauntlet section is lined with a slippery nylon knit so it's easier to rotate one's wrists a little without also twisting the sleeve of one's jacket. Which is what happens with unlined deer and elk leather gauntlets.
There is a lot of nuance in this glove. In addition to the thumb visor squeegee, there's a windproof fabric across the back of the hand and fingers positioned between the outer leather and the inner merino wool knit. Farther back, the gauntlet tapers out wider than most cold weather gloves, helping it go over sleeves easer. The gauntlet and wrist have Velcro tab/strap closures that are ergonomically reversed for faster easier off-and-on adjustment. The knuckle pad is made of TF 3 (same as our impact armor)... Continue
These gloves are partly deer skin and partly elk skin (palm) because I like how this combination works and feels. They are made in USA, and I did this design over and over to get it the way it is. I bet there were ten or twelve sequentially modified prototypes of this one, over a two year period before I got to this.
Initially they feel a lot different than the common Asian-made winter ski and snowmobile type winter riders gloves. After they break in a little they are very good. The Merino wool liner is warm and long lasting. The leather sort of stretches to fit after a while, just like the Elk Ropers. These are 'old school' riders gloves, designed and sewn to the n'th degree...as much as I and the company that makes them for us could produce.
This ranch glove company and I have been working together for maybe fifteen years. The ranch glove company did not make anything like this at the time we started down this development and design path.
Lastly, they are not the most ultimate warm winter glove. If you commute 10 miles at freeway speeds on 30-45ºf days without hand-guards, they are ideal. For all-day very low temp long-distance riding, electric gloves are still the way to go. And some types of the typical snowmobile-ski types and styles are a bit warmer, too. But none of these are as comfortable and perfect for around-town everyday riding when temp ranges are down in the twenties, thirties and forties.
For my commuting and every day errand and transportation riding, these are still my fave's. Not so bulky, and still comfortably warm. I spray the backsides of mine with a silicone based 'leather water repellant' about once every year. I think the pair I have are now three or four years old. And they are still getting better... I think most cooler weather riders would like them.
“All of the elkskin glove models are cut and sewn on the exact same patterns so they fit similarly from model to model, but there are slight variations from glove to glove because each glove is hand made and each section of elkhide is a little different. A great way to quickly custom-fit a new pair is to fully wet-saturate on a warm day when you know you'll be riding continuously for several hours, then let them dry and conform to the shape of your hands during that ride.
Elkskin and deerskin can be safely washed using warm water and mild soap. This removes accumulated dirt, oils and stains and will help gloves last longer and feel nicer. After rinsing to remove residual soap, gloves should be gently wrung damp and allowed to dry gradually at room temperature. Do not apply direct heat when drying. They shrink slightly but will stretch to fit during wear.”
Which Elk Glove?
Thanks for your question. I wear both versions of the Elk glove. About 90% of the time I grab either the regular or competition Elkskin Ropers. The gauntleted version is also available, but I seldom take it. Probably only because I don’t have a sport bike option like your VFR.
The gauntlet on the unininsulated version of the gauntleted ropers is not lined, so the suede-ish backside of the leather does drag slightly against the sleeve of a textile jacket, but it’s not enough (to me) to be an issue. Also, as the gloves break in the suede-ishness wears a way slightly so the drag seems even less after a few hundred miles.
The gauntleted models are slightly more to deal with in subtle, nuanced ways. There are just ‘more glove’. The fastest and most unconscious pull-on-and-go is the regular roper. You just snap the wrist snap without thinking and go. Perfect for everyday short-hop, on-and-off-the-bike riding. Next fastest/easiest is the competition model. The wrist strap is much more secure than the snap, but it takes a nano-more of consciousness to manipulate it. For all-day riding, though, I usually pick this one. The gauntlet models add another nano-bit of rigamarole, but for a sport bike rider are probably a better option. These shades of ease-of-use distinction are very slight.
When I travel I normally take two pair of gloves -- usually a pair of competition ropers for wear most of the time, and the insulated gauntleted ropers or Luxury Cowhide. And the triple digit raincovers.
Last November I rode around Lake Superior with some friends on Gold Wings. I was riding my unfaired bike which has heated grips, but is without hand guards (wind protectors). Temps every morning were about 30ºf and the high each day was about 45ºf. I had both of the above and switched multiple times for comparison and evaluation. In the end I liked the insulated elk ones slightly better, but it was very close.
Since that trip (and as a result my experiences on it…) we have slightly increased the insulation thickness of the wind barrier hidden within the backside of the hands and fingers on the insulated elk ropers. Before it was a layer of windproof fabric placed between the wool liner and the elkskin outer. Now it’s a layer of thin windproof fleece (fleece laminated to a layer of wind blocking coated fabric).
The elk gloves are sized by glove sizes, not s,m,l, xl, etc. Basically there are twice as many sizes. For example, both a size 9 and a 9.5 are ‘m’ graded. So you end up with a more precise fit. A good-fitting glove is as important as a good-fitting shoe. It’s the only real difference between an ok glove and a great glove.
-- Mr. Subjective
Some additional Notes on Insulated Elk Ropers
You'll immediately notice some of the nuanced control precision of your summer gloves is absent or reduced. You do get used to this, but it's can be little disconcerting at first. Like most insulated types, these gloves may take a little time to mold to the shape of your hand so you'll experience a comfortable and familiar level of dexterity. It took a few days, maybe a week, before I felt good about the pair I am using now.
It's important with all cold weather gloves that they don't fit too tightly. Having insulative air space around fingers is important for warmth and to prevent finger cramping. One doesn't want to be fighting against the glove to be able to have a good grip.
Separately, to speed break in and improve fit, if a warm day happens to come along and you've got a longish ride planned, soak these gloves fully, then wring them out and wear-them-to-fully-dry while riding. After this they'll be molded-to-shape, and fitted to your hands a little more perfectly. Disclosure: I've never tried this with the merino wool insulated ropers but have had good success doing this with several models of regular Aerostich elk gloves, so it should also provide the same good result with the insulated ones.
Lastly, I've treated the backsides of my merino insulated elk gloves with some 'glove proof' brand waterproofing product. Alternatively, I've also sprayed silicone waterproofing sprays on the backsides of elk gloves with pretty good results. Neither treatment makes them waterproof for extended rain exposures, but for commuting, light intermittent rains, mist and road spray situations a water repellent applied to the backside of these gloves makes a difference.