Biking gloves are often an afterthought as bikers focus their attention on shoe and clothes choices. The reality is that these gloves are indispensable. Without proper hand protection, you'd find your hands quickly scratched up and injured as you tear your way down the trail. Not only does that make a miserable riding experience, but it might also lead to long-term conditions that affect your life.
But with so many choices on the market, how would you know which fits you best? If you're wondering, wonder no more. We're here to give you the 411 on biking gloves.
With a rough sport like mountain biking, you're bound to fall or injure yourself no matter how careful you are. That's why gloves are so essential: to ensure that your hands are kept free from pain even in the event of a horrible crash.
Besides that, mountain cyclists are also prone to nerve damage from the impact of riding your bike. Wearing a padded mountain bike glove can drastically dampen the vibrations and shocks to your hand and subsequently minimize nerve damage. It's also much more comfortable to ride with gloves, allowing you to go on long bike trips.
On sunny afternoons, you might lose some control over your bike from sweaty palms. MTB gloves (mountain biking gloves) are made to absorb sweat while keeping your hands dry when cycling, which allows you to grip onto the handlebars for extended periods without losing control. Not only that, but some gloves even have a built-in soft towel on the thumb to quickly dab off sweat from your forehead on an intense excursion.
Best Features You Need For A Good Biking Glove
Your hands do a lot of heavy lifting when you're biking, so you'd want to make sure that the fit is perfect. One of the most important factors to consider is getting the right size, but since every brand varies from size to size, the best way to know your size is by measuring your hand.
If your gloves are too tight, they will restrict your movements and cause some severe chafing. But if they're too loose, they might get caught on branches or affect your grip and control. The webbing between your fingers should also be taut.
Try making a fist with your hands with the gloves on—if you can't do it, it's way too tight. But if it bunches up in your hand, it's too loose.
Small, well-made interior seams make all the difference in the comfort level of a good MTB glove. Conversely, poor seam placements create hotspots and blisters that could make your ride a living hell. This is why high-end brands often find clever ways to keep the seams away from the fingertips where they could potentially distract you.
Look for breathability and comfort in the fabric itself. MTB gloves can be constructed with a range of different materials—whether it's polyester, synthetic leather, or lycra. Other riders prefer different fabrics, so make sure that your gloves can absorb sweat and let out the heat. For winter gloves, make sure that they have good insulation to keep your blood flowing.
Touchscreen compatibility has become a common feature in cycling-specific gloves to make it more convenient for bikers to check their phones during their trip.
That being said, it could be a hit or miss as some designs and materials seem to work better. There's no single style that consistently performs better than the rest, so try out different brands to see how well they do for you.
Between constant contact with the handlebars, encounters with branches, and protecting you from crashes, your gloves must be able to handle some abuse.
Durability is essential, as your gloves should at least last an entire season without falling apart. Besides choosing a pair of gloves made of durable fabric, you should also check if there are reinforcements in easily breakable parts like the webbing between the fingers and the palm.
Sweaty hands and handlebars are not a good combination. Besides being uncomfortable, you'd also lose control over your bike, which can be challenging when you're zipping down the trail.
Wearing gloves is great for grip on multiple levels. Some are built with a silicone grip on the thumb so that you can hold onto the bars better. Some are made of breathable material to prevent sweaty palms. Besides that, gloves with the optimal shape and fit for your hand would also help you perform better.
If you have bigger hands, you might appreciate a thicker grip that prevents your hands from slipping. It would also help facilitate better gear shifting and braking.
Some bikers don't like gloves with a padded palm since they can be uncomfortable from trapping too much heat. Others prefer it for its shock-absorption properties. So it really depends on how you feel when you wear the gloves.
Another important factor to consider is nerve damage prevention. You might experience some hand numbness or tingling when you ride for an extended time. This condition is so common that it's even called 'Cyclist's Palsy'!
You can minimize the damage from this with well-thought-out gel padding. Each gel pad should be positioned over the major nerves on your hand to provide maximum cushioning without completely dampening vibrations from your bike. It should also relieve pressure on your hand while you're riding. If you're on a budget, you can opt for a glove with foam padding.
Fingerless Vs. Full-Fingered Gloves
Both the fingerless cycling glove and its full-fingered counterpart have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Fingerless gloves are much more breathable but provide a lot less security. However, for mountain bikers who need a lot more protection, full-fingered gloves might be preferable. They also provide extra grip for dangerous downhill rides and extra insulation for colder temperatures up in the mountains.
Ultimately, it depends where you usually ride your bike. If you don't intend to ride for long, fingerless gloves might be your solution. But for longer distances and colder climates, full-fingered cycling gloves are the way to go.
