Hand armor for the Apocalypse
Aside from you head, the part of your body most easily damaged in a motorcycle crash is your hands. Good protection for these fragile instruments is essential. At the Road America AMA round this past June, we met Todd McNabney of Heroic Leathers and checked out a pair of his SP-R Pro V2 gloves. They were incredible and we knew immediately that a test was in order. What we didn't expect was just how thorough that test would be.
The design of all Heroic products is in constant evolution. McNabney repairs what he sells and the crash damage that passes through the shop provides him with regular inspiration for how to make his gear better. While we'll try to do these gloves justice here, it's no exaggeration that until you've met Todd and had him explain the product, you won't truly appreciate his protective apparel. Selling motorcycle gear isn't a job for him, it's a mission. The man can tell you why every stitch, panel and bit of armor has been included in his gear, down to the smallest detail. In this magazine's history, we have never talked to a manufacturer of protective apparel who was more knowledgeable or passionate about his creations.
An Illogical Design
To appreciate one of the most interesting design features of Heroic SP-R Pro V2 gloves, you first have to consider how other manufacturers design their products. The forearms of most suits come right to the palm of the hand and are tight across your wrists, which can restrict blood flow to the fingers. Compounding this problem is that the glove then covers and cinches down over the suit's sleeve, right at the point where the wrist bends. The result is that the overlapping bulk of the sleeve and gauntlet materials, as well as the closure systems for each, are right there squeezing your wrist at the worst possible spot. This restricts the blood flow in and out of the rider's hand, promoting arm pump and numb fingers. Why is most gear designed this way? Because that's the way normal clothing has always been made and nobody had considered that this might create a problem in a motorcycling-specific application. Once this issue had been pointed out to us, we began mentally cursing a lot of gear we've worn in the past and the problems that it created for us.
Let it Flow
Having read the above paragraph, you'll understand that one of McNabney's key concerns for his products is that they allow unrestricted blood flow through the wrists and into the hands. Heroic SP-R Pro V2 gloves measure a full 12 inches from fingertips to cuff, which puts the Velcro gauntlet closures well up the wearer's forearms and away from his or her wrists. If you were to match these gloves to a set of Heroic leathers, you'd see that the suit's sleeves don't come as far down your forearms and are made looser at the openings than you'd find in other brands of gear. The extra length of Heroic gloves covers the shorter sleeves to facilitate this concept. You say you're not wearing a Heroic suit? You may well find that the extra length of SP-R Pro V2 gloves will allow you to leave your sleeve zippers partially open in order to make their fit looser without compromising protection. As part of his full repair and alteration service, McNabny can modify the forearms of your non-Heroic suit to offer a looser fit at the wrists.
Solutions to problems that nobody else knew were problems
Intelligent design, inspired in the aftermath of hundreds of crashes, can be found throughout Heroic's SP-R Pro V2 Gloves. The layering found in these hand protectors is staggering. There's barely any portion of the outer shell that is just a single layer thick. Other than the palm and the insides of the fingers, the entire rest of each glove is lined with a thin layer of impact foam. Other areas of the glove are reinforced with thick slabs of impact foam, often in spots where other manufacturers use plastic armor. McNabney points out that while plastic may distribute the force of a crash, impact foam absorbs it. In tender areas such as the Scaphoid, this can spell the difference between a bruise and a broken bone. From there out, there may be as many as five layers of leather, foam and armor standing between you and harm's way. The redundancy is quite inspiring. You could crash, tear hell out of your gloves, pick up your bike and get back in the race. If you were unfortunate enough to crash a second time, chances are excellent that your SP-R Pro V2 gloves would still protect you. Heroic sponsors many top level racers and any time one of them takes an injury, McNabney goes back to the drawing board to see if it could have been prevented through better gear design. Some devices, like the bridged ring and pinkie fingers or the Scaphoid protection on the palm, are obvious. Others, such as the padding across the back of the hand behind the knuckle guard, are more subtle. Why is that padding there? In the event that you were to severely hyperextend your hand while doing high speed summersaults, that layer of impact foam serves to keep the rear edge of the knuckle armor from smashing directly into the bones, which could break them. Honestly, that scenario might be one in a thousand but because Todd has seen it happen, he designed a way to try and prevent it. There is a similar story behind every single feature of the SP-R Pro V2.
When you pick these gloves up, they are noticeably bulky. One pro rider famously declared them to be "Boxing Gloves" and refused to try them. Almost immediately afterward, the guy suffered a debilitating hand injury which McNabney judges could have been prevented by the Heroic design. Too bad that rider judged a book by its cover, because when you put a pair of Heroic SP-R Pro V2 gloves on, they pretty much disappear from your consciousness. Inside, you'll find a full liner that is soft and comfortable against your skin. External seams are used, meaning no annoying and blister-producing pressure points inside the gloves. The "chassis" of each glove is molded to provide complete flexibility, while the abundant armor is attached, shaped and contoured to keep it out of your way as you ride. One huge key to the success of the Heroic fit is that it was based on an American hand form, while most of the competition uses a European form that doesn't suit many riders here in the United States.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Heroic is essentially a one-man show. Todd McNabney is the engine that makes this company go. It's hard to believe what an impact he's had on motorcycle protective gear. This can best be seen in the design of the SP-R Pro V2 Gloves. This model was introduced in 2009. By the year 2012 and ever since then, this glove's innovations have been finding their way into the new releases from the industry's best selling brand names. Todd finds it pretty amusing, especially when something he's thought up is redesigned just enough to avoid an intellectual property lawsuit, but in the process loses the ability to protect that was the feature's original intent!
We crash the %#@& out of them
The TrackdayMag.com motto is, "We crash it so you don't have to." Sadly, that's often truer than we'd like it to be. Almost immediately, we subjected these gloves to a horrific get-off. The rider's leathers, boots and helmet were all destroyed. Bones were broken. The bike was thoroughly wadded. It wasn't pretty. Our tester reports that he landed palms down, tumbled and slid, then did a few big flips out in the grass. So how did these Heroic gloves fare? They were the only piece of protective gear that could still be used post-crash. In fact, while our tester had several black and blue fingers, the gloves hardly showed any corresponding damage! The only real issue with the gloves was that a piece of the palm protection on one hand came loose after its edge seam ground through. The good news? There were several layers of leather beneath that padding which weren't even touched in the crash. If the rider and the bike hadn't been in such bad shape, we could have removed the dangling piece of armor and finished out the weekend. As it stands, we'll be sending this pair back to Heroic for repair and putting them back into service.
The Bottom Line
Heroic SP-R Pro V2 Gloves are the best hand protectors that we've ever had the misfortune to crash in. They cost $250 per pair, and are available direct from Heroic at http://www.heroicracing.com/. The performance of the SP-R Pro V2 under duress was such that at this point, we'd feel naked riding without them. When you walk away from an incident knowing full well that you got off better than you had a right to expect and know unquestionably that it was because of the gear you were wearing, you'd be a fool not to remain loyal to that brand. How impressed are we? Not only do we intend to continue our love affair with theses Heroic gloves, we're planning to acquire a matching suit to go with them.