The Breakdown

While not a new entry in Alpinestars lineup, the SP AIR Leather gloves still make a compelling case for the rider looking for good protection combined with good venting for hot weather riding. Unlike many “summer” gloves, the SP AIR gloves have a full gauntlet and use leather for the majority of their construction.
Overall 70%
Pros
Good protection for a vented glove / Good airflow / Robust construction
Cons
Wrist strap hangs up / Interior seams reduce overall comfort

Video Review

Introduction, and a Thank You

Spring 2020 is here and the world has certainly changed quite a bit over the past several weeks. The outbreak of COVID-19 has drastically altered the way people go about their lives all over the globe. Before getting into the review, I want to acknowledge all the vital work that is being performed every day by staff in the various industries that continue to be hard at work through this crisis. 

Also, while I usually keep my webBikeWorld “world” and my “work” world separate, today I’m knocking down that wall to give some well-deserved appreciation. I want to say thank you to my colleagues and leadership at my place of work, HCA Healthcare. During the recent weeks, the clinical education team, of which I’m part, has had not only more work to do but also have to be very flexible in order to react to the rapid procedural and policy changes happening in the clinical space. 

It’s been a great source of pride to be part of the HCA Center for Clinical Advancement as we work together and produce updated education materials our clinical staff needs as the situation has evolved. I also want to recognize our HCA senior leadership for their inspiring behavior during this crisis. They have truly demonstrated our mission of “Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life”.  

Thank you.

So where was I? Oh yeah, a glove review 🙂

With warmer weather finally arriving, I wanted to find a new pair of summer weight gloves for 2020. I believe for most people, choosing a pair of gloves isn’t a difficult or lengthy task. For me, this means a lot of searching and comparisons can occur over several days or even weeks. However, in this case, it only took a few days to narrow down my choice.

Alpinestars SP Air Gloves knuckle armor

The reasonable amount of research time is partly due to the fact I wanted to find a summer/hot weather glove that offers a full gauntlet and good protective features. The gauntlet aspect really limits the number of options for a hot weather glove so in a short time I landed on the subject of this review. 

Let’s dig in.

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The Alpinestars SP Air Leather Gloves

At first glance, the SP Air gloves look very similar to Alpinestars other sport-oriented gloves from their vast lineup and I don’t use the word “vast “ here lightly. Alpinestars has 81 gloves in their catalog at the time of this writing, and that’s just the road gloves! One of which is a women’s version called the Stella SP Air which is very similar in design to the gloves reviewed here.

alpinestars sp air gloves colors
Above images from Alpinestars showing the available colors

There are four* colorways available for the SP Air’s with a Black (with white lettering), Anthracite (black with grey lettering), Black/White, and Black/White/Yellow. I purchased the Black/White version we’re looking at in this review as I prefer brighter colors for gear designed to beat the heat. I do like the yellow accents on the Black/White/Yellow version as they do add a bit of extra daytime visibility and it was a close call.

*  Note: The Stella SP Air gloves are only available in Black and Black/White.

Alpinestars SP Air Gloves

The SP Air gloves follow the typical sport riding glove design with a gauntleted cuff, a hard knuckle protector, and some extra protection on the tops of the fingers. Being designed for warm weather there are a lot of details designed to provide ventilation while still maintaining robust enough construction to provide a CE rating (Cat 1). 

Let’s take a look at how these gloves are put together.

Construction

Multiple materials are used in construction with the majority being full grain leather (type not specified) with polyester, polyurethane, and synthetic suede making up the rest. The leather is used along the underside of the finger boxes as well as around the knuckle protector and large portions of the gauntlet. 

The thumb is wrapped almost entirely with perforated leather with the synthetic suede covering the “grip” side. The same suede also covers the lower portion of the palm and also rides up the side of the hand towards the little finger.

Perforated leather wraps most of the thumb on the SP Air gloves.

