The AGV Sport Willow gloves are the perfect match for the AGV Sport Willow leather suit (review).
The combination makes a good low-buck street, sport or track day outfit.
The gloves have an array of safety features, although the armor over the middle knuckles is a bit weak.
These are comfortable and good-looking gloves and they are also a good value at their $80.00 street price.
This is Part 2 of our "Budget Track Day" outfit featuring the AGV Sport Willow leather suit and the AGV Sport Willow gloves.
Slip on the new Sidi ST boots (review) and the new Vemar Eclipse helmet (review) and you'll have a very respectable and good-looking track day outfit at a price that can still be considered affordable.
The "Willow" name is used for the entry-level gear of the AGV Sport hierarchy. But the term "entry level" isn't really a good description, because no one likes to be considered a rookie.
With a bit of experience, all of a sudden that rookie is looking for "pro" gear. So instead of "entry level", let's consider the Willow name to represent real value in the AGV Sport lineup.
It's immaterial actually; the point was made in the Willow suit review that you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get a really nice, highly protective, great-looking one-piece leather suit.
If you want to spend a lot of money, well, have at it; there are plenty of ways to do it. But I'd rather spend less to get more any day of the week.
Maybe there's a compromise here and there, but since perfection is unobtainable at any price, then why bother? You'll only be disappointed. Just call it "Bill's Logic".
And then apply it to the AGV Sport Willow gloves.
I think they're a darn good deal at an $80.00 street price, although there isn't much of a spread between the "value" priced Willow gloves and the AGV Sport Dragon gloves, which are a step up in the brand's hierarchy.
But the Dragon gloves are another 18 bucks or so, which is 23% more expensive and 18 bucks is a Chipotle lunch for two. With chips.
Since I haven't tried the Dragon gloves for comparison, this argument is going nowhere fast anyway!
What I can say is this: I like the Willow gloves and I think they're definitely worth $80.00 and they're comfortable and they have all the safety features I require.
The only nit I can pick with them is the middle knuckle protectors, which are made from that hard rubbery plastic stuff that is used on lower-end gloves and which I don't care for because it seems like it will quickly disintegrate when it's needed.
And I'm not too fond of the metal screen over those protectors, which I don't think adds protection and doesn't flow any air anyway.
I'd rather see some type of hard protective material used over those knuckles or even an nice, big thick section of leather.
AGV Sport calls the Willow gloves "a full length sport-racing glove". The other gloves in their lineup are also race-style and they are listed from lowest to highest price as the SP7 ($99.00 list); the Dragon ($109.00) and the Laguna ($124.00).
There isn't a huge amount of obvious difference between the foursome, but there are a few styling details, including differences in the material used for the knuckle protectors and the gauntlet designs.
The leather on the Laguna gloves is said to be "premium" cowhide, but the same term is used for the Willow gloves, so I'm assuming that the quality is the same across the lineup.
So which to choose? Well, this is where the 2011 hard economic times penny-pinching comes in. If you can get by with the Willow gloves, then why spend more?
Let's take a look at the features that I like about the Willow gloves and see if you agree...
First of all, the "premium" leather used for the Willow gloves really does seem to have better than average quality. It has a really nice "hand" (i.e., "feel") and it's soft and pliable and it does not feel like 80-dollar glove leather to me.
In fact, if they upgraded those middle knuckle protectors and changed the rubber molded AGV Sport logo on the gauntlet and wrist strap to something a bit more elegant, I would not have been surprised at all to see a $150.00 price tag on these gloves, and that's the truth.
The inside of the gloves is just as impressive. The AGV Sport marketing material specifically mentions the lining used in the Willow gloves and rightly so.
It's a type of micro-fleece fabric with just the thinnest layer of padding underneath, giving the gloves a rich and comfortable feel, more so than most/all race-type gloves in this price range.
The only possible exception to this -- and I say "possible" because not everyone who has worn the gloves feels it -- is the seam between the gauntlet and the hand.
It's covered with some type of hemming material and it can feel a bit irritating where it rubs around the circumference of the wrist.
The exposed seam issue only depends on how the glove fits you, because this pair in size large runs about 1/2 size small, both in the width and in the finger length, although the thumb is correctly sized with enough room.
I think what may have happened is that the gloves were sized exactly but then the designers didn't take into account the thickness of the lining, which accounts for the half-size small feel.
