by "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
See Also: Firstgear Glacier Women's Gloves Review
Part II: Firstgear Tundra Gloves Review
New for 2009, the Firstgear Glacier and Tundra gloves are waterproof, warm and the palms are designed for use with heated grips!
After our recent 9-part winter motorcycle glove review marathon, the last thing I wanted to do was evaluate more motorcycle gloves.
But two things happened: first, our dear webBikeWorld readers (that means YOU!) wrote in droves to ask about gloves that work with heated grips.
Second, the folks at Tucker Rocky, who apparently now own the Firstgear brand, released a couple of new types of gloves in 2009 in the Firstgear TPG series.
And just by the magic of coincidence, both of these gloves are specially designed to work with heated grips!
TPG is a relatively new Firstgear acronym. It stands for "Technical Performance Gear", and the TPG-labeled clothing is the "top of the line" in the Firstgear catalog. We reviewed the Firstgear TPG Rainier jacket last fall and the TPG gloves are designed for that family of clothing.
As an aside, I have to say that we're all very pleased here at webBikeWorld to see that the Firstgear brand, which has gone through a number of changes in the last 10 years, has found an owner who is really working to revive the product lineup.
If you would have asked me about 5 years ago what I thought of Firstgear clothing, I would have probably said something like "Cheap generic clothing sold in local dealers staffed by people who don't know quality".
But the Firstgear products I've seen recently are night to that day -- with excellent quality, modern styling and now with the added bonus of some interesting technology and features in the mix.
webBikeWorld visitors have been asking "Why don't they design winter gloves with no insulation in the palms for use with heated grips?" or something to that effect. Actually, we received several questions using nearly that exact wording.
Even though I own three bikes with heated grips (two BMWs and a Suzuki Bandit), I never thought about this, but it does make sense. And now that I've tried it, I realize what I've been missing.
I have recently been thinking that heated grips just weren't all that effective, but now I realize it may have been because I was using the heat mostly in winter, when I'm wearing heavily insulated gloves.
And I now think that the "missing" insulation in the palms makes not a bit of difference in the warmth provided by the gloves. After all, heated or no, when your hands are wrapped around the grips they're pretty much insulated from wind and cold anyway.
The designers at Firstgear apparently came to the same conclusion and two of the their latest glove designs for 2009 have a minimal amount of insulation in the palms. This allows more heat from the grips to be transferred to the hands, comparable to riding with lightly insulated normal gloves.
Both the TPG Glacier leather gloves in this review, and the TPG Tundra textile gloves in the companion review have this feature, which feels to me like it provides about the same level of heat transfer as wearing un-insulated or lightly insulated "normal" gloves.
Both gloves are also waterproof -- fully tested by our bucket man, Roy "Mad Dog" Earle.
And guess what? Both pairs of gloves also have nice, big, full-sized gauntlets. This topic has been a pet peeve of ours for some time, but I'm happy to report that both of these gloves are model citizens, especially the Tundra gloves, with their very large gauntlets that have a built-in cinch strap.
But all these features are for naught if the gloves aren't comfortable, and the Firstgear Glacier gloves are definitely that. They fit me like a -- what else? -- a glove and without too much of that hard armor that I honestly don't want to deal with when I'm wearing winter gloves.
Seriously, these really do fit me very well, and the size large is I think exactly as a size large should be, so my assumption is that the Glacier gloves run true to size across the range.
In place of the main knuckle armor is a wide swath of articulated leather. The minimal use of hard armor was by design; Firstgear says that the Glacier gloves were deliberately made flexible to prevent tightening or restricting blood flow in the hands, which allows the hands to stay warmer.
The other factor here is that apparently the entire glove is made from goat leather, which, in my experience, is softer and more pliable than cow leather but is claimed to be stronger. Poor old goats...
But the Glacier gloves still have plenty of protective features, with padding sewn in sections over the base segment between the main and middle knuckle and other bits of padding and extra leather sewn over the critical areas.
Also, the gloves have a section of fairly hard, very firm (but not plastic) material on the heel of the hand, the point where you're most likely to see maximum wear as you're sliding down the highway, watching the white light at the end of the tunnel get closer and closer.
I like the design of this hard section, but I noticed that it can sometimes interferes slightly with the hand grips on some motorcycles, depending upon the handlebar-to-seat angular configuration.
The Glacier gloves use a Hipora waterproof and breathable lining between the leather and the inner fabric lining. This definitely keeps the gloves waterproof, as mentioned above. I tried the bucket test myself, but with a twist: I added some ice cubes to the cold water to try and get an idea of the insulating properties of both the Glacier and Tundra gloves.
