Are Cycling Gloves Necessary? Last year, I got my first cycling gloves! I moved into a bike-friendly town and found myself cycling every day to and from my university. And it didn’t take long for my hands to develop painful blisters and my palms to get sore.
Still, I didn’t want to be at the mercy of bus schedules and pricey cabs, which were nowhere as convenient as bicycles. So, I went on an extensive hunt to find the right gadgets to relieve my pain. This led me to cycling gloves.
What are Cycling Gloves?
As the name suggests, cycling gloves refer to gloves that have been specifically designed for cycling.
Usually, unless you choose winter cycling gloves, such accessories do not provide full finger coverage. Instead, the tip of the fingers is left exposed to provide optimum ventilation and temperature. This is what often differentiates them from regular gloves.
The Characteristics of Cycling Gloves
When I was looking for cycling accessories, I did wonder why cycling gloves were a necessity. It turns out there are quite a lot of important benefits of wearing them.
One thing that provided me with a lot of discomfort when riding a bike was how much my hands hurt because of it. And it turns out; that this is an actual problem that many people face! This is because when holding onto a handlebar, you are putting additional weight on your hand.
This can put excessive pressure on the ulnar nerve. While professional cyclists know of positions to avoid this issue, amateurs like me certainly don’t. And cycling gloves help in reducing this pressure by restricting the positioning of the hand.
Absorption of vibrations
Riding a cycle can surely be a bumpy ride! After all, bike trails are made on natural terrain that have all sorts of rocks and paths. At least that is how it is in the city I currently live in.
When you add such trails to uneven roads or worn-out paths, the fact is that there are quite a lot of vibrations along the way. And for longer journeys, such vibrations can prove to be quite uncomfortable to the hands as well.
Here, cycling gloves help provide a much-needed cushion. The padding within the glove help in reducing the blow of each bump (at least on your hand).
Protection against friction
This is something that I am sure that all cyclists go through, regardless of how smooth the path they cycle on is or how great their hand positioning is. Friction is a menace that spares no one! I can never forget the blisters I got when I initially rode a bicycle without safety gear.
The sweatier your palms get, the more friction is provided between your hands and the rubber handlebars. And once this friction causes rashes and blisters, the healing process takes days and is quite painful.
Whether it be winter or summer cycling gloves, all of them help in reducing friction, which in turn ensures the safety of your hands.
Cycling Gloves Features
Here is a run-down of all the features you can expect some of the best cycling gloves to have:
Why do Cyclists wear Cycling Gloves?
As I mentioned before, I started wearing cycling gloves to get rid of all the pain associated with sweaty hands and friction. But, this isn’t the only reason cyclists wear cycling gloves.
A quick talk with a hobbyist cycler revealed to me a lot of other reasons for using summer and winter cycling gloves.
Here are some of the crucial reasons cyclists often swear by cycling gloves:
Safety in case of accidents
Did you know it is human instinct to stick your hands out when falling in an attempt to break the fall? This is why mostly in accidents, hands tend to bear the brunt of it all.
And cycling is an accident-prone way of commuting to begin with. It doesn’t matter if you are cycling on a smooth open road or a bumpy trail; accidents can occur anywhere. And cycling gloves help prepare you for them.
Gloves help prevent the occurrence of cuts and grazes in case of accidents. They also absorb some of the impacts, thereby preventing heavy damage to the hands in case of a fall.
Firm and strong grip on the handlebars
Riding a cycle in the scorching heat is surely a talent, especially when you consider that the entire onus of maneuvering a bicycle lies in your hands – which are the most prone to getting sweaty!
And if you are like me, your hands probably get sweaty regardless of the weather. The only condition needed is contact with another surface.
Regardless of why your hands get sweaty, the fact remains that sweaty palms can get slippery. Hence, it can be harder to hold onto the handlebars. Cycling gloves come in handy by preventing your slippery hands from touching the handlebar. Instead, a piece of dry fabric is in contact with it, ensuring a firm grip.
Prevention against injuries
An intriguing thing that I learned about being a cyclist is that it makes you susceptible to handlebar palsy. This is an injury that is caused by excessive compression on the nerve present on the wrist. Caused by prolonged pressure on the palm, handlebar palsy can be very painful and can extend into nerve damage too.
Cycling gloves help in spreading out the pressure and force that is applied to the hands. Instead of it all being accumulated on the nerves, it is dispersed to prevent injuries.
