“Competition” is all relative. These gloves aren’t competition like your latest $400 Dainese racing gloves or anything, but they are more competition-ready than the regular Elkskin Ropers Aerostich has been selling forever. The difference is simply that these Competition Ropers have a hook-and-loop wrist closure to positively cinch each one onto your wrist (instead of one snap), which makes them way easier to secure securely onto your paws. Secondly, there’s a nice strip of Aerostich’s excellent TF3 impact foam right where you want it most should you hit the deck, on back of yon knuckles.

Elkskin is fantastic stuff. Aerostich founder Andy Goldfine first stumbled upon gloves made from it while riding out west a few decades ago and now has these made by a ranch and work glove company in Washington State. “They’re strong and durable enough to take on everyday rough cowboy and ag work (says the Aerostich catalog) – from handling barb wire fences to accurately directing a lariat, and ultra-comfortable all-day because of their superb medium weight luxuriously tanned natural tan Elkskin. This comfortable abrasion resistant leather absorbs and dissipates sweat, wears cool, and quickly conforms itself to the shape of your hand.”

The things are buttery soft right out of the box, with slightly precurved fingers and no seams between your hands and motorcycle grips. Aside from the TF3 impact foam on back of the knuckles, there aren’t any more reinforcements, plastic chunks, double layers, or armor. In a high-speed, yard sale kind of a tumbling crash, your hands would definitely be safer in real racing gloves. But Ropers are for the 99.9% of us who aren’t racing, but just want a nice, comfortable, affordable, reasonably protective glove to wear on the commute, for touring, or on a weekend ride.

Soft and comfortable as the inside of an elk.

There’s no Gore-Tex version, either, so you’ll need overgloves if you’re worried about your hands getting wet, but there is a merino wool lined version if you want warmth. Speaking of wet, there’s also a squeegee sewn into the left thumb seam, which is pretty handy for swiping your faceshield. If your Ropers do get wet, they seem to dry out even softer and nicer-fitting, and another beauty of them is they’re completely washable in warm water and mild soap. Just rinse out all the soap, wring them out and let them dry to get rid of dirt and sweat. Not sure how that would work with my racier Italian gloves? I think not very well.

Are Competition Elkskin Ropers for old guys? What we used to call the GPTB* on MO? I can’t say, but there’s usually a backlash when things get too specialized (and then overpriced) for their own good. If your everyday ride is a Panigale Streetfighter, you’ll be needing gear with plenty of carbon-fiber inserts, logos, and skids to drag your pinkies on the asphalt. But if you’re more the kind of rider with one or two trusty steeds and a few survivor jackets older than your children, then these gloves could totally fit your style for everyday use. They go on instantly, with enough gauntlet to go outside your jacket sleeves if that’s what you want on a given day, then cinch up effortlessly and securely thanks to the hook-and-loop. And I can’t remember any more comfortable gloves, except for maybe some Kushitanis I got years ago which are now extinct.

Speaking of kids, sometimes it’s surprising the things they pull out of the back of the closet to like. Maybe Elkskin Ropers are old enough now to fall into the Retro category, which makes sense. If you’re riding a scrambler around in the Land of Joy (Ducati’s tagline), trying to keep it simple and elemental and all that, I’d say a pair of Ropers totally fits the profile. They’re available in eight sizes instead of just S, M, L – and the price is right, too: $70.

*Gray Pony-Tailed Brotherhood

Shop for the Aerostich Competition Elkskin Ropers here


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