I used to ride in gardening gloves until I rewatched the footage from the from an early scene of On any Sunday where a chap’s glove “goes flying 30 feet down the track” after an accident. Looking cool suddenly became secondary to being able to get to work and do my job.
There are now so many short gloves on the market that actually offer proper protection, so many that it’s a task to navigate through the options. Most of them feature hard knuckle protection or at least D3O squidgy armour but nearly all lack meaningful palm protection. Another layer of leather is good news and helpful, rivets like the good old days not so much. I got one of those lodged in the flesh of my hand after a spill at Wheels & Waves a few years back, not pretty. But if you watch the vid at the bottom (do please acknowledge my rambling before scrolling) you’ll see why even the thickest hide isn’t the thing to choose.
The crash test boffins at Knox share this view and manufacture some particularly curious looking contraptions for racing and have introduced some of this tech into their urban range. Knox are a British, family run company with a factory in Cumbria and a design studio in east London. Most bikers who wear protective gear will probably have bought Knox armour, mostly without knowing, as the firm supplies many of the main brands with protective padding and inserts. Until D3O turned up to spoil the party Knox were ruling the armour business. We’ve had a relationship with them since day one of opening our London store and are constantly impressed by their ability to incorporate the height of protective tech without the Power Ranger styling. Interesting fact – Knox founder and former racer Geoff Travell actually invented the back protector as we know it by splicing together a bunch of old visors. We all owe Geoff a beer I reckon.
The Orsa is their short urban glove which packs in many of the protective features as the full length race gloves while remaining stylish and understated. Available in either lightweight suede and textile or leather, with two USPs. Firstly their Boa locking system not only secures the glove in place but also provides vital wrist protection by way of a hard plastic cuff with slidey nodules. If you’re old-ish like me you’ll remember the Puma Disc trainer with a similar mechanism. Sure, the closure doesn’t look as angle grinder sparks and heritage as a worn gardening glove but it works well. Which is kind of the idea of riding gear, right?
The bit I was interested in though was the blobs of hard plastic on the heel of the palm, designed to shield the oh-so important scaphoid bone. Not just from the initial impact but from the twisting forces the hand and wrist experience as leather grips tarmac and the arm rotates over the top – the common cause of a snapped scaphoid. Instead the blobs act like mini knee sliders and allow the palm slow at the same rate as the rate of the fallen rider. They will of course wear away in place of leather and one’s skin.
I have used the MX version for flat tracking but the weird way I hold the throttle with the grip’s end poking into the middle of my palm meant interference with the blobs. For summer enduros I’ll definitely be using these again as they breathe really well, are incredibly comfortable and have a really handy towelling layer on the thumb for wiping snot and sweat.
With an impending press launch on the Ducati Scrambler 1100 I thought I’d try the leather Orsa as I figured we’d be pressing on a bit. The Boa fastening is the same as the MX version and the scaphoid protection is the same too. They’re just made from goatskin and have a thin layer of memory foam in the impact areas. The hard plastic knuckle guard is flexible with a honeycomb gel between it and the foam backing. The latter seems an obvious but I’m amazed how many gloves are tortuous once the fist is clenched and the hard plastic digs in. It’s also the correct size. I wear an XL glove, so surely my hands are extra large. Why some manufacturers then fit a knuckle protector more suited to a Pigmy infant I’ll never know. Knox have their measurements correct. You definitely feel like you could punch through a wall wearing the Orsa.
Although comfortable and well fitting, like any leather glove the Orsa needs a little bedding-in. I tend to rely on British weather to speed up the process, or soak new gloves in water and then go for a ride until dry. One thing though I do wish though is that all glove manufacturers would try this simple experiment. Hold your hands out and make a grip shape, with the other hand press the top of the thumb knuckle on the semi-clenched fist. Yup, no meat, just skin and then bone. Dear ALL manufacturers, a seam never ever belongs here. All the braking force and body weight meets the handlebar in that one spot causing numbness and discomfort. Put the damn thing somewhere else! Although Knox are guilty of this to a smaller degree than most I’m still a few rides away from the seam capitulating and softening. That said, since I started typing for a living my hands have become baby arse soft and not very resilient. On the plus side the scaphoid protection blobs do stop the heel of your palm from trying to rotate over the grip.
The Orsa does have other handy features. The plastic wrist cuff is shaped for sliding protection but an intentional lip also provides plenty of purchase for pull the gloves on easily. Also, the index fingers have a layer of special material on the tip for touchscreen compatibility, in case you need to use a map or just can’t cope without checking Instagram every 10 minutes.
Overall I’m very happy (a big thing for me) with these gloves and they feel well made and premium quality. Plus I enjoy knowing that Geoff and the team have been MacGyvering all sorts of contraptions to try and break their products and constantly innovate to ensure we’re all well looked after.
I’m due to spin a few laps of Donnington in a few weeks at the Ron Haslam School and although Knox’s mega looking Handroid glove is probably the tool for the job I reckon the Orsa is more than good enough to protect my paws. Let’s hope this is where the review ends.
Actually it doesn’t end there. I’ve been using the Orsa daily and have become a real fan of the Boa latch system. Super quick and easy at the petrol station etc but the clincher for me was at the aforementioned trip to Donnington. Banked over in 3rd gear through Hollywood, just before the Craner Curves, I felt my right glove was a bit loose. A simple reach over and a couple of clicks later the snugness level gave me the confidence to open the taps and press on.
The aggravating seam has succumbed slightly…. I wedged a spark plug socket into the thumb pocket and placed the glove over a metal bar, and smashed it repeatedly with a rubber mallet. The leather has capitulated somewhat but I’m clearly still moaning about it so I’ll need to get in there with a Dremel.
I’ve got heated grips fitted to my daily rider so I see no reason why the Orsa won’t see me through the winter.
We don’t currently stock the Orsa in our London store but you can check sizing charts and order here.
To further understand the palm sliders check out this informative vid.
See more reviews on ROSS’ BLOG