Fingers

The finger boxes have a mix of leather and mesh with extra patches of leather on the tops of the index, middle, and ring fingers. These patches also have some foam padding beneath them for extra protection. These panels are perforated but I can’t see them flowing much air with a foam pad under them, and testing proved this to be the case. Accordion stretch panels are present at the base of the index and middle fingers as well as at the base of the thumb for a bit of extra flexibility.

alpinestars sp air gloves fingers
Finger boxes made with a mix of mesh and leather

Gauntlet

Moving to the gauntlet, there is a lot of mesh in place but it is mostly covered by solid and perforated leather. A large portion of the leather contains an embroidered “A Star” logo with some padding underneath. The gauntlet itself uses a split design allowing for easy entry, although it’s not as easy as one might hope, but more on that later.

alpinestars sp air Glove gauntlet (closed)
Glove gauntlet (closed)

The single gauntlet flap closes over the split using a large area of hook and loop fastener and it does hold securely. Just ahead of the gauntlet is a leather wrist strap which also fastens with hook and loop. This strap is partially covered with some of the synthetic suede that covers the lower portion of the palm.

Wrist Strap

This wrist strap ends up being a literal “sticking point” on the SP Air gloves due to the way the hook portion of the plastic fastener material is sewn to the strap. The edge of the hook material doesn’t fit easily through the d-ring through which the strap slides.

alpinestars sp air gloves strap
Gauntlet and wrist strap unfastened

This wouldn’t be a problem if the strap was fully loosened at that point but it turns out the strap would open further but it can’t as the hook area hangs up here. This becomes an issue as the wrist opening is very snug even at the widest opening. More on this in the “Fit and Comfort” section later.

Lining

Something that struck me as odd is the fact these gloves are fully lined with smooth polyester fabric. It seems strange to line a glove designed for hot weather as a lining will reduce airflow through perforations. Often a lining like this is used to reduce discomfort caused by any internal seams by creating an overall smoother interior. I can see how that might work here but one particular area inside lets this idea down. More on this in the next section.

alpinestars sp air gloves polyester lining
Polyester lines the entire interior of the SP Air gloves.

Issues

Overall construction is very good and the stitching is neat and straight and also employs double stitching in potential impact areas. However, there are a couple of spots that take it down from an  excellent rating. 

One is the external seams on the finger boxes are not that neat. They seem stitched well enough but the trimming in this area looks a bit messy. Taking a peek inside the glove reveals quite a mess of stitches and material at the base of the thumb.

It would be one thing if it was just the appearance aspect of it since it wouldn’t normally be seen from the outside. However, as I’ll get to in the next section, this ends up impacting comfort as well. Sounds like it’s time to go ahead and look at the fit and comfort since I’m already heading down that road.

Fit and Comfort

The gloves in this review are size Medium which is my normal glove size in many brands but in some European brands (ie REV’IT and Klim) I need a large. Having owned other Alpinestars brand gloves in the past, these gloves fit as expected which is snug, but not tight. For reference, my hand measures 8.25 inches (21cm) around and 7.75 inches (19.6cm) long. 

For me, the width and length are both spot on with my fingers taking up just the right amount of the finger boxes with just enough slack in the tips to be taken up when bending the fingers. I appreciate this as typically my fingers seem to be either too long for size mediums and too short for large ones.

alpinestars sp air gloves wrist
The gauntlet is already small but the actual opening into the glove is a tight squeeze for many

Tight Spaces

Although the gloves fit me well,  they can be challenging to slip into. The entrance to the glove narrows a lot and this makes it difficult to get the glove over the widest part of the hand. I found over time that as the gloves break-in, they do become easier to put on but they still require a significant tug.

Tight Spaces

Although the gloves fit me well,  they can be challenging to slip into. The entrance to the glove narrows a lot and this makes it difficult to get the glove over the widest part of the hand. I found over time that as the gloves break-in, they do become easier to put on but they still require a significant tug.

alpinestars sp air gloves strap
Hook fastener panel on wrist strap hangs up easily on the D-ring on both gloves

You could see in the photo above how the “hook” portion of the strap fastener gets caught in the wrist strap D-ring. This keeps the strap from opening to the widest point which makes the entrance to the glove even tighter. 

