I have to admit I watch a lot of cycling videos on YouTube and after watching hundreds of episodes I’ve noticed a common article of clothing most don’t wear: cycling gloves.
So this question comes up, are cycling gloves necessary?
Cycling gloves serve to add grip and protect your hands from friction with the handlebars. It also reduces pressure and dampens vibrations on the road which can cause hand numbness. If you’re a cyclist who does not have issues gripping the handlebars or numbness during rides, then cycling gloves may not be necessary.
Some cyclists wear gloves simply for the aesthetic look. While other cyclists strictly wear cycling gloves just for comfort. Wearing cycling-specific gloves has benefits that some may not realize.
So, in this article, we will discuss those benefits and give you some pointers on what to look for if you’re interested in wearing them.
What Are The Benefits Of Cycling Gloves?
For many cyclists wearing cycling, gloves are not the first thing that pops into their minds when they’re headed out the door.
But the benefits of wearing cycling gloves can go so far in making your bike ride more comfortable. We as cyclists wear padded biking shorts to protect our skin as we sit on the saddle.
But shouldn’t we also wear something on our hands to protect them while gripping the handlebars?
Consider some of the benefits of wearing cycling gloves:
Reduces pressure – depending on how you’re positioned on the handlebars, you may be putting extra weight on your hands. The handlebar may be pressing up against your ulnar nerve, the part of your hand farthest from the thumb.
This nerve is one of the main nerves that runs from your arm down to the hand and when it’s compressed you develop hand numbness.
Most cyclists who ride properly on the bike may not have hand pressure issues. But those that may ride hard on the handlebars or have fewer hand positions to move to might.
Dampens vibrations – riding on any road or terrain, you’re bike and even your body will absorb bumps from uneven roads and worn bike paths.
Most mountain bikes have shocks or suspensions that absorb much of the road vibrations. As for those on road bikes, it is more common for the hands to suffer over a long period of riding.
Wearing cycling gloves will give you some sort of cushion to work with helping to dampen the road vibrations. Those longer bike rides will end up being more comfortable with padded cycling gloves and your hands will thank you.
Protects From Friction – Some may not realize how much friction takes place between your hands and the bike’s handlebars but there is quite a bit.
A lot of the friction happens with you have sweaty palms and rubber handlebars rubbing together. This is also more common with straight bars and can cause blisters to form under your palms.
You can prevent this friction with drop handlebars wrapped with suede bar tape. Prevention is only part of the equation.
If you ride with drop bars, consider double wrapping your handlebars with bar tape.
The double bar tape solution is actually what some pro cyclists do to their handlebars.
Wearing cycling gloves in addition to this would be best to prevent friction and numbness.
Other benefits to wearing cycling gloves are as followed:
- Prevents scraped hands after a fall or crash
- A soft towel on the back of gloves serve to wipe sweat or nose
- Keep hands warm in winter
- Gives you extra grip during wet weather or if you have sweaty palms
- Some gloves have signal lights in them to let others know you’re turning
- Full-Fingered gloves help prevent fingers from slipping on brake levelers
Do Cycling Gloves Make A Difference?
For many cyclists, the conditions they ride on may determine whether or not they wear cycling gloves.
Wearing gloves make the difference if you are mountain biking, riding in the cold or other inclement weather, or are about to break a fall with your hands.
It really makes a difference wearing gloves while cycling, primarily for comfort purposes.
In my experience mountain biking, I would never ride without gloves. For one, making sure I had a good grip of the handlebars while switchbacking or warmth while riding in the cold, was crucial to me.
Riding in the cold or rainy weather without cycling gloves for a while makes your fingers numb and uncomfortable.
If you sweat a lot and develop sweaty palms, wearing cycling gloves will make a difference in being able to grip the handlebars better.
Living in very dry or hot climates may warrant wearing cycling gloves just to protect your hands and fingers from sunburn or being burned while touching parts of your bike.
Also, if you happen to fall during a ride the first instinct is to put your hands out to catch yourself, especially if you’re clipped in.
Having and wearing cycling gloves provide protection and security when riding in these conditions.
Some cyclists end up making it a habit of wearing gloves just as often as they wear a helmet for protection.
While others may wear gloves to protect the rubber materials their bike parts are covered with like rubber handlebars and rubber-covered gear levers.
In many cases when you have to change a bicycle tire or fix your chain, cycling gloves can keep your hands clean and give you a better grip on your tools.
No one is saying you MUST wear cycling gloves every time you ride because that’s your personal preference. But if you wondered it if would make a difference it’s worth it to a least try wearing them sometimes.
There are sometimes where wearing cycling gloves may not make a difference and that’s during indoor spin class.
When cycling indoors you are not exposed to outdoor elements and many of the classes don’t even require you to grip the handlebars constantly.
To be honest I don’t think I’ve seen anyone wearing cycling gloves during an indoor spin class unless they were a hypochondriac.
Most avid cyclists who train indoors or at home may not think wearing gloves makes a difference either since they too are indoors or just riding on training rollers.
What Do I Look For In Cycling Gloves?
This is a great question because not all cycling gloves are the same and many gloves suit different purposes.
When looking for cycling gloves you should look for gloves that provide padded protection, are breathable, and fit your hands comfortably.