An excellent face wipe
I can vouch for this benefit any day! Truth be told, when a cyclist friend told me that he used cycling gloves because they were a handy face wipe, I was sure he was joking. But, when I began cycling for hours every day, I came to appreciate his honesty!
If you choose a quality cycling glove, you will get a soft section near the thumb that is actually meant to function as a towel! It helps in wiping away sweat, snot, or saliva. This helps in making the ride comfortable.
If you are too cycling for hours every day, you will probably appreciate not having your eyes sting from your own sweat.
Are there different types of Cycling Gloves?
As a novice, I used to think there were only two types of cycling gloves – winter and summer cycling gloves. How wrong I was! Here are some of the types of cycling gloves that you will find when you are out on the hunt for the right accessory.
These gloves are more popularly known as short finger gloves. Meant for summer biking, these gloves come with palm padding for optimum cushioning of the hand. What sets them apart is that the gear does not cover the entire fingers.
There is a thin mesh of fabric present in the back of the glove and the leather fabric on the palm area. Depending on which glove you choose, cycling mitts often come with elasticated fasteners near the wrist for a snug fit and a microfiber pad for face wipe.
For those of you who feel that your fingers are exposed to accidents in cycling mitts, you can consider choosing full-fingered gloves. They provide better protection against accidents and inclement weather.
Within the world of full-fingered gloves, there are types depending on the seasons. For instance, thick fabrics are suited for rainy and winter days, while the lighter mesh is available for summer days.
Apart from a full-fingered design, winter gloves feature specific elements that make them ideal for protection against the harsh cold. For starters, they are equipped with insulation for better warmth. For this, insulating material and fleece linings are used. At times, merino wool is used as well.
An additional layer of the microporous membrane is added to further offer protection against cold and water while simultaneously providing enough ventilation for a comfortable ride. One thing you might want to keep in mind when glove shopping is that the more winter-ready the glove is, the more the dexterity is compromised.
Compared to five-fingered gloves, lobster gloves stand apart due to the better dexterity that they provide. These gloves group the ring fingers and pinkie fingers together. The index as well as the middle fingers are separated from the rest to provide freedom for better controlling the bike.
Apart from the unique lobster claw design, the cycling gloves also have a significantly larger cuff to remove any gap that may exist between the jacket and glove. This prevents cold air from getting inside your apparel.
While Pogies were initially made for kayaking, they have since extended to be used for cycling as well. They are best suited for immensely harsh weather conditions. These gloves are attached to the bars of the bike in a way that the shifters, brake levers, and your hand are all covered.
In other words, they keep both you and your cycle protected against the cold. Usually, a thinner glove is worn underneath for a snug fit. If you are lucky, you can even find ones that have reflective properties for better visibility on the road.
For those of you who live in areas that get a lot of rain, riding a bike is already quite dangerous as cycles can skid off owing to poor friction. After all, there are only two tires, to begin with, compared to four in a car!
Having slippery hands can further add fuel to the fire. Even if you can’t do much about the tires, it is wise to select waterproof cycling gloves. These gloves keep hands dry regardless of how much it is pouring outside.
They are equipped with silicone grippers for better grip and neoprene fabrics for repelling water. Note that some waterproof gloves available are not that breathable. So, when selecting these types of gloves, be mindful of whether the provided options offer ventilation or not.
Mountain Bike Gloves
Mountain bike gloves offer the most protection among all the available options. It is made of tough fabric and has additional external protection in the form of carbon fiber panels or molded plastic. Since mountain trails are quite bumpy and rocky paths, such gloves absorb vibrations and protect your hands in case of fall.
The hard exterior ensures that no amount of thorns and trailside vegetation can protrude from the gloves and reach the hands.
How Do The Types of Cycling Gloves Compare?
Are you wondering which type of glove is best for you? While many offer similar design features, there is always a winner when it comes to different metrics. Here is how the different gloves compare.
When it comes to comfort, any cycling glove that has sufficient padding is breathable and has a face wipe is the best. Usually, winter and summer cycling gloves have just the right amount of material and padding to achieve comfort.
When it comes to dexterity, lobster gloves are the clear winners. They are specifically designed to optimize the movement of the hand. On the other hand, bulky winter gloves can be a nuisance when working with handlebars.
The more padding there is, the better protection is offered. Similarly, compared to cycling mitts, full-fingered options provide better protection since they cover every element of the hand. Pogies, Mountain bike gloves, and full-fingered winter gloves are good choices if you prioritize safety.
