Whole Lotta Glove: Lee Parks Sumo Gloves

Motorcycle gloves have gotten kinda out of hand in recent years, yeah? Like the last… twenty years or so.

Our conservative gear tendencies here at CityBike are well-known, and it’s often a struggle to find gear that isn’t overly branded and ridiculously styled. Short of the recent resurgence in somehow “cool” again neon off-road gear, modern motorcycling glove design is probably the worst offender. Thanks to constant cycles of arguably pointless styling “updates,” we’ve ended up with glove designs that look like Salvador Dali knocked up Kawasaki’s “aggressive and unique” Sugomi styling, and their love/hate-child was smacked with the ugly stick every Thursday for the first three months of preschool.

Lee Parks Design doesn’t do that shit, but they’re also not stuck in ’69, selling glorified gardening gloves—their DeerSports are available in a “PCI” version with Outlast phase-changing lining, a high-tech material that can absorb and distribute heat from heated grips to both sides of your hands. According to LPD, their Outlast-lined gloves feel almost like uninsulated gloves, but are comfortable down to 35° Fahrenheit.

Today, however, we’re talking about something a little sexier than keeping your digits appropriately toasty: their supermoto-inspired Sumo gloves. I tested the $179.95 short-cuff version, but the Sumos are also available in a full-gauntlet “R” version for $224.95. Both are made in right here in the US of A, as are all of LPD’s gloves.

Construction & Protection

Both versions of the Sumo employ segmented thermoplastic rubber (TPR) protection on the knuckles and back of the hands, the entire length of the fingers and thumbs, and over those knobbly bits of wrist bone. The TPR looks tough and feels good: strong but flexible. There’s no rigid, restrictive form as is often the case with carbon fiber-backed gloves.

The Sumos are constructed from soft but strong 2.75-ounce deerskin. Like the TPR, the deerskin feels good—substantial but supple, almost luxurious. If you’ve been wearing gloves made from that crappy, papery leather that a lot of the bigger brands across price ranges seem to love, the Sumos will be a revelation—the leather is that nice, and in my estimation, second only to my favorite pair of long-suffering Helimot Buffalo Pros (also deerskin).

The palms have no seams to cause discomfort and feature a second layer of deerskin for protection in case of a slide. This layer is sewn on flat, and I never noticed the edges in day-to-day wear.

In keeping with modern times, the thumbs and forefingers have goatskin patches sewn over the deerskin to allow you to periodically keep your dumb Facebook “friends” with no lives of their own vlogging fanbase apprised of your whereabouts via the touchscreen on your smart telephone, all without removing your gloves.

Man, ain’t technology grand? We’re lucky to live in a time when all the important problems have been solved.

The Sumos’ cuffs are just slightly longer than a typical short-cuff glove: LPD says they’re 1/2″ longer than their standard DeerTours. A single wrist strap keeps them in place, and this cuff/strap interface creates the only oddity I experienced with the gloves: the cuff sorta flares outward, and that material has to go somewhere. It’s not enough to go over a jacket sleeve, but if you’re a gloves-inside-sleeves guy like me you may be frustrated by having to stuff the cuff into your sleeves. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I’d prefer a plain, compact cuff.

Curiously, the gauntleted Sumo Rs use outward-facing seams, unlike the standard Sumos and all other Lee Parks Design gloves other than their DeerTours Outseam. Some believe outseam gloves are more comfortable because the seams aren’t “turned in” on your hands, and this is presumably why Lee Parks Designs makes outseam versions of some of their gloves, but in my experience, a good quality, properly-sized glove should be comfortable regardless of the orientation of the seams.

LPD emphasizes the low number of seams in their gloves, which helps with comfort, and the fact that they use two strands of nylon thread in those seams instead of Kevlar thread, which they say is more likely to tear through the leather and cause seam failure in a crash.

They also take a stand against rigid carbon fiber armor because it can shatter in a crash and the shards can end up stabbing your hands instead of protecting them. I’ve been in the soft armor camp for many years, so I like Lee Parks Design’s perspective on glove armor because it conveniently agrees with my own.

All this makes for a pretty damn comfortable and reasonably protective glove, even if the pair I tested was a little snug.

Sizing: Think Different

Lee Parks Design glove size chartLPD provides a very detailed sizing chart that you can print out and use to figure out what size Sumo (or other Lee Parks Design gloves) you should wear—very helpful when buying online. I printed it out and measured my right hand several times. No matter how many times I did this, the chart kept telling me I should wear a medium.

Given large segment of society’s current fixation with small hands, I was very concerned about this development, and confused as well: I wear an XL in Helimots and a XXL in Racers. Are these other makers of fine gloves just compensating?

I consulted with Lee Parks himself on this important matter at the Spring 2018 CMSP Advisory Committee meeting. He reiterated that his gloves run large, and after we pressed our hands together like two hopeless lovers on opposite sides of a glass wall, he decided I was a medium based on our relative hand sizes.

It all seemed very conclusive, but the medium Sumos I tested fit a little too snugly. I hoped they’d naturally expand a bit during break-in, but they never got quite to the point of all day comfort and perfect dexterity. It was real close, and I suppose I could have filled them with water and worn ’em till dry in an attempt to mold them to my manos. Instead, I passed them along to Max, whose hands are just a touch more presidential than mine, for further testing.

Max is a racer so he’s used to big-ass gauntlet gloves. Because of this he felt a little iffy riding on the freeway in the Sumos, but despite that concern the Lee Parks shawties quickly became his go-to daytime gloves on his recent trip to Spain: “The racer boy in me felt weird wearing them as they were not a full gauntlet with extra straps/armor/padding, but the former MSF instructor in me was fine with it. The regionally famous yet somehow international photographer in me loved that I could shoot without taking them off.”

That’s shooting photos, in case it wasn’t clear from context, and his experience mirrors mine: these are well-made, comfortable short-cuff gloves. Just make sure you get the right size. Duh.

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