Fortunately I was able to address this problem( shown below) with some scissors. By trimming this leading edge down and cutting the corners at an angle the result is only a slight “catch” before the strap will slip through the ring. It’s not difficult but I feel it shouldn’t have been necessary for me, as the consumer, to address.

alpinestars sp air gloves hook fastener
Hook fastener panel (sewn onto the wrist strap) after trimming

Comfort

The close fit of the SP Air gloves is how I prefer gloves to fit and that is a good start towards comfort for me. However, the overall sense of comfort is a bit of a mixed bag. Right out of the package the leather of the SP Air gloves is rather stiff. It took several rides but they did start to break in.

Note: I purchased these gloves from Amazon and since they have been made since 2016, they could have been sitting for a while before they came to me.

Once the initial break-in was finished, the improved flexibility was welcome. I was initially experiencing some fatigue in my hands on longer rides but as the leather became more pliable it improved significantly. 

Interior Seams

The interior of the gloves is lined with a thin and smooth polyester material which definitely makes them easy to slip on, once one gets past that tight opening of course. I mentioned earlier that I find it odd that a summer/hot weather glove would have a liner but a lining like this can improve comfort when a glove uses internal seams. Unfortunately it’s not enough to cover up some of the internal seams here.

In the palm, little, ring, and middle fingers, the interior feels pretty smooth. Moving to the index finger and thumb, seams make their presence known and it does detract from the overall comfort. In the index finger area I can feel the two seams running under the length of the finger while the thumb has distracting seams in the tip as well as running down its length.

alpinestars sp air gloves interior liner
Space under the base of the thumb shows a mess of seams and stitching

Those seams are a bit distracting but the worst area is at the base of the thumb. In the space directly underneath the perforated leather and padding at the base of the thumb,  are several seams and an extra piece of material that are joined together. In the middle of it is a thick seam that sits proud of the inner materials by about 2mm. 

I would think that maybe this was an error in manufacturing or a one off example but both gloves have the exact same construction in this area. After breaking in, the material there has softened a little but it is still noticeable and something I consider a glaring flaw from a manufacturer like Alpinestars.

Once Broken In

After breaking in, overall comfort is pretty good, but it’s unfortunate that the SP Air’s are brought down a couple of “notches” due to the strange seam construction at the base of the thumb. Cleaning that space up and doing a better job trimming the edges of the hook fastener on the wrist strap would vastly improve these gloves from the fit and comfort perspective. Maybe we’ll see a “V2” in the future where these areas are improved.

Protection

Inside the gloves is a tag indicating CE 89/686/EEC CAT 1 rating. This rating is now deprecated but was still in effect in 2016 when this series of gloves were first manufactured. Category 1 doesn’t appear to provide any specifics as to performance other than it is designed as protective equipment. 

Category 1 indicates the manufacturer declares the product meets this category and has technical documents to back it up but it is not necessarily sent off for testing. That being said, let’s see what we actually have in place for protection. 

Knuckle Protector

Starting at the top, we have the TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) knuckle protector. From the photos it looks like there are two separate pieces but it’s actually a single piece covering all four knuckles. 

Since the material is TPU instead of stiff plastic or carbon fiber, there is a decent amount of flex here. I prefer a material like this as I’m concerned very rigid materials might shatter and/or splinter in an impact. It should be noted this is the material that they use in their top of the line racing gloves.

alpinestars sp air gloves knuckle armor
Knuckle protector is one piece, not two separate ones

Underneath the knuckle protector is a dense piece of EVA foam that feels about .25 inch (6.3mm) thick. This padding extends away from the protector and covers quite a bit of area on the back of the hand. 

Fingers

The three larger fingers get small TPU protectors as well as a bit of padding under a leather patch near the fingertips. Those patches of leather sit above mesh material and the same mesh makes up the top of the little finger space. The little finger gets some leather on top as well and this leather panel is connected to the ring finger to help prevent hyperextension. 

Closeup of the little finger/ring finger bridge
Closeup of the little finger/ring finger bridge

Other Protection

At the base of the palm is a leather covered foam pad at the thumb joint while across from it is a TPU slider. I appreciate the slider inclusion as I feel this is a must for street gloves. More EVA foam is located under the slider providing extra impact resistance.

