Sep 17, 2014

Product Review: Aerostich Competition Elkskin Roper Gloves

All Rights Reserved © 2014 Thomas W. Day

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This is what a  brand new, un-abused pair of Aerostich Competition Elkskin Ropers looks like right out of the package.

Motorcyclists can't get enough of gloves. We lose them, crash and tear them up, wear them out, and, when they aren't comfortable, we just toss them in the gear box and buy another pair. Going through my gear box this fall, I discovered that I have exactly 6 pairs of motorcycle gloves, all different brands, styles, and in varying states of abuse. At least three pairs are practically useless, but I'm hanging on to them for the memories and yard work. My two sets of Goretex cold weather gloves are in storage because they are freakin' worthless. Of the six pairs, only one is still decent protection and comfortable enough to wear regularly. So, I backed up my current favorite gloves with Aerostich Competition Elkskin Ropers. As far as I can tell, the difference between Competition Ropers and the regular spread is the addition of padded knuckle protection.

Among distance riders, the Aerostich Ropers are legendary. Guys brag about wearing them so long that they are inclined to give them a formal burial ceremony when they finally wear out. Words like "old friends" and "companions" are included in their endorsements.

With that background, I decided to put a pair to the MMM test. It turned out to be a much harder, longer test than I'd expected. I wanted to use the gloves from new to worn-out, but I may not live long enough to end this test. So, here's my report after 6 years and 78,000 miles.I've worn these gloves to and from Alaska, Nova Scotia, the ghost towns of North Dakota, through most of the Rocky Mountains, across the western desert, in rain storms and snow, on days so hot I poured cold water all over the gloves at every stop to keep my hands from baking, and on grocery runs and weekend camping trips to Duluth. They now fit me so well that I suspect they wouldn't do for anyone but me.

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This is what a  pair of Aerostich Competition Elkskin Ropers looks like at 78,000 miles and six years; including some yard work/break-in time.

Part of the long term relationship with these gloves is the break-in period. When I first pried my fingers into my Ropers, it took some effort to get them on and more time-and-use than usual to break them in. The leather is thick and tough and only heavy use will loosen them up. Aerostich's care recommendations took some self-conditioning, too. I tend to follow the manufacturer's instructions, so my Ropers are still untreated after their second season of use. Two years and 14,000 miles later and my Competition Ropers are comfortable, incredibly durable, and mostly broken-in. These are incredibly tough gloves and as such they take some wearing to mold to your hands.

It might have taken more than a whole season of riding to break in these gloves and I'm not that patient. Instead, I wore them on the bike and as work gloves on a couple of home construction projects and that accelerated the break-in period. Patience, my ass. I wanted to enjoy these things in my lifetime. They are great work gloves, way tougher than anything you can find at a lumberyard. On my 2009 North Dakota dirt road tour, the Ropers got a workout. I was rained on, sun-baked, blown across county lines, and I wrestled my V-Strom out of a few marginally-legal off road situations. Even though (per Aerostich instructions) I didn't waterproof the gloves, they did a pretty good job of keeping my hands dry in wet weather situations.

Being the clueless moron I am, I had to watch the Aerostich YouTube video to discover the built-in left thumb visor wiper. However, that design is so intuitive I'd been naturally using the wiper without knowing it was there. Now that is how an ergonomic design is supposed to work.

As of today, my relationship with my Competition Ropers is "mostly-love 'em." Above 70oF the choice is complicated, because I have several lighter, more flexible gloves to choose from. For a long trip, over 500 miles, I wear the Ropers regardless of temperature. Around town and for short trips, when the outside temperature is below 70oF and above 40oF, I always opt for the Ropers. Below 40oF I wear the Ropers and the Aerostich Triple Digit Raincovers or one of the several Goretex™ insulated gloves I've collected. After two years, I didn't really consider the Ropers "all the way broken-in." They were still a little stiff and it took more strength to close my hands than I'd like, which can be tiring after a long day. At seven years, they feel like they belong on my hands. For a short bit, I forsake my Ropers for the gauntlet version of the same glove. It didn’t take me long to lose one of the gauntlets, so I’m back to my old Ropers. When I can bring myself to cough up another $100 for gloves, it will be on the Roper Gauntlets.

Last year, an MSF coach I work with was complaining that he couldn't find "decent touring gloves." I showed him my Ropers and he claimed the security strap was insufficient. I put the gloves on and dared him to pull them off. He almost dislocated my elbow, but the glove stayed in place. My Ropers are the toughest gloves I've ever owned and I'd rather be wearing them in a high-speed crash than any glove I've ever owned. In the end, I think that means we are good friends, but maybe not lovers. I absolutely trust my Competition Ropers to protect my precious digits.

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4 comments:

Dale B said...

I bought a pair of these about five years ago. They do indeed take quite a while to break in. They are my favorite gloves. The only issue I have is the inside seams at the end of the fingers dig into my fingertips. That's probably my fault. I have narrow hands with long skinny fingers and getting a glove that fits properly is tough.

Sizing on these is more complicated that S-M-L-XL. You have to take actual measurements with a tape measure.

Dale B

Thomas Day said...

Dale,

I have a completely different problem with gloves. My hands are wide, fat, and my fingers are short and . . . fat. My wife calls them, "Tom's paws." Finding gloves that will pull over my hands and that don't leave me with an inch of excess finger length is a problem. You're right about the complication of the Aerostich Roper sizing, but if you take the time to do the measurments you can get a glove that fits. Spent the day with my Ropers at a ZARS class on Sunday and the confidence and comfort my Ropers provided is worth some extra cash on a track day.

Jack W said...

The seams hurt my fingers. They're in the closet in a box with others that won't be worn again.

Thomas Day said...

Gloves, underwear, and socks are probably the most personal clothing there is. What works for me might not for you. Like my Gaerne boots and my old Vasque hiking boots, the Ropers take a while to break in. I used mine for yard work for a week before I took them on the road.