What I found was interesting: although both gloves are waterproof, the Glacier gloves kept my hands noticeably warmer than the Tundra gloves. The Tundra gloves started to feel cool after about a minute or so and the coolness made them feel like they were damp inside even though no water leaked through.
I haven't noticed this as much when I'm riding, so perhaps it has something to do either with the insulation or the difference in textile vs. leather outer layers when it gets wet. In any case, I find the Glacier gloves to be more comfortable and a better fit for me and besides -- I like leather.
However, when the weather gets really cold, like below about 5 C (40 F), I don't think the Glacier gloves offer the same levels of warmth as the best of the winter gloves in our 9-part series. This is where I think you really need heated grips...or heated gloves.
But when the temperatures drop below 7C/45F, I'm all over my heated gloves anyway, so I consider the Glaciers to be my primary glove in moderately cold temperatures where heated grips will be used.
It could be because of the way they fit, or perhaps Firstgear really is on to something with the "more flexible is better in winter" design philosophy, but the Glacier gloves are very warm without a lot of bulk. The worst of winter is hopefully over, but these are one of my favorite pair of cold-weather riding gloves for sure.
I'd like to note the construction of the Glacier gloves, which is excellent quality. I'm a stitching freak and the stitching on these is wonderful, especially around the part with the Firstgear TPG logo on the back of the hand. I don't know if you can notice it in the photos, but it's very well done, with tiny piping around the perimeter and perfect stitches all around.
Ditto along the back of the thumb -- piping and a perfect row of miniature stitches. I've honestly never seen anything like this before on a pair of gloves -- much less gloves with a list price just this shy of 100 bucks.
The gauntlet has a nicely designed hook-and-loop strap and the gloves have a separate H&L strap on the back of the wrist. Unlike many other gloves I've worn, these straps are perfectly designed and you won't end up with centimeters of loose strap after they're tightened up.
The straps also do what they're supposed to; i.e., keep the gloves firmly planted on the hands. Be careful of inside-out lining syndrome though -- if your hands are damp or sweaty, the lining can turn inside-out on these (as in many other winter gloves), so be careful taking them off, doing it by one finger at a time.
They're relatively light weight also. Each glove weighs 134 grams (4.75 oz.), making them lighter than any other true winter waterproof glove in our recent 9-glove comparison. I'm assuming the absence of insulation in the palm accounts for some of this.
The lighter weight and absence of insulation (although the gloves do have the same soft fabric lining in the palms) help make the Glacier gloves more flexible also, which adds to the comfort, but this comes at a price...
Firstgear (aka Tucker Rocky) is on a roll. Somebody up there must really care about rejuvenating the brand, and with products like this, there's no question about it. The Firstgear Glacier gloves are comfortable, warm waterproof and they're nicely designed with some interesting features and a well-thought-out strap closure system.
The minimal insulation in the palms transfers heat better than most heavily insulated winter gloves, but realize that the Glaciers may not have as much overall insulation as some of the gloves we reviewed in our 9-part series, so the backs of your hands may feel the difference. But for those motorcyclists who have been waiting for winter motorcycle gloves that are designed to work with heated grips, your wait is over!
Add in some highly reflective piping and a decent list price and we have ourselves a winner here folks!
From "D.E." (3/09): "Imagine my delight when I first heard about the new gloves from FirstGear! (I heard it here!).. and when my dealer said they could order me some.
I ordered the same size as I wear in other gloves - medium. After a few weeks - they arrived! Imagine my disappointment when I found the gloves didn't fit. Too tight overall and the fingers were too short.
Not to worry said my dealer - we'll order "large" - which they did. In another week I got a call that they were in, and excitedly went to the dealer to try them on.
Imagine my disappointment when I found the gloves didn't fit. The "body" of the glove fit now - but the fingers each had 1/2"-3/4" of dead space at the end, which would make them unusable on a BMW (with wacky turn signal/horn buttons) or on a touch-screen GPS.
Still disappointed in NJ.. with the back of my hands still cold and the palms burning."
From "M.F." (2/09): "I have a pair of Orina gloves built on the same idea as the Firstgear Glaciers – thick on top, leather on bottom. With my BMWs with heated grips, they really are the best. This design idea is the only way to go for heated grip bikes.
On a 2007 K1200GT the gloves work down to 25 degrees or so. Below that, the next step are the cumbersome Gerbings gloves. Cumbersome getting them wired up & on."