Race gloves with the addition of a Gore-Tex membrane and Gore-Tex guarantee.
Continuing with our five-part series on Eska gloves, we'll turn now to the top-of-the-line Eska race glove, the Indianapolis GTX.
Eska actually makes many dozens of different types of motorcycle gloves for street, sport, scootering and racing. The Indianapolis GTX gloves are very exciting because we think they are a good representative of what is apparently the Eska strategy of adding unexpected yet highly functional features to their gloves as a distinguishment from the competition.
It's always a thrill to introduce a product that is unique, obscure or segment-busting, and this one is all three. The fit and comfort of the Eska Indianapolis GTX gloves is different from other pure race gloves we've reviewed. Motorcycle gloves designed for racing usually have few compromises for street use, but these are remarkable in their comfort and for a very unusual addition to a motorcycle race glove: the Gore-Tex "X-Trafit" membrane.
Although there are a few styles of very high-end motorcycle gloves and ski gloves that use this technology, as far as we can tell the Eska Indianapolis GTX is the only motorcycle race-oriented glove that is currently available with X-Trafit.
UPDATE: More Information About Gore-Tex X-Trafit
The Gore-Tex X-Trafit membrane is slightly different than the Gore-Tex "XCR" or other Gore-Tex membranes that may be more familiar to motorcyclists.
The X-Trafit technology was designed to add a minimum amount of thickness specifically for gloves and to add a sense of "tactility" or "feel" (according to Eska) while still providing the familiar Gore-Tex waterproof, windproof and breathable barrier (here is the full description of Gore-Tex X-Trafit).
Our standard webBikeWorld "Bucket Test" confirms the Indianapolis GTX are indeed waterproof -- and this was a big surprise actually. Neither of us considered there would be a truly water- and wind-proof motorcycle race glove; it sort of doesn't compute.
One thing to note, however, is that these are not designed as a replacement for rain gloves but only to offer some additional protection over most or all of the other race gloves available today. The high quality leather used in the Indianapolis GTX gloves will absorb water, unlike some waterproof touring gloves that have specially treated leather (or textile) outer shells.
The leather still felt damp 24 hours after holding the gloves underwater while wearing them and the fabric liner must have absorbed some of the water also, as it felt slightly damp in the fingertips. So the leather will remain damp for some time, as most leather gloves will, waterproof or not. The Gore-Tex membrane does apparently work though and it even protected the gloves from water entering through the special Eska "Airflow System" vent on the main knuckle protector.
This vent is designed to allow some air to flow over the Gore-Tex membrane, which is necessary to engage the osmosis process or whatever it is that helps to transfer moisture from the rider's body through the membrane, while keeping external moisture out.
To manufacture the Indianapolis GTX gloves with the Gore-Tex membrane, Eska obtained one of the coveted Gore-Tex licenses. This requires ultra-strict manufacturing standards and quality control and is carefully monitored by W.L. Gore.
The strict regulations are necessary because Gore-Tex puts their "Guaranteed to Keep You Dry" label on the Indianapolis GTX gloves, which means that Gore-Tex themselves guarantee the product. The Gore-Tex guarantee states "If you are not completely satisfied with the waterproofness, windproofness or breathability of your GORE-TEX outerwear then we will repair, replace or refund your purchase price". Sweet!
The X-Trafit membrane does make the Indianapolis GTX glove feel slightly thicker than a "normal" race glove (i.e., the types with those paper-thin kangaroo leather palms). But the membrane also adds a bit of comfort to the gloves without isolating the rider's hand too much from grip feel. The membrane is bonded to the inside of the leather and between the leather and the internal fabric glove liner.
The gloves also have a fabric lining on the inside, right down to the fingertips, which serves as a barrier between the glove seams and the rider's hand, so there's no discomfort from errant seams. Eska uses phrases like "a close fit and high tactility" and "improved dexterity" to describe X-Trafit in their marketing materials.