So if you're borderline large/extra-large, you may want to go the one size up.
Where this is most noticeable is when holding the handlebar grips. Motorcycle gloves can feel perfectly fine until you wrap your hand around the grips and you find the fingers are too short and the width won't accommodate your expanded hand width.
Just like motorcycle pants should look too long when you're standing up, gloves should fit about a half-size too big so when you're holding the hand grips, there's enough room for expansion.
In this case, the soft leather of the Willow gloves may expand a little bit as the gloves get worn in, but I'm not sure.
The dominant protective feature of the Willow gloves is the large main knuckle protector. It's a molded section of metal screen, rather like the material used on a screen door, and it's covered in some type of clear polyurethane.
The protector seems larger than normal and this leaves plenty of room underneath for the main knuckles. The protector "floats" over the knuckles on a separate section of leather and the underside is covered with "memory" foam.
AGV Sport went one step farther though, by cutting out a section of the leather on the body of the gloves, underneath the protector and over the knuckles and they replaced it with an elastic strip.
This is a clever design that allows a lot of flexibility and stretch over this crucial area and it adds a lot of soft comfort in an area which can feel constricted on other glove designs.
There's another section of the plastic-covered mesh protector material located just to the rear of the main knuckle protector and partly underneath. It's the AGV Sport "Air" protector that covers the rear portion of the top of the hand.
It feels like it's filled with air to provide a cushion, but I'm not sure how the air adds to its protective function. But it's an interesting feature.
The palms, the inside of the thumb and the outside of the heel of the hand are all covered with separate sections of buckskin-type leather. It also covers the underside of main knuckles on the palm.
Another section of this material has been added at the heel of the hand.
The gauntlet is adequate to generously sized and it's a three-part device, with dual overlapping wrist closures that add plenty of leather around the wrist.
The two overlapping closures also feature padded sections of leather on the outside and inside of the wrists for added protection, along with two sections on the outside of the thumb.
A separate wrist closure underneath works well and doesn't feel too constricting. It works with elastic sewn into the back of the glove at the wrist juncture on top of the hand to keep the glove secure.
This type of wrist cinch is a must on a racing glove.
AGV Sport is one of the few glove manufacturers to actually list the type of material used for stitching. In the Willow glove, the stitching is made from a "high tensile strength nylon thread".
The stitching is doubled at all the important impact points, including the main knuckle protector, the extra leather on the palms and the outer padding.
The backs of the fingers have extra sections of leather sewn on and the middle knuckle protectors I've already mentioned.
The AGV Sport Willow gloves are pre-curved, but not radically so. The fingers use perforated leather along the sides and it does flow a good volume of air; much more than the middle knuckle protectors.
In fact, enough air flows through the finger leather in certain situations to make the Willow gloves an alternative solution for warm weather riding.
The fingertips have a sort of modified box-section construction, with the leather on the sides forming an "X" at the very tip and the "floor" and "ceiling" of the fingertip formed by the leather on the top and palm of the glove.
This is a good compromise design that doesn't pinch off the fingertips top and bottom, but still allows some room. It's not a touring-type fit with the large box section fingers, which usually leaves too much room in a race-type glove.
As I mentioned earlier, I think the addition of the lining tightens up the sizing by about a half-size and the slight taper of the top and bottom of the fingertips also makes the fingers feel slightly shorter than normal.
All of this leads me to believe the gloves may run slightly smaller than expected, which isn't a problem now that you're aware of it.
The slight shortness means that my fingertips can feel the seams on the inside of the "X" shaped seams at the tips, but otherwise the inside of the fingers is comfortable and fully lined. The lining doesn't seem to impede feel, however.
The AGV Sport Willow gloves were designed with the same philosophy behind the Willow leather suit: provide all the features you need at an affordable price.
This doesn't mean cutting corners, which means you don't feel like you're getting shortchanged.
In fact, just like the Willow suit, the opposite is true -- the word "value" comes to mind again because there's a lot of it to be had here for the $80.00 or so you'll spend on the Willow gloves, which is actually a bargain price when it comes to race-type gloves.
My only gripes are the design of the middle knuckle protectors and the slightly smaller than expected fit, neither of which are deal-killers by any means.
The bottom line is that I can heartily recommend the AGV Sport Willow gloves for their comfort, excellent construction, materials and protective features.
