Fingerless summer cycling gloves — also known as track mitts — are an iconic piece of cycling clothing. In this buyer’s guide we’ll take a look at the functions and features of summer cycling gloves, pick out a selection of the gloves we’ve reviewed and loved over the years, and — we hope — help you choose the right summer cycling gloves for you.
Fingerless cycling gloves provide protection if you crash, absorb buzz from the handlebar, help with grip and provide somewhere to wipe a runny nose
The cheapest fingerless summer cycling gloves cost about £6; luxury models run over £50
Aero comes to everything, even gloves: super-snug, Lycra-backed gloves are intended to add a little bit of speed for time trials and triathlons
Palms are usually made from leather, either real or synthetic, with backs in a soft, stretchy material
Traditional track mitts had an open section on the back which added a brown blob on the hand to the classic cyclist suntan, but most gloves these days have closed backs so you don't have to use sunscreen there
Summer cycling gloves have a number of jobs: they help grip the handlebar; they protect your hands if you fall; they can prevent numbness by absorbing buzz and vibration from the road; they protect the backs of your hand from the sun; and it doesn’t hurt if they look good.
You’ll usually find a palm made from either genuine leather or a synthetic leather of some sort and a back made of a stretchy fabric to keep the gloves snug on your hands. But as with so much in cycling there are many variations on those two themes, especially when it comes to the back of cycling gloves, which might be made from leather or crocheted cotton mesh instead of Lycra.
Somewhere on the back you’ll almost always find a patch of towelling to wipe your face with.
The standard way of sizing gloves is to measure in inches around the palm of your hand. If that measurement is, say, 9 inches, then you’re a size 9 in gloves.
Of course, the bike industry doesn’t do this, instead generally using Extra Small to Extra Large size designations that vary between brands and even within the same brand. For example, I’m a Pearl Izumi Large, a Galibier Extra Large and last year I was a Decathlon XXL in their winter gloves, though I’m an XL the latest version.
Given the bike industry can’t even agree on what sort of bottom bracket bikes should have (or make most of the various standards work properly) it’s obviously too much to hope for that they’d manage a consistent sizing system for summer cycling gloves.
Some cycling gloves have padding on the palms in the form of slabs of gel under the leather, others don’t. Whether you need this is entirely down to you. Unpadded cycling gloves give a very direct connection to the handlebar and that’s a feel many riders prefer, but if you’re prone to numb hands from the pressure of the handlebar or road buzz, you might want some gel to absorb impacts.
To keep them snug around your wrist, summer cycling gloves either have a Velcro closure, or nothing at all, relying on the stretch of an elasticated cuff or back to keep them tight. Velcro cuffs usually make for a cycling glove that's easier to get on and off, simply because they provide a bigger opening to put your hand in, but there’s a pleasing minimalism about gloves without a flap to keep them closed.
The very cheapest summer cycling gloves cost about six quid, the most expensive about ten times that. Back in 2005 Rapha offered an £80 pair made from African hair sheep leather and manufactured in the UK. They were lovely, but the price was unarguably a bit startling.
Back on planet Earth, and a decent pair of summer cycling gloves will cost you £20-£40, which is cheap enough that you can have several pairs to match different outfits, or just plump for goes-with-anything black.
Gloves with synthetic palms can be chucked in the washing machine on gentle cycle with the rest of your sports kit, and even tumble-dried, especially if your drier has a low-hot setting. Don’t do that with leather-palmed gloves though, it’ll destroy them. Instead, wash them with soap and water while you’re wearing them, rinse them thoroughly and hang them out to dry gently.
Most summer gloves are fingerless or, if you want to be pedantic, short-fingered. But if you’re riding off-road and want a bit more protection for the backs of your fingers, take a look at the lightweight gloves aimed at mountain bikers. They’re especially handy for gravel riding where the hand positions on the hoods and drops expose the backs of your hands to bushes, nettles and brambles.
Let's take a look at our favourite summer cycling gloves of the last few years. All of these have scored an 4.5 out of 5 from our reviewers, or 4.5 out of 5 for performance.
The Castelli Rossa Corsa Espresso Gloves are an exceptional pair of bike mitts for those who like to combine breathability with padding.
I like mitts with tons of padding and so the Espressos are ideal as they have that in abundance. There are four pads across the bottom of each finger, another on the thumb, then three sitting across the bottom of the hand, one circular pad in the middle of the palm, and a long thin one running from underneath the little finger down to midway down the wrist.
Each pad is gel and the seams allow the hand to move easily without any kind of restrictions – something that heavily padded cycling gloves sometimes suffer from. On each pad there are silicone grippers to maintain grip regardless of the conditions, and these work impressively well, even in the wettest conditions.
The Galibier Campionissimo II Luxury Mitts harken back to the era of Fausto Coppi, classic styling matched with first-rate materials and construction. They will fit like – ahem – a glove, for many thousands of miles of fair-weather smiles.
The Campionissimo cycling gloves definitely err towards warmer weather, with hundreds of holes, the back of the hand and each knuckle bare to aid ventilation. That said, if you run warm you may find them more than a fair-weather item.
The feel once on is indeed 'luxury'. The naturally dyed goatskin leather is supple and soft, and after a few rides begins to take on the natural profile of your hands. I imagine that, like a good leather shoe or watchstrap, they will only fit better over time, unlike a synthetic which tends to stay the dimensions it starts out as.
Hirzl's Grippp Light SF cycling gloves offer fabulous performance. These lightweight summer mitts have the best grip I've ever experienced and they back this up with great construction and a perfect fit. And while the price is high, they're still cheaper than some – we reckon they're worth every penny.
Grip (or even Grippp) is Hirzl's USP, but I was still surprised by just how grippy they are. It's not marketing hype, these work as they're claimed to. Contrary to most cycling gloves I've tried, these are grippier than my bare hands in the dry. Move to wet weather and they are still incredible, easily outperforming everything else I've tried.
That grip provided by a very supple kangaroo leather palm that's been subjected to what Hirzl calls an "extensive tanning procedure". This Light version goes without padding which is a feature I really like, so you get a nice natural feel for the bars. Hirzl does also make these in a Comfort version with some thin padding, if that's what you prefer.
Santini's Brisk Race Mitts are a very comfortable set of low-bulk mitts that give a natural feel of the handlebar while providing just enough cushioning. The back is highly breathable and the price beats many for value.
The Brisk cycling gloves are really well thought out. The design is very simple and the fit is spot on. A mesh back is well stitched to a palm that has a little bit of gel under a grippy surface. And personally, I'm glad Santini has chosen to use some small pull tabs instead of a Velcro strap to aid getting the mitts on and off.
The mesh back is made from 'Spider Micromesh'. This hasn't made my hands too hot and it dries very quickly. In fact, these gloves have been perfect for the hot summer months, allowing the air to quickly dry the sweat wicked by the Spider-Mesh. The fabric is also soft and has stayed that way through many washes.
The Hirzl Grippp Tour SF gloves certainly live up to their name as the tacky nature of the leather palm gives you unbelievable grip on even the wettest and shiniest of bar tapes. Minimal padding means plenty of feel can come through the handlebar too, in a good way.
The palm is made from kangaroo leather, often praised for its suppleness, and it really is a great material for glove use. I've owned cow leather mitts in the past and after wet or sweaty rides the palms can harden and need softening up again on your next ride, but you don't get any of that here.
The finish to the palm has a slightly sticky feel to it, which comes from the Grippp polymer that is added. This gives excellent grip levels on either the bