There's Gloves And There's Hand Armour - Knox's BioMech Gloves Reviewed
Summer gloves seem to be one of the few universal items of clothing worn by the majority of road riders – some prefer the full-on race replica type, some a more subtle type and some pick the shorter cuffed urban type glove, but we all like the protection and feel given whether we’re charging around the open countryside or riding down to Spain on a cruiser.
Last year we looked at two offerings from two lesser-known manufacturers Held and arc-on who delivered two very competent pairs, both of which offered price-band setting levels of value.
This year I’ve secured a pair of Biomech gloves from Knox up in Cumbria principally because they offer something slightly different and pretty new in the world of high class sports gloves. But before I get too carried away with my new ones I want to mention my previous gloves because they’ve served me well.
Rewind some 6 years or so and I’m looking to replace my Alpinestars GP Plus gloves, my first ‘proper’ pair of summer gloves and I don’t mind admitting I was in love with them. Their smell, their feel and their look made them a must have as soon as I could afford them. Sadly, they lost most of their black dye in the first rain I was caught in and took some serious nursing back to softness. Also the fingers’ internal stitching would catch under my fingernails which ended up distracting and irritating in equal measure.
So I went off to Hanger Lane’s Infinity store and was recommended a pair of £85 Racer (from France) gloves, I can’t remember which model they are but they look very similar to the current Multi-top gloves. I was excited to find Supersport rider Paul Young wearing the same pair too and after watching him launch his 675 into the scenery a few times I was very confident about the decision I made. I must have worn them for about 50,000 miles including a 5000 mile European jaunt.
Youngy wasn’t the only one to test the Racers out; I parted company with my 675 too smacking into the road after losing the front on some mud. My right hand took some impact initially on the palm and then on the knuckles but my (then) three year old Racers shrugged off the crash very well.
I’ve included photos of the right glove to show the damage though I will stress that I’ve worn the gloves for a further 3 years and even now I wasn’t looking to buy a new pair since they are still very strong and show no signs of wearing through.
From the photos you can hopefully see that the main areas of impact were indeed the areas glove manufacturers talk about – it’s not just hype or an excuse to stick impressive looking bits on their gloves. The leather covered knuckle armour did its job admirably as the gouges into the metal prove, plus the scaphoid protection pad stretching across the base of the palm got a good rubbing across the road surface. My thumb pad and outside of my left little finger both grazed the road too, enough to score the kangaroo skin but not tear it.
So if you’ve never heard of Racer gloves I urge you to go check them out – they are very impressive.
On to the new – Planet Knox’s Biomech Hand Armour
I, like many people, were very excited by the announcement a couple of years ago that Planet Knox, famous for their body armour, were launching a range of gloves. Excitement peaked when the Handroid broke cover with its external skeleton – it was very different and remains a very desirable race glove. James Ellison and Paul Young wore them in 2010 and both enthused about them.
The Biomech gloves sit under the range-topping Handroids and have a comparatively traditional design. So when a press release about the upgraded version landed on the editorial desk I decided it was time to give them a try.
Out of the Box
These are very impressive looking items, and two things draw the eye straight away – the white honeycomb armour panels and the Boa gauntlet closing mechanism.
Planet Knox have taken the now familiar plastic armour concept (used on many gloves nowadays, perhaps most obviously on Alpinestars latest GP-Pros ) but have filled the plastic shell with a honeycomb framework and then pumped the pod with gel. The result is an impact absorbing armour panel like no other. The honeycomb allows impact to be spread across the pod and the gel acts like the oil in your suspension to give flexibility when not under duress and then to turn hard and resilient under stress.
It’s a very interesting idea and who can blame Knox for wanting to show it off with some clear panels over the top of each knuckle. I would be interested to know whether these pods can take as much abrasion as the metal knuckle on the Racers, but without dragging my hands along the deck I guess I’ll never know.
Knox’s Hand Armour range has raised eyebrows with their gauntlet fastening system. After looking at snowboarding footwear Knox saw that the BOA technology (named presumably after the snake which squeezes its prey to death) could be applied to gloves.
The BOA system is essentially 2 cables (7 aircraft grade stainless steel strands surrounded in 12 more flexible stainless steel strands contained in a polymer casing) attached to a central ratchet at one end, and to each gauntlet cuff at the other. Turn the ratchet and both gauntlets are pulled closed, one click at a time to give very customised fit no matter what jacket or watch or bracelet you are wearing.
The whole top of the glove is designed in a tunnel style, where each joint can tunnel under the one in front when you clench then unclench your fist. This avoids any stretching across the top of the glove as you wrap your hand around the bars and use the levers. One benefit carried over from my Racers is the ability to store ear-plugs in the knuckle plate tunnel, very handy and a must on my list of requirements.
Reinforcing the Point
Sticking with the hand section there are black reinforced panels of Amara synthetic material (a composite of synthetic strands in a resin base) across the balls of the fingers and around the base of the thumb – the sections which get the most wear from the bar grips – while the whole palm area and up the fingers is kangaroo leather, used because of its tear resistance per micron of thickness compared to cow leather. The reinforcement also extends to the tip of the first and second fingers to protect against excess wear on clutch and brake levers.
The biggest panel of reinforcement runs across the base of the palm and up the outside of the hand to protect against a low-side dumping you onto the outside of your hand, and further to that we have a small pad of “Superfabric” – a man-made version of stingray skin by the feel – while that Superfabric makes another appearance with two pads on the outside of the thumb again to ward off abrasion.
Knox patented their Scaphoid Protection System 3 years ago and the Biomech features the latest incarnation of it. Your scaphoid is a very vulnerable bone on the heel of your palm which, because of its poor blood supply is a nightmare to heal (ahem) and plays a vital role in your ability to grip, all important on a motorbike.
When we fall forwards it is instinctive to put your hands out in front of you. I did exactly that, albeit with only one hand, when I lowsided my Triumph and my old Racers took the impact on their scaphoid pad fortunately for me.
What Knox have done is take the theory of knee-sliders and have applied it to the base of the palm – their SPS is simply two plastic pads designed to slide when you hit the ground hand-first rather than dig in as leather normally does. By sliding you are dissipating some of the energy rather than absorbing it directly through your hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. If your hands stay in front of you there is a good chance you’ll avoid the hyper-extension injuries caused by your hand being trapped under you as you fall over it.
On the subject of knee-sliders applied to gloves, the Biomechs also have hard plastic / polymer panels on the sides of the wrist covering the BOA mechanics plus a smaller slider on the underside of the gauntlet all to take impacts and help you slide.
Pulling them on
So if that was a walk around the Biomechs, how do they feel when pulled on?
Answer: very comfortable : undo the traditional wrist strap, pull up the BOA ratchet until it clicks and slide your hand in there. Straight from the packaging these are supple, flexible and perfectly usable.
Much ado has been made about the BOA system and rightly so – it is by a long stretch the best fastening system I’ve seen. With the ratchet released (by pulling up the dial) the cables are free to expand thus allowing the gauntlet to open fully, it doesn’t flop open nor need cranking open – it just opens as far as you need.
Once your hand is in, and the wrist strap fastened (easiest in this order) push the BOA dial down until the ratchet engages with a click, and turn clockwise. The cables are pulled inward and the gauntlet’s cuffs tighten around your wrist until secure. I often wear a bulky G-Shock watch which had to come off before wearing my old gloves but the Biomechs simply ignore it.
They even manage to close tight enough around my naked and somewhat skinny forearm rather than leaving the gauntlet flapping around like the top of a wellington boot.
Add to this a longer than typical gauntlet and what you have here is a glove which will swallow enough of every jacket sleeve, irrespective of wrist jewellery, to give a reliable fit. Look at the photos I've taken for comparison to the old GPs and the Racers - judge it by how many letters on my sleeve each glove covers.
All the internal seams are smooth enough not to be felt and overall the size fits me very well – these are a large (10) though judging by comments on other reviews of Knox gloves you should measure your hands on Knox’s site as you may have to get a size bigger than you are used to.
A really nice design touch is the ventilation panels on the inside of each finger – this area isn’t going to be abraded or impacted so is a good choice for perforated material. Simply spread your fingers while riding and you get a nice cool breeze straight through the glove.