I'm not sure how many of us race motorcycles in the rain, but for street and sport riding, the Indianapolis GTX is just the ticket. The X-Trafit membrane is just enough to add a bit of insulation -- "padding", if you will -- while providing grip feel similar to other street gloves. So the bottom line is that you can have your race-quality protection with waterproof and windproof capabilities all at once, which is probably a first for this type of glove.
The Indianapolis GTX gloves have all of the standard race-style features found in gloves of this type. The construction techniques appear to be of high quality, with many double stitched seams and even a quintuple (5) seamed area at the outer wrist.
The body of the gloves is made from leather that we measured at 1.1 mm thick. There are no open weave or textile sections on the gloves that we could find; with the exception of the carbon fiber and TPU protectors, everything is leather, including the accordion pleats at the thumb.
The seams on most of the important protective parts overlap each other or the leather body of gloves, which may provide an extra level of protection at the critical wear points. Most of the seams are double-stitched with blind stitches used on the outside of the forefinger and insides of each of the other fingers at the top.
The underside of the palm creates a "floor" for the glove, with the "walls" and "ceiling" of the fingers attached with an external seam at the bottom (palm side) edges of the fingers. This type of construction maximizes the surface area on the palms and fingers for grip feel.
The palms are also leather with additional Pittards "digital palm" sections covering the palm and between the thumb and forefinger for wear protection and grip. The thumb/forefinger section is separate from the deeply serrated palm section, which is cut in a way that allows the palm to curl without binding.
The thumb/forefinger section of the Pittards leather has three "bulls eye" type silicone grip enhancers.
The outer edge of each hand of the Indianapolis GTX gloves have a large section of protective leather that covers the main body of the glove. This section has two irregularly shaped padded protectors to cover the outside of the middle and first knuckles.
The pad for the middle knuckle has a very unusual shape and the design becomes apparent when the hand is curled around the grips. The shape is designed to bend around in the shape of a kidney bean, which follows the natural curve of the hand and helps to prevent binding. Pretty clever...
The gloves also have a carbon fiber protector at the outer edge of the heel of the hand, placed on another large section of external leather. Both of these outer edge protection pieces are double stitched to the glove and the carbon fiber protector has a relatively wide lip underneath that is used as a base for the stitching that holds it in place.
The outside of the thumb is protected by a separate semi-floating section of leather blind-stitched to the thumb seams on either side. It has a single small V-shaped cutout on either side at the middle thumb knuckle to aid flexibility.
This section is also backed with a separate piece of semi-shiny leather to allow it to slide more easily over the thumb as it bends. There are three small kidney-shaped protective pads sewn into the top of this to protect the thumb. The thumb uses the Eska "Easy Flex" design with leather accordion pleats and the semi-floating thumb protector, both of which add to the flexibility of the leather and to provide pressure relief for the thumb.
The gloves also have a gel pad protecting the scaphoid/capitate area. This is sewn into and surrounded by the Pittards leather covering most of the rest of the palm.
The Indianapolis GTX gloves have five carbon fiber knuckle protectors sewn into separate sections of leather over the first, second and third finger. The forefinger and second finger have the protectors over the middle and first knuckles, while the third finger has the fifth protector over the middle knuckle, with a separate section of leather double-stitched on to the top of the fingertip. The pinky finger is protected as described above.
The main knuckle protector on the Indianapolis GTX gloves is made from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), a material often used as protection for motorcycle gloves. The TPU used on the Indianapolis GTX gloves is a very large section that covers nearly the entire top of the hand. It has a low profile and its molded underneath for the knuckles, so it remains comfortable and out of the way.
The protector uses the Eska "Airflow System" vent, which in this case aerates the Gore-Tex X-Trafit liner to assist in the moisture transfer process. The vent was submerged in water during our "bucket test" but no leakage was found through the Gore-Tex membrane.
Overall, the protectors and leather on the Eska Indianapolis GTX gloves provides a high level of protection without compromising comfort.
The Indianapolis GTX gloves secure on the hands with dual attachments at the wrist, including a large TPU plastic gauntlet cover in the rear and a separate security strap under the wrist.