This does not mean others will leave you injured. They also feature enough design elements for a safe ride – just not against severe accidents.
Size and Fitting
Now, this is a metric for which comparing gloves is quite hard. When I was looking for gloves, I was most confused about what size cycling gloves do I need. I, too, was of the view that the type of glove governs the fit.
But, this is not true. As long as you have a quality cuff to secure the glove into place at the wrist, all types of gloves are a great fit if you choose the right size. So, for this metric, you need to be sure of your glove size, and you will find a good fit.
Which One Should You Pick?
I don’t know about you, but when I first discovered that there are such a diverse variety of cycling gloves out there and so many features to look out for, I was very overwhelmed! How is one supposed to find the right accessory, given all the choices? To me, too many options are a punishment.
So, I came up with a list of things I want in a glove to enjoy a comfortable bike ride. Then, I assessed all options based on how well they aligned with my needs. Here are some of the features I looked for. I am sure some of them might be helpful for you too.
Let’s strip it down to the most basic design element – full finger and half finger gloves. I wasn’t riding on any mountain trails, so I didn’t see the charm of using full-fingered gloves, especially considering the climate of the city.
But, if you live in a colder area where you are cycling across an uneven landscape, you might find full-fingered options better.
Again, I wanted a snug fit, and I am sure you would too. This is why you should always try out your gloves to see if the padding fits comfortably in your palms and if your fingers are as flexible and free as you like them to be.
As a pro tip, look at the webbing between the thumb and pointer finger. It should neither be too fit nor too loose.
While the level of padding differs in different types of gloves, there are usually two options available across them all – gel padding and foam padding. Foam provides better protection against the handlebar.
Gel padding absorbs vibrations. So, foam padding is better for road trips, and gel is better for trails. Again, your desired route and paths will govern which of the two is better for you.
Whether a given cycling glove is breathable or not depends on the type of material it is made of. Usually, the palm area has synthetic leather for better protection.
The rest of the glove is made of spandex. Choose a fabric that is flexible and breathable. There will often be a trade-off between the two, and it comes down to which of the two features you lay more importance on.
Colour and Pattern
I admit that this might just be a Virgo thing, but I am always very particular about the appearance of my accessories. This is true for safety gear like cycling gloves as well. For me, the best cycling gloves are ones that are both functionally and aesthetically a good fit.
You might want to consider the color of your bike before choosing a glove that has a tone and pattern that complements your cycle.
It’s time to choose!
After weighing your preferred options on these four scales, you are likely to find the cycling glove that best suits your need. If it boils down to two or three options, select one who fares best on the metric that is most important to you.
After my blister fiasco, I wanted something that would protect me against the handlebars, so I placed immense weight on this feature. I am sure your preferred feature will differ depending on your needs.
So, self-reflect first. Then research potential options that are worth considering. Finally, filter down depending on how the different options fare on different metrics. You will then be able to identify the cycling glove of your dreams (if that is something that keeps you up at night!)
Summary – Are Cycling Gloves Necessary?
Are Cycling Gloves Necessary? All in all, cycling gloves are necessary for a comfortable and safe bike ride.
They help absorb vibrations, protect against friction, improve grip and reduce the impact of a fall.
Among the many types of cycling gloves available, the key is to choose one that best aligns with your lifestyle, the city’s climate, and your biking needs.
Whichever cycling gloves you choose, just make to choose one that fits properly. And don’t consider them an additional gear. They are a necessity.
Put on your gloves and hit the road (or trail)! Happy cycling!
What are some of the common features of cycling gloves?
All cycling gloves come with palm padding for impact and vibration protection, cuffs at the wrist for a snug closure, and a soft towel section near the thumb for wiping sweat and face.
What are cycling gloves made of?
Cycling gloves are usually made from synthetic materials like acrylic, fleece, polyester, and polypropylene. Only the palm section features leather.
How do I know what glove size is right for me?
To identify your glove size, measure the base of your palm all the way to the tip of your middle finger. Then, measure your hand’s circumference, just below your knuckles. The larger of these two measurements is the one you should consider as your glove size. Don’t forget to try them physically, too, once shortlisted.
What should I look for in a cycling glove?
Features like a slim tight cuff, sufficient padding, enough dexterity and mobility along with breathability of the fabric are features that all quality cycling gloves should have, regardless of your specific needs.