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.