The gauntlet is large and the TPU cover probably offers good protection, but its shiny surface can become scratched and it doesn't offer as much flexibility as a leather cover. So there's a slight tradeoff here between protection and flexibility, with the emphasis on protection.
The second wrist strap on the underside of the wrist uses a metal loop attached to a leather standoff that is sewn with a single row of stitching. The hook-and-loop material that is attached to the leather security strap is also stitched, rather than glued. So this assembly seems more robust than some of the other wrist straps we've seen.
The leather underneath the wrist strap is one piece; in fact, it appears that the entire section of leather on the palm, from the fingertips all the way down to the hem of the gauntlet, is all one continuous piece of leather. It has a section of elastic sewn in to the wrist underneath the security strap.
All of the Eska gloves we are reviewing carry the CE mark and Eska confirmed they meet the European EN 13594:2002 safety standard for motorcycle gloves and EN 340 for protective clothing standards.
The fingertips of the Indianapolis GTX gloves are stitched using a hybrid internal and external seam system, partly described above. The tops of the fingers meet the two "walls" of leather on either side of the fingers at the fingertip. The "walls" have a very small (approx. 2 mm) height at the very tip of the fingers, and the two halves of the leather are very tightly sewn together here, forming a seam. See the close-up photo above for an illustration.
This is a unique system -- or at least one we haven't seen before -- because the "walls" created by the leather come together with an overlap of the outside wall over the inside. You have to look very closely to see the construction and we'll have to assume it's a technique learned from the 100 years or so of Eska glove making.
The "floor" of the gloves under the fingers is then sewn with an external seam in race-glove fashion. This system is a cross between the "box" type of construction consisting of "two walls, ceiling and floor" found in touring gloves and the razor-thin fingertips found on many race gloves. It provides more room for the fingertips but with a thinner profile.
The Indianapolis GTX gloves shown here are size 10 (XL). They fit perhaps 1/2 size larger than a standard men's size large gloves and there is enough room in the fingers to account for gripping the handlebars. The hybrid fingertip construction helps minimize the size differentiation because a "box" construction, unless it fits perfectly, can make the gloves feel sloppy at the fingertips.
The lining material used in the gloves is very comfortable and we'd have to say that the Indianapolis GTX gloves are probably among the most comfortable race-oriented motorcycle gloves we've reviewed. Somehow, the Gore-Tex X-Trafit membrane with its slight extra thickness gives a very good feeling of security when wearing these gloves, along with protection from wind and rain and an extra touch of warmth.
One thing we've noticed about all of the Eska gloves is that the construction methods and techniques seem to be executed in a way that makes us feel that the company has an understanding of how the human hand moves when gripping motorcycle handlebars. This often isn't the case with motorcycle gloves, many of which are probably made in some unidentifiable factory somewhere by people who don't have a clue about motorcycles.
Like the Eska H2 gloves we reviewed, the Indianapolis GTX gloves are comfortable with no obvious pressure points on the hands.
The Eska Indianapolis GTX gloves are a very interesting mix of race glove construction with the high-end Gore-Tex X-Trafit water- and wind-proof membrane technology.
This helps make the gloves more comfortable to wear in conditions that one might not normally consider for a race-type motorcycle glove. While not designed as a waterproof touring glove might be, nor as a winter glove, the benefit of the Indianapolis GTX gloves is that there is no compromise on protection.
The gloves are also fairly priced considering all of the features and the Gore-Tex guarantee.
It's not easy to find Eska gloves at this point. The brand is difficult to find in the online retailers in the UK, France or the rest of Europe, but they're worth seeking out as a comparison to the other major brands. More Eska glove reviews coming soon, so stay tuned!
Buying Eska Gloves: Due to the strong response from the webBikeWorld reviews, Eska is now taking email orders for gloves shipped worldwide, directly from the factory. They said that an online purchasing system with shopping cart will also become available soon! For more information, contact Eska directly through their website.