“If the glove fits, wear it.” Or that’s what we usually say when referring to the right bike shoes. It’s ok because it’s also fitting for what we are talking about here.
Look for gloves made of leather or flexible sweat-wicking materials and that allow your hands to breathe. It’s also a good idea to find gloves with tab features to allow easy removal when you decide to take them off.
There are two types of gloves and they come in full-fingered and half-fingered.
Here are some additional things to look for in cycling gloves:
- Padding under palm Not on the back of the hand
- Padding fits the anatomy of your hands
- Glove removal tabs
- Soft material on the back of the hand/thumb
- Synthetic materials that are sweat-wicking
- Insulated material inside (For winter gloves)
- Windproof, Water-Resistant, Waterproof (For Winter gloves)
- Elastic wrist band or velcro strap
Some cyclists may wonder how to find the right fitting cycling glove.
This comes especially important for those that have fat fingers or big hands and may not find any gloves that fit them at all.
Cycling gloves should fit snugly but not too tight or holding the handlebar could intensify pressure on your hand nerves. Also, you don’t want the glove too loose as the padding inside could become uncomfortable due to friction.
Finding the right fitting cycling glove could be as simple as taking some basic measurements and figuring out the best size that will fit your hand.
What Size Cycling Glove Do I Need?
Here is another great question that many new cyclists may not consider when buying cycling gloves.
I know when I first started out cycling I would just try on different gloves and would look at the flexibility between my thumb and pointer finger.
If it stretched well without starting to rip at the seams, then I accepted the glove as a good fit. But this is not really a good way to fit cycling gloves.
The problem with fitting gloves like I used to is that you completely forget the other aspects of the gloves such as fitting too tight or too loosely.
You may also notice the glove material is so cheap that it rubs off on your clothes and handlebars when wet and so on.
But knowing how to size your hand for the best cycling gloves will be the best way to find the right fit.
Consider some hand measuring tips for choosing the right size glove:
- Lay the dominant hand flat and with a sewing tape measure start from the middle of the palm and place the tape 2 cm above the pit of the thumb
- Measure the circumference around the widest part of the hand which should be below the knuckles
- Now document that number in inches = hand width
- Next, measure from the tip of your longest finger down where the palm ends and wrist begins
- Now document that number in inches = hand length
Using the chart below, take the largest of these two measurements as a guide to selecting the right size glove:
If you have finger length discrepancy, where your little finger is index fingers are too short for full-fingered gloves. Unfortunately, there are no custom gloves that accommodate different finger lengths.
Your best bet is to go with a glove one size larger than you normally would fit with a full-fingered glove or go with a fingerless glove.
What Are The Best Cycling Gloves?
It’s very objective to say what the best cycling gloves are. Many cyclists wear gloves simply because they look awesome and not always because they provide any other benefit.
But when you are out on a long bike ride or you spend a lot of time gripping the handlebars like in mountain biking then you definitely want t get the best gloves you can buy.
Although some say that “you get what you pay for”, I don’t recommend going out and spending $100 dollars on cycling gloves, unless it’s making you money back in return.
It’s true that quality and durability will vary depending on how much you pay for cycling gloves, but just be sure to weigh your options.
Consider some of the Bestselling, but not necessarily the Best gloves available online below (Remember the best gloves are sometimes a little more expensive):
- GEARONIC TM Cycling Bike Glove
- INBIKE Men’s Touch Screen Winter Cold Weather Gel Gloves
- SIMARI Winter Gloves Touchscreen Cycling Gloves
- Fox Racing Ranger Mountain Bike Gloves
- INBIKE 5MM Gel Pad Shock Absorbing Mountain Bike Gloves
To find out additional details, features, and current pricing for these gloves you can check them out here at Amazon.com
You can also opt for purchasing cycling gloves at your local bike shop but they might be priced a little higher unless you find some on clearance.
Another good option for finding the best cycling gloves is to ask your friends and acquaintances who cycle what they recommend.
What Do Bike Shorts Do?
Cycling shorts serve to provide comfort and protection between a cyclist and their bike saddle. The shorts are made of special materials that help wick away sweat and prevent riders from developing chafing, which is similar to a rash. It’s not necessary to wear biking shorts for cycling but cyclists chose to wear these for added comfort and to remain aero during cycling rides. If you are interested in learning more about cycling shorts and what they are made of, I recommend you review “What are the benefits of padded cycling shorts?” available on the site.
Do Pro Cyclists Wear Gloves?
From the outside looking in, some cyclists may not have seen pro cyclists wear cycling gloves as much and may conclude that they don’t wear them. The truth is that pro cyclists train with bare hands and race with gloves. Some weather extremes pro cyclist ride in like rain, cold, and snow will warrant wearing cycling gloves. Pro cyclists are humans too and need gloves for the protection of their hands and for better grip. Other times pro cyclists might wear gloves as part of their cyclist kit and to show the brands that sponsor them. It’s one of those things where now that you know this, it will be seen more often as you watch races.
(Photo Courtesy: Instagram @_playlif3_)
Troy StampsTroy Stamps is an avid cyclist based out of California. Road cycling is his passion which he's been doing his whole life and he has even competed in some local races. He loves getting new people into the sport and teaching them how to change their life through cycling.
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