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Do I Need Gloves for Mountain Biking?

We have all seen mountain bikers wearing gloves while riding. Many of you might be thinking whether we actually need gloves for mountain biking and if they are just a luxury item. Well, don’t make the mistake of skipping out on this protective equipment. Wearing gloves for mountain biking is just as necessary as helmets or knee pads. In this article, you will learn about why gloves are so important, the different kinds of gloves, and how to choose a pair.

Cycling glove
Cycling glove | Credit: unsplash.com

I. Major reasons behind wearing gloves for Mountain biking

As we have already mentioned, it is highly recommended that you wear gloves for mountain biking. After all, cycling gloves became protective equipment for cycling long before helmets appeared. But why? Well, there are four major reasons why you should wear a pair of gloves for mountain biking.

1. Hand Protection

Mountain biking is a relatively rough sport and there is always a chance of having a crash, especially for enduro and downhill riders. During a fall, we instinctively throw out our hands to protect the head and upper body from the impact. A lot of the time, the hands take the brunt of the force and often scrape across the ground. This can slice up your hands and render you unable to complete your ride. Even a soft crash on gravelly/rocky terrain can cut up your hands pretty well. A solid pair of mountain bike gloves will help prevent this from happening and you won’t have to stay home for weeks waiting to recover.

MTB glove
MTB glove

Other than falling off the bike, there are other ways to injure your hands on the trail. Riding technical singletrack and forest paths, it is not uncommon to hit your hands on trees and branches while trying to keep your balance. Also, you will probably encounter overgrown shrubs and twigs that frequently whip across your knuckles on narrow trails. To shield the top skin of your hands from getting shredded, some mountain bike gloves have rubber, plastic, or carbon armor plating on the upper of the glove.

Glove armour
Glove armor

2. Shock Absorption

If you have been out with your bike for more than an hour, then you know how fatigued the palms and forearms can get during the ride. Despite the suspension of mountain bikes, the continuous bumps on the trail build-up and eventually you start feeling it on your hands. Also, MTB riders often have to stand up on the bike and support their weight on the hands. Not to mention that, compared to road cycling, you have to grab onto the handlebars quite hard to maintain control on difficult terrain. Just a little bit of padding on the palm can go a long way to prevent pain and numbness.

Glove padding
Glove padding

3. Grip and Moisture Absorption

Unless you are riding in frigid conditions, you are bound to sweat while mountain biking. As the sweat builds up in your hands, you will start losing friction with the handlebars. Hands slipping off the bars can be highly dangerous, especially if you are navigating down a hill at high speeds. Gloves can soak up that sweat and prevent the handlebar surface from getting wet. Another fact is that the palm of most cycling gloves is made of grippy materials that offer perfect control in all conditions. Even when mud or rainwater soaks the handlebars, you can be confident about having enough grip.

4. Temperature Control

Many mountain biking enthusiasts do not let the weather get in the way of their off-road adventures. Many of you might go riding even in the coldest months of the year. In such conditions, it is important to protect the extremities of the body. Cycling with freezing hands is not a pleasant experience. Just try riding through the snow with bare hands and you’ll know what we mean. Winter-specific gloves can be a great relief for this. Although, preferences can vary a lot since you lose dexterity with bulkier gloves. Some riders prefer thinner gloves, claiming that the added control is worth sacrificing a bit of warmth. Ultimately, it’s up to you.

Winter gloves
Winter gloves | Credit: unsplash.com

II. Advantages of using gloves for Mountain biking

There are plenty of upsides to wearing gloves for mountain biking, some of which we have already discussed:-

  • MTB gloves are made with tough materials such as natural/synthetic leather that protects your hands from cuts and abrasions.
  • Some even have external armor made of molded plastic or carbon fiber which offer impact protection.
  • The palm may have padding to absorb shocks from the handlebars, and grippy materials for added control.
  • Gloves also absorb moisture and prevent sweaty hands from slipping off the bars.

However, there are some other conveniences that you get beyond what has been listed above. Many gloves come with a toweling pad at the back which lets you wipe sweat from your face. Additionally, you don’t get dirt inside your fingernails which can be quite annoying. Another observation that some advanced MTB riders have made is that resetting a dislocated finger (which can occur more than you think) in gloves is easier.