How To Choose The Best Biking Glove
Although brands race to produce the best gloves, your choice should adapt to the demands of your trip. What one biker considers the best might not be your cup of tea and vice versa.
The most important thing to consider is what you need from it. For example, if you do a lot of cross-country riding, you should consider lightweight gloves that absorb a good amount of vibration and sweat. But if you're into enduro riding, you should opt for long gloves with gel pads on the palm to relieve pressure from your hand.
Besides that, you should also consider the amount of protection you need from your gloves. Downhill racers would naturally need more heavy-duty protection than trail riders. This also applies in special cases like in kids' bike gloves.
How To Measure Sizing For Bike Glove
Since gloves are sized differently across brands, the most secure way to ensure that your fit is to measure your hand.
Measure from the tip of your longest finger towards the base of your palm to determine how long your glove should be. You should also wrap the tape measure on the widest part of your palm and make a fist before you take the measurement. This will help you figure out your width. Using these measurements, you can accurately determine your glove size.
Tips For Washing Bike Gloves
The spinning cycle in washing machines can be very rough on your gloves, so the best way to wash them is definitely by hand washing.
A general rule to follow when washing your gloves is that the water is too hot for your gloves if it's too hot for your hands. Besides that, you should only use a mild detergent and carefully rub the gloves together to remove tough stains. Don't wring your gloves dry as you might accidentally cause damage to the more delicate parts. Gently squeeze the water out and hang them out to dry.
But if you don't have time to handwash your gloves, don't worry! Here are three tips that would help prolong the life of your gloves.
1. Don't Marinate Your Gloves In Sweat
Besides stinking up your gear, sweat also contains a lot of salt that destroys fabric. This means you'd get fewer uses out of your gloves if you make a habit of leaving them in your gear bag.
The best time to clean your gloves is immediately after you get home. But if you don't feel like doing it, you can jump in the shower with your gear to rinse off the sweat and dirt. It's not perfect, but this can be a temporary solution until you can properly clean off your gloves.
2. Wash Your Gloves In A Delicate Cycle
If you want to wash your cycling gloves in the washing machine, make sure that you use a delicate cycle with cold water. Better yet, put your gloves in a laundry bag meant for underwear and turn them inside out to protect them.
You should also avoid putting your gloves in the same load as anything with zippers, rivets, and velcro closures. Your gloves might get caught in them and get ruined accidentally.
3. Do Not Use Dryers
It might be tempting to toss your gloves in the dryer if you have a biking trip the next day, but resist it and let nature do its work.
Certain fabrics like lycra and synthetic leather are not fans of the excessive heat in dryers. The heat dries and stiffens these fabrics, making them more fragile and prone to breaking.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is Cyclist's Palsy?
You might have felt pain, numbness, and tingling in your hands and fingers after riding for a very long time. You might have also felt that your grip is weaker and clumsier. This is commonly known as Cyclist's Palsy or ulnar nerve compression.
The ulnar nerve is a nerve that runs across the palm of your hand. As a mountain biker, you put a lot of pressure on your hands to maintain your grip. Because of this, you're also putting pressure on your ulnar nerve for an extended period of time.
When you're cycling downhill, you're also supporting a large part of your body weight on the handlebars, which puts more pressure on your wrist. Without proper care, the nerve compression can worsen and lead to more serious conditions like carpal tunnel.
2. How can I prevent Cyclist's Palsy?
Cyclist's Palsy is easy to prevent as long as you make sure to take a break once in a while to flex your wrists or change position. In addition, as we've mentioned above, some padded gloves come with built-in support to relieve pressure from your hands. In fact, some researchers have determined that wearing suitable gloves can reduce the pressure on your ulnar nerve by 10% to 28%.
Besides that, you can change your seat position to lessen your body load on your wrists. Reducing the shock from the handlebars or positioning your bike to lessen the extension of your wrists while riding would also help.
3. What is the best closure system for MTB gloves?
The best closure system is one that best fits your needs and cycling demands. There are generally three types of closure systems-elastic band cuff, velcro closure, and strapless closure.
Velcro closure is the most common among mountain bikers as it provides an adjustable fit while being easy to put on or remove. Strapless closure gives you a lot of aerodynamics, which is why it's the most popular among racers. The elastic band cuff design is heavy-duty and comfortable, making it suitable for downhill riders.
4. Do I need different gloves for different handlebars?
Not really. Some riders feel better wearing fingerless, unpadded gloves with flat bars, while others prefer padded gloves. The only thing you need to watch out for is if your hands are strained or cramped after a long ride. Otherwise, it really depends on how much padding you need to feel comfortable.