From "G.A.M." (05/11): "Thanks again for another great review. I purchased a pair of these gloves around Christmas (the best way to get what you want for Christmas is to buy it yourself).
I am "old school" and prefer a riding glove with a full gauntlet, and these gloves have full gauntlets.
I purchased them for warm weather riding here in Georgia, and decided to take a chance on the perforations being useful (I have found many perforated gloves that don’t breathe at all).
The finger scoop "vents" are not vents, but the perforations between the fingers are quite good. In fact, I really like this feature, because you can get a lot of air when you want it, just by spreading your fingers apart.
You get a quick and thorough cooling, then you can go back to a normal grip. Unless you spread your fingers, the vents do not flow much air, but when you do spread your fingers, they have excellent air flow. Nice.
The gauntlet and fasteners are excellent, the leather IS supple and very nice indeed. Be sure you don’t close the three gauntlet closures too tightly if you want to keep the blood flowing to your fingers.
This is user error, not a problem with the glove.
I did have one problem with the gloves. Having learned from past experience, I ordered the gloves one size large to allow for swelling of my hands in summer weather.
I found the seams in the finger tips annoying, I kept feeling the seam while riding, and having a time limit to return them, I returned them after two rides for a pair of gloves TWO sizes larger than my normal.
This resulted in longer fingers, and yet no loss at all of snugness to keep the gloves in place, and now I only feel the seams on odd occasions. Some are more odd than others.
I recommend considering larger sizing due to the shorter fingers and the end seams.
These gloves quickly became my "go to" gloves for any riding above 50 degrees. If you don’t spread your fingers, they are acceptably warm to that temperature.
Bottom line, I really like these gloves. Take into consideration how to get the most out of them. The protection is above average, the quality is excellent, they have full gauntlets and the venting is very good, and controllable. Keep up the good work!"
From "H.B." (05/11): "I'm of a slightly different opinion when it comes to choosing "race" gloves. I would prefer to have "race" gloves split into two categories: street sport riding gloves, and race gloves.
If we rank the Willow gloves as street sport riding gloves then I agree fully to whatever was said about them in the review.
However if we call them race/track day gloves then I do not agree with the review at all. Especially the part about saving a few bucks because it apparently makes no difference.
Actually I agree that saving a "few" buck makes no difference--but NOT saving another 70-120 bucks makes a huge difference.
I apparently shared the reviewers opinion of track day gloves when I started visiting track some 4 years ago, and I continued sharing his opinion for the next year. Then two things happened that made me change my mind.
My confidence increased, and I started pushing to/beyond limit, and of-course I crashed at 100 mph. At that time I was using Suomi entry level "race" gloves, that resembled very closely the Willow gloves described in the review; feature, and pricewise.
The result was that the gloves practically disintegrated on impact, and I ended up with four cracked finger tips (eventually losing 2 nails), several very painful and swollen knuckles (on same fingers), and a broken left wrist.
After that experience, I wised up and my next gloves were Held Phantoms (200+ $).
Sure enough, about a year after the first crash I managed to go down in Phantoms as well (at about 90 mph), but the result (as far as hands are concerned) was completely different. Not a scratch anywhere!
Even more importantly, apart from some cosmetic details, gloves survived surprisingly well, and I'm still using them on the track.
The difference is mostly in the liner/safety wraps around pinkie and ring fingers. Instead of "micro fleece fabric" liner, there should be Kevlar wrap. There should be Kevlar layer under the heel of the palm, overlayed by either stingray skin, Superfabric, or Knox plastic sliders.
Likewise there should be same kind of protection on the side edge of pinkie, which is apparently missing on Willows. The leather used should be kangaroo, at least on the palm.
The cheapest gloves satisfying the above criteria (that I know of) are Teknic Xcelerator gloves that sell for 160 bucks. If one is lucky, maybe you can get them on sale for $90 (which is what I paid for Teknic Speedstars last year).
Speedstars likewise satisfy my track day requirements, but are no longer available."
From "D.J." (05/11): "Thank you for the review. I was looking at the photos and noticed something on the AGV Sport gloves I had seen on a totally different brand and type of glove before: the 'Air Protection'.
I have an old pair of M2R winter gloves that have that exact same feature on them.
It's identical in size, shape and the name and font on the inside label is the same as well -- it's the same protection system. I just thought that was interesting. Thanks for a great review."