How To Choose the Right Bike Gloves

We wear cycling shoes to protect our feet and a chamois to protect our seats—but what about our hands?

When you ride your bike, the only things actually touching your bike are your feet, your butt, and your hands. We wear cycling shoes to protect our feet and a chamois to protect our seats—but what about our hands? That’s where a good pair of bike gloves matters.

Cycling gloves will prevent chafing, rubbing, and blisters on your hands, and they’re especially important if you ride your bike for hours at a time. In addition, they can help you grip the handlebars better, add a bit of padding to your hands, and save your palms from getting scraped if you fall off your bike. Whether you’re a road or mountain biker, here’s what to look for in your next pair of cycling gloves. 

Questions To Ask Yourself

Before shopping, determine what kind of gloves you need.

What kind of riding am I doing?

Cycling gloves are designed for either road or mountain biking—get a pair that matches your riding discipline.

How long will I ride for?

Longer rides leave you more exposed to weather and trail debris (like branches) and increase the likelihood of chafing or blisters developing on your hands. For longer rides, you’ll generally need gloves with more protection.

What is the weather when I ride?

If you only ride in fair weather, avoid purchasing weatherproof gloves—you won’t need the extra features (or the decreased breathability).

Am I willing to pay for extra features?

Consider what features—like a nose wiper or premium breathable materials—are important to you, and set a budget you can stick to while shopping.

Road vs. Mountain

The key distinction in riding gloves is between road cycling and mountain biking. 

Road Bike Gloves

Many road biking gloves are fingerless; they cover your palm up to your first knuckles. This design keeps your hands from overheating during the warmer months, when most road riding occurs. These cycling gloves often have padding in the palm to absorb vibrations from a rigid front fork, and the padding also adds some protection for your hands in the event of a crash. For those who want a bit more protection or warmth for cold-weather riding, some road gloves come in a full-fingered design. They’re not exclusively for roadies, either: Some XC cyclists prefer the lean design as well. 

Mountain Bike Gloves

These gloves are almost always full-fingered to give you maximum protection from trail debris, like rocks and branches, that might hit your hands. Some mountain bike gloves also have additional padding or armor on the top to provide even more protection. The palms generally are made with a textured or sticky surface to create increased grip—a helpful feature when traversing rough trails or pedaling through inclement weather. Compared to road gloves, mountain bike gloves often skip the palm padding—manufacturers assume your bike’s front suspension will take the chatter out of the trail.

Features To Know

Regardless of the type of glove you’re after, there are a few features and materials you should look for when buying a pair. 

Materials

Cycling gloves are made from a variety of materials. Mesh and polyester breathe well, which makes them well-suited to hot days on the bike. Other materials, like leather and polyurethane, add durability to high-wear areas of the glove, such as the palms. Gloves made for inclement weather will often feature weather-resistant materials like nylon, neoprene, and Primaloft (which also insulates). While great for wet, cold conditions, these materials don’t breathe as well as other fabrics and can cause your hands to overheat on warm days. 

Waterproofing

If you know you’ll be riding in inclement weather, consider waterproof gloves. These gloves will often include materials like Gore-Tex and rubber components, especially on the seams, to block water and keep you dry when the sky opens up.

Palm Grip

Make sure the palms of your gloves are made of a durable material like leather so they can stand up to the abuse of grabbing and rubbing against your handlebars. For road bikers, look for sections of soft gel or foam padding on the palm to help absorb shocks. For mountain bikers, look for improved grip. Many mountain bike gloves will have patterns of silicone on the palms and fingers to help your hands stay planted on your handlebars and grip your brake levers.  

Cuffs

The cuff of your cycling gloves should fit snugly around your wrist (so dirt or water won’t seep in) while being loose enough to stay comfortable. Some gloves use elastic cuffs for a snug fit; others rely on adjustable closures like a Velcro strap. What works best for you will come down to personal preference and the shape of your wrists.

Nose Wiper

Some gloves have a patch of fleece on the back of the thumbs for mid-ride nose wipes. In cold weather, especially, this feature can be a major plus.

Protection

While road riders need little more than polyester on the backs of their hands to protect them from incoming bugs, mountain bikers should look for gloves with protection all over the glove. Even if you don’t fall off your bike, brush and sticks are liable to hit your hands. Look for durable materials like thick synthetics, leather, or a polyurethane coating. For those taking many hits to the hands (or who ride really overgrown trails), consider gloves with dedicated sections of armor made from molded plastic or carbon fiber—always helpful for hand protection should you fall off your bike, as well. 

Winter Protection

If you’ll be riding your bike in the winter, you’ll need a dedicated pair of winter riding gloves: full-fingered with added protection from the cold and wet. Simple and slim neoprene gloves are ideal for weather that approaches freezing. If you’ll ride for multiple hours or through treacherous winter conditions, look for heavy-duty winter biking gloves. These often have a waterproof layer like Gore-Tex combined with insulation like fleece or Primaloft to keep your hands dry and warm. Keep in mind that these models are often thicker and bulkier than your average cycling gloves, and they’ll limit your dexterity somewhat.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.