I rode from Kent through to Camden town 90mins after receiving these gloves in the post, and lord knows how many gear shifts and braking manoeuvres I had to make. Aside from thinking how staggeringly good they looked on the bike I didn’t have to think about them at all, no accommodating their newness or unfamiliarity; just instinctive feel.
Wear and Tear
In the 6 weeks I’ve had them I’ve had no problems at all, no loose bits of thread, no irritating seams or other snags to spoil the good feeling. Sure they feel a little different to normal leather gloves, almost paper-like in texture which no doubt is the combination of drum dying the colour in (so it is claimed to be colour fast) and the aniline leather itself which feels different (more skin-like) than pigmented leather.
I’ve scoured the internet and asked around to see what experiences other people have had. Staff member PJ bought his February from the Excel show in London and praises the fit and finish:
“I was immediately impressed with the feel when first putting them on; lovely and soft to the touch and no harsh leather on the backs of the hand or fingers.
When on the bike they feel comfortable and they have withstood hot sweaty days and also rain with no effects to the leather, even when dried out in the airing cupboard.
The adjuster for the wrist is quirky but also very easy to use and actually very comfy.
The only issue i have with my pair is that the stitching has come away from protective pads on the right thumb. It doesn't stop me wearing them but it’s just annoying that after such a short period of time that they have started to fall apart.”
Oval Motorcycle Centre owner and LB’s Ducati test rider Simon Fraulo has had a pair for almost 2 years and uses them every day except in the very depths of winter. He is seriously considering buying another pair which can only be a positive recommendation; his only gripe is that the kangaroo skin appears to have stretched enough to ruck up under his palm when riding (but only his native Ducati 748, not the various demo models he tests for us) which he puts down to his big hands and how he rides his bike. He enthused about the BOA system, how easy they are to get on with and mentioned that there have been no colour runs despite several soakings and certainly no stitching failing.
I did find a report of seams failing on a different forum however the story ended well with the owner being sent a replacement pair direct from Knox despite him not having a receipt.
My gloves are the upgraded version (Knox have a rolling process of modifying their glove range, this being the first upgrade to this model) of the Biomech and amongst the upgrades has been changes to the stitching and to the thread material (according to SportsBikeTrackGear.com).
Clearly Knox have been listening which is promising, and what’s also promising is a report on the (CBR)600RR forum by an AMA Supersport racer who crashed in his Biomechs and has posted photos and a report – basically they held up well and he talks about continuing to wear them.
The vast majority of mentions for these gloves are very positive, in fact my impression was that these gloves have found greater favour than the Handroids, no small feat in itself.
I wanted to try these gloves because I wanted to see how usable all the supposedly trick features worked in practice and indeed how one of the UK’s key players in the motorcycle industry was getting on with a very ambitious range of gloves.
The good news is that they are getting on very well. Perhaps there have been some issues with the first versions of their products, not unusual in itself, but where any reports of customer service have been mentioned they’ve shown Knox in a good light with replacement gloves despatched where needed.
These Biomechs are very capable gloves for around the £130 mark which takes them into the ‘serious’ money bracket, where gloves have to both look trick (being honest) and perform. They have some stiff competition from Alpinestars (the GP Plus) and Dainese (Joust), Rev’it and Held to name but a few; however none of these offer anything new in terms of technology. And don’t forget, Knox have been at the forefront of protective gear for years now so have a reputation to lose by producing shoddy k
Design - 10/10 - I simply can't fault the design of these gloves. They are flashy without gimmicks because all aspects of the glove work very well.
Protection - 8/10 - I can't give full marks because I haven't had first hand (ahem) experience of a crash in them. However the article on the 600rr forum plus Knox's reputation means a high score.
In Use - 8/10 - Faultless and they lose points because the leather doesn't have that 'mmmm' quality of some gloves, but that's hardly a big deal, and they lose points because there have been reports of some quality issues though swiftly rectified and now apparently eradicated from the design. But time will tell and maybe points will be added back.
OVERALL - I'm delighted to give them 26/30 which is a pretty high score, but these are pretty mighty gloves. And they're British. A BEST BUY
Knox Biomechs are available from leading bike shops at around £130 mark and in a variety of colours. Full product details are here.