Downhill riding
Downhill riding

It would be unfair to not mention a downside of gloves as well. A good number of mountain bikers, especially downhill riders, are against bike gloves. The reason being that the extra material between the skin and handlebars somewhat reduces the amount of fine control that you have. We cannot argue that the feel on the bars is better barehanded. However, this is true only for short rides. On longer rides, the hands get sweaty, they start to get numb, and accidents are more likely. Hence, it’s always better to have gloves than not.

III. Importance of using Mountain biking gloves during Summer

Wearing gloves for winter is an obvious choice since we don’t want to freeze up our hands. But what about summer? Surely it would be uncomfortable if our hands would get too hot and the gloves accumulate too much sweat, right? First of all, you can get summer-specific gloves that are thinner and have a breathable mesh to allow air circulation. Secondly, modern summer gloves have moisture-wicking properties that prevent excess sweat build-up. Rather, not wearing gloves can make you lose grip if your hands perspire enough.

Moreover, just because it’s hot outside does not mean that there’s less of a chance of injuring your hands. Finally, thorny vegetation is more common in summer. Therefore, it’s a good idea to wear gloves in all seasons. The best bet would be to buy two pairs if needed – one for summer and one for winter. Since cycling gloves are inexpensive compared to other biking gear, there’s no reason to not buy more than one pair.

Trail riding
Trail riding | Credit: unsplash.com

F. A. Q.s

Q1. What Mountain Biking Gloves Should I Get?

Ans.: There is really no right answer for this. The choice of mountain biking gloves is completely up to the conditions you ride in and, more importantly, your personal preference. You should look for specific features according to what form of cycling you do the most. For trail, enduro, or downhill riding you want to maximize control and protection. Hence, you should look for better grip features, less palm padding, and some external armor on the back. Whereas for endurance cycling such as cross-country, it will be better to have thick padding to avoid fatigue. The gloves you choose should also be appropriate for the climate you’re riding in.

Q2. What size gloves should I buy?

Ans.: It is imperative to get the size right when buying a new pair of gloves. Generally, you want a snug fit so that they don’t bunch up and cause chafing, but not so tight that it limits movement and blood flow. As a quick test, you can try making a fist wearing the gloves. If you can’t, they are too tight. If it scrunches up in the palm, they are too loose. Glove sizing is given by most manufacturers as width. You can measure your hand width at home. Keep your dominant hand on a flat surface, wrap a tape measure around the hand just below the knuckles but excluding the thumb. Then compare with the table below to find the right size.

Glove measurement
Glove-measurement | Credit: tredz.co.uk

SizeWidth (inches)
XS7 - 8
Small8 - 9
Medium9 - 10
Large10 - 11
XL11 - 12
XXL12+

Q3. How do I choose mountain biking gloves?

Ans.: So you now know what kind of gloves you want to buy. The next step is to make the purchase. But before you do that, it’s a good idea to try out a few gloves to see which one feels best. After safety, the most important factor is comfort. If the gloves don’t feel great, chances are you will stop using them after a few rides. Head down to the nearest store and trial a bunch of gloves. If that is not possible, order a few online, try them out, and return the ones you don’t like.

Q4. What are the different types of mountain biking gloves available?

Ans.: Mountain bike gloves can be broadly distinguished in 3 ways.

Full Finger and Fingerless Gloves: Also known as ‘mitts’, fingerless gloves basically do not cover the fingers and are more commonly used by road cyclists. Most mountain bikers wear full finger gloves since mitts do not offer enough protection. Although, many XC riders prefer mitts since they feel cooler and more comfortable. We recommend going for a full finger option.

Summer and Winter Gloves: Summer gloves are lightweight, thin, and have breathable materials incorporated. This ensures minimal sweating and maximum airflow to keep cool. On the other hand, winter gloves have thicker, insulating material and are often waterproof. This protects the hands-on cold and wet days.

Armored and Non-Armored Gloves: Armored gloves protect rough trails in the form of ridges or panels at the back. These can be made of rubber, molded plastic, or even carbon fiber. Non-armored gloves do not have such features and hence, they are more supple and comfortable.

Conclusion

Safety is crucial for mountain biking, and gloves are the only way to safeguard your hands while riding. Injuring them can take you out of the trail for weeks. Therefore, it is a wise decision to wear mountain biking gloves. Be sure to follow our advice and you will find the pair that is both comfortable and which fulfills your requirements.


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Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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