I’m an unabashed fan of Aerostich stuff. The company is based in Minnesota, to which I have a strong emotional connection; its founder, Andy Goldfine, is a personal inspiration; many of its products are made in the United States; and those products tend to be durable as hell. How could I not like Aerostich stuff?
If you ever get stuck on a long flight with me, you’ll inevitably hear me praise my Roadcrafter R3 with such enthusiasm it sounds like a sales pitch (indeed, that was an observation made by Alun Davies of Adventure Bike Rider, who asked: “Have you considered becoming Aerostich’s European importer?”), but probably my favorite Aerostich product is its simple Elkskin Competition Roper glove.
One of the reasons I love it is the fact it has a story. In the mid 1980s, Andy Goldfine decided he would visit the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for the first time. Traveling west from Minnesota, he, of course, made a stop at Wall Drug Store. Folks from outside the Upper Midwest may have never heard of Wall Drug, but – along with the Mitchell Corn Palace (an events center decorated with murals made of corn) – it is a “must stop” tourist attraction en route to the Black Hills.
Over the years, Wall Drug has grown from the ice-water-dispensing store of the 1930s into an increasingly large complex of myriad shops and restaurants, one of which sells Western wear.
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“I kinda wanted a souvenir,” Andy said of his Wall Drug visit. “(But) I wanted it to be practical. So, I found myself looking in the Western wear store, and they had a case full of elkskin roper gloves.”
Andy threw the gloves on, got back on the road, and almost instantly fell in love with his find.
“They were just tremendous gloves,” he said. “The leather was soft – it was a hot day and the leather molded to my hand very well and it absorbed sweat… it was just so much better than the motorcycle glove I had been wearing for the last year or two.”
Once Andy returned from Sturgis he decided he was so pleased with the glove he wanted to sell it through Aerostich and got in touch with its manufacturer. Thus one of Aerostich’s most popular products was born.
Priced at US $69 (about £50 before VAT), the gloves were made in the United States (No. 21 on the Democracy Index), and are available in a far greater range of sizes than most motorcycle gloves. Rather than being offered in small, medium, large, etc., sizing is done on a half-size graduating scale running from 7 to 13.
The rancher-style glove is a well-established look in motorcycling, with a utilitarian aesthetic that manages to fit into the ostensibly divergent camps of cruiser fans and long-haul riders. These are considerably more robust than the Wells Lamont yard work gloves you might pick up at Mills Fleet Farm, but retain that basic, workingman spirit. Take a look at the photos in my bike reviews and you’ll see it’s my glove of choice when riding cruisers and baggers and the like. But it also happens to be my go-to when doing day-to-day riding in the summer.
In both cases, I feel the glove looks cool regardless of what I’m wearing it with – be that a leather jacket and riding jeans, or a Roadcrafter R3. Aerostich gear is famously durable, so it will take a few years for these to truly come into their own in terms of looks. One day they’ll be worn-in, fitting exactly to my hand, and infused with thousands of miles of road grime – at which point they will look sooo verrry cool.
As I say, these are the sort of gloves that will fit more perfectly over time. Leather will shrink or stretch depending on the exact shape of your hand. I’ve had mine for eight months and they are still in the process of transforming into the nonpareil piece of gear. But right off the bat, the Elkskin Competition Ropers were comfortable. The leather is particularly supple and I have enough dexterity and feel that I’m able to operate all the switches and buttons of my bike, as well as open and close my Schuberth C3 Pro, while wearing them. Setting my TomTom Rider is a challenge, but that’s because the TomTom Rider is crappy (the longer I use that thing, the more I regret buying it).
The gloves fit well in and of themselves, but a simple Velcro strap across the wrist helps to keep them secure. It’s the nature of Aerostich stuff that it’s pretty resilient – I anticipate the bare minimum lifespan on these is 10 years – but the “downside” of resiliency is that it can take a little while for the gear to break in. I had no problem throwing these on right away, but some folks may want to plan on allowing just a little more time for rider and glove to bond.
The Elkskin Competition Ropers are pretty much “what you see is what you get” gloves. No fancy lining or materials with convoluted trademarked names. Just good ol’ fashioned leather. Beyond the Velcro strap at the wrist, there is some soft padding over the knuckles, and a visor wiper integrated into the thumb. Note, however, that the gloves are not waterproof. I keep meaning to work some Nikwax into them but I’ll admit there’s a part of me that’s willing to get these wet for the sake of having them fit even better. If they do get wet, be sure to just let them air dry naturally.
Aerostich offers versions of this glove that are lined with Merino wool (you can also get both the lined and unlined versions in gauntlet form), but mine are just bog-standard unlined gloves, which means they are for summer use (though, in a pinch, I have used the Klim Liner 1.0 that I got with my Klim Adventure gloves). There are no vents or any such thing for warm weather but I really don’t remember them ever being hot – even when riding in 35ºC (95ºF) North Carolina heat.
Obviously, they’re not for track use, but my experience with crashing at (slightly above) normal road speed has taught me that the most important aspect of a glove is that it’s thick enough to keep your skin safe. When you fall, you naturally put your hands out and end up sliding on your palms for quite a while. Take a look at the Held Air N Dry glove I was wearing when I crashed (pictured, below) and you’ll see that the palm wore away (that didn’t feel good) and the stitching had started to come undone.
Had my sliding body not veered off into the grass I suspect I would have suffered some pretty serious skin injury. I feel far more confident in the Competition Elkskin Roper glove because its hide is thicker, its stitching is more robust, and it has fewer add-on bits that will catch and tear in a slide.
I think these gloves are the bee’s knees. I’ll admit I find myself somewhat surprised to say that because usually I’m wooed by stuff with bells and whistles – fancy fabrics, titanium knuckles, multitudinous straps, GPS locators, and the like. You know: a glove that takes 20 minutes to put on. If they cost as much as a car, all the better. But these… these are just simple, comfortable, and relatively affordable gloves, and I love them.
They’re perfect for either cruising around looking cool, or wearing all day as you make your way from one end of a continent to the other. When you stop, they’ll stuff pretty easily into jacket pockets (and it shouldn’t surprise you there’s a special place on the chest of a Roadcrafter R3 that holds them perfectly), although there is something peculiarly satisfying about tossing them onto a table at a roadside diner. I feel like I’m in a movie: “Just passin’ through, ma’am. I believe I’ll have a slice of that pecan pie…”
All that and they’re made in the USA. If you live in Europe, I encourage you to order a pair as soon as possible – before the trade war starts.