Do You Need Gloves for Mountain Biking? (7 Best Uses of Them!)

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After spending enough time on the trails, you may notice that some mountain bikers wear gloves while others don’t. This begs the question: do you need gloves for mountain biking?

Mountain bikers who don’t wear gloves will tell you that wearing gloves is unnecessary and takes away the “feel” of the handlebars. Those who wear gloves, however, will tell you that gloves are an essential piece of mountain biking gear.

So, in this article, we’ll explore the necessity of wearing mountain biking gloves on the trail, as well as how to pick the best gloves for you.

Do You Need Gloves for Mountain Biking?

You need to wear gloves while mountain biking for three main reasons: to protect your hands if you crash, to improve your grip on the handlebars, and to absorb trail vibrations. Wearing mountain biking gloves can also offer additional benefits.

From keeping your hands warm to preventing chafing, here are seven benefits to wearing mountain biking gloves:

1.   Protect Your Hands in a Fall

Ripped mountain bike gloves from a fall

Crashing and falling are unavoidable when mountain biking, especially when riding on gnarly or overgrown trails.

When you fall off your bike, you’re likely to put your hands out in front of you to brace yourself. If you’re not wearing gloves, the rough terrain will most likely bruise, scrape, cut, and burn the skin on your palms.

Speaking from experience, scraping, cutting, or burning the skin on your palms can be excruciating, but I’ll spare you the gory details.

It’s a different experience if you’re wearing mountain biking gloves, which provide a protective layer between your hands and the ground.

Mountain biking gloves are padded to absorb the initial impact of the fall. Their durable fabric also prevents rashes and layers of skin from coming off when you fall. In addition, some gloves may have reinforced knuckles and fingers for extra protection.

As a result, wearing gloves helps minimize the severity of the impact if you fall off your bike.

2.   Provide Better Grip

A secure grip allows you to navigate the bike through rough and uneven terrain. However, maintaining a secure grip barehanded isn’t always easy.

Rain, sweat, and mud can also reduce your grip on the handlebars, which makes it harder to hold onto and control the bike. With one slip of your fingers, you could end up falling off the bike and injuring yourself.

Wearing gloves, however, can help you maintain a better grip on the handlebars.

Mountain biking gloves have tacky materials on the palms and fingers, which are the primary contact points. The suede palms of the gloves make it difficult for your hands to slide or slip. The fingers and thumbs, on the other hand, have gel tips for added grip.

Mountain biking gloves are also often thinner so that you can feel the handlebars, allowing you to control the bike better.

3.   Absorb Vibration

When you’re riding over rocky and bumpy terrain, vibrations travel up through the handlebars to your hands and wrists. The vibrations can cause numbness, tingling, and fatigue. Over time, excessive exposure to vibration can result in long-term hand and arm injuries.

Having a layer between your hand and the handlebars can reduce these vibrations. However, most mountain biking gloves add gel and padding in the palms to absorb and mute these vibrations.

As a result, wearing mountain biking gloves can help reduce hand-arm fatigue and any possible injury.

4.   Prevent Blisters and Chafing

Riding without gloves increases your chances of developing blisters and chafing on your hands. Blisters and calluses can form as a result of the materials of the handlebars.

Maintaining a tight grip on the handlebars while they vibrate can also cause irritation and chafing.

Blisters and chafing don’t only make it uncomfortable to grip the handlebars. It also makes it easier to lose your grip, which can lead to crashes and falls.

That’s why it’s best to wear gloves while riding to avoid chafing and blisters.

5.   Protect Your Hands From Harsh Elements

Mountain biking exposes your hands to various elements for an extended period.

Riding in the summer, for example, exposes your hands to UV rays, which can cause sun damage and sunburn. Dust, dirt, and gravel can also damage your skin, causing premature aging.

Wearing mountain biking gloves can help protect your hands from such harsh elements.

6.   Wick Away Sweat and Moisture

Sweat and moisture do more than just loosen your grip on the handlebars. They can also be uncomfortable, dampening (no pun intended) your mountain biking experience.

Mountain biking gloves can wick away any source of moisture, whether in the summer or during inclement weather. This keeps your hands at a comfortable temperature, reduces chafing, and improves your grip.

7.   Keep Your Hands Warm

Heated mountain bike gloves

Mountain biking in the winter can cause skin rashes and frostbites if you’re not wearing gloves. Cold weather can also numb your fingers and hands, making it harder to grip the handlebars.

However, if you’re wearing mountain biking gloves, they can keep your hands warm. Even better, you want to wear mountain biking gloves that are made for cold climates. They’re warmer and more water-resistant.

How to Pick the Best Mountain Biking Gloves

Wearing gloves is one way to protect your hands, wrists, and arms from injuries and strains. Not any glove will do, though.

To choose the best mountain biking gloves, consider the following factors:

Full-Finger or Fingerless

Full-finger gloves cover your entire hand and all ten fingers. They’re the most common type of mountain biking gloves since they provide more protection and better grip. They also offer more warmth during cold weather.

They may not be comfortable to wear in warmer climates, though. They can also make braking and gear shifting more difficult. So, more experienced mountain bikers may prefer fingerless gloves.

Fingerless gloves cover your palm and fingers up to the first knuckle. So, they don’t provide as much protection. Still, fingerless gloves are less restricting. So, they allow for more movement in the fingers, making braking and gear shifting easier.

They also have better ventilation, so they feel less sweaty. This makes them ideal for those hot summer rides on the trail.

Padding

Choosing how much padding your mountain biking gloves have depends on what feels right for you.

If you prefer to have a direct feel of the handlebars, you may want to pick gloves with minimal padding. They won’t provide as much protection and comfort, though.

For maximum protection, you want heaps of padding, specifically D3O padding. You can also get knuckle-guard gloves, which come in full-finger and fingerless styles.

Remember that the more padding your gloves have, the more difficult it can be to grip the handlebars. So, if you’re riding a smooth trail, you can go for gloves with less padding.

However, if you’re riding a rough, rocky trail, the extra padding will reduce vibrations and protect your hands from any injuries.

Material

It’s crucial to look for a pair of gloves made from durable materials. That way, they don’t fall apart after a few rides.

You should also consider the weather conditions you ride in. For warm weather, thinner, breathable, and water-resistant materials are ideal. For cold weather, you want thicker, thermal materials, such as fleece and wool.

If you ride all year, it wouldn’t be unusual to have two pairs of mountain biking gloves.

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Paul Tuthill
Growing up in Scotland, Paul developed a love for the outdoors and a desire for adventure from an early age.