TPU palm slider located on the heel of the hand
TPU palm slider located on the heel of the hand

The gauntlet has padding on the outside facing side to provide some protection to the wrist which rounds out the protective features. Overall the protection appears to be up to task for the sport/sport touring/commute rider. 

Ventilation

One of the primary factors that lead me to the SP Air gloves was the ventilation aspect for warm/hot weather riding. Looking at the gloves one sees a lot of potential areas for airflow including mesh panels, perforations in the leather, and even little screened air “scoops” on top of three of the fingers. While some of these areas do allow airflow, some definitely don’t. 

What Doesn’t Work

Starting with what doesn’t flow air, the small scoops on top of the fingers do not appear to flow any air that I can tell. Since it feels like there is some EVA padding under those “scoops” this doesn’t really surprise me. Likewise, the perforated leather pads near the fingertips also don’t flow any air as the air can’t make it through the padding underneath.

alpinestars sp air gloves knuckle armor
Knuckle protector is one piece, not two separate ones

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Alpinestars also claims there are intakes on the knuckle protector and while there is a channel for air, it simply exits out the rear portion (two holes visible in the photos). Remember there is a dense EVA pad under the protector so I can’t see any air getting through that space either. 

What Does Work

On the plus side, there is a good amount of air flow coming from other areas. The best venting seems to come from the perforations in the underside of the fingers. Even at modest speeds I can feel lots of air on my fingers and the palm. The thumb also gets some air flow from its own perforated spaces.

Perforations on the underside of the fingers and in the palm do flow a good amount of air
Perforations on the underside of the fingers and in the palm do flow a good amount of air

Overall the venting on the SP air is good, if not great. The mesh panels on the back of the hand don’t actually seem to flow much if any air and the “scoops” on the fingers seem to be vents in name only. Also, the perforated leather pad at the base of the thumb flows no air likely due to the thick EVA pad placed underneath. 

I’d rather see a manufacturer save the time (and money?) by not bothering to add these extra “air scoops” and perforated details in places where they don’t/can’t have an effect.

Overall the SP Air gloves are a good choice for a protective summer / hot weather glove if not a great one. The issue with the wrist strap can be frustrating but it is easy enough to remedy with some careful trimming work.

alpinestars sp air gloves mesh panels
Mesh panels on the back of the hand are mostly blocked so little joy here for ventilation

The issue with the internal seams at the base of the thumb are not so easy to address. Trying to trim and clean up this area can easily result in the materials separating so I haven’t even attempted it. Over time the seam edge has softened a bit so it is not so noticeable, but it is still there. Maybe Alpinestars can address this in the next version. Seeing as these have been out for four years now I think an update is about due.

Balancing the above issues against the fit (for me), the protective features, and the good ventilation results in a glove I’m happy to keep wearing as the weather continues to warm up. For the $129.95 asking price, they are on the high side considering the issues but if these were addressed I’d say they are right on the money.

Pros

  • Very good protection for a vented glove
  • Good airflow
  • Robust construction

Cons

  • Wrist strap design 
  • Interior seams reduce overall comfort

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Alpinestars
  • Price (When Tested): $129.95
  • Made In: China
  • Alternative models & colors: Black | Black/Anthracite | Black/White | Black/White/Yellow
  • Sizes: S to 3XL
  • Review Date: April, 2020

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Alpinestars SP Air Gloves Image Gallery

1 Comment

  1. ACM
    September 29, 2020
    Reply

    I wear Racer brand gloves whenever possible, but Racer just do not have a heavily vented glove that reaches the quality of their High Racer or Multitop 2 gloves. After trials of several different summer gloves I now have a pair of these gloves, the AlpineStars SP Air gloves. They have at least the protection of the Racer Multitop gloves, and they flow air like crazy. I have not had to test their protection – and hope I never do – and I don’t do the kind of annual mileage to suggest that I have put them to any real wear test. But so far, perhaps 5K usage, they look like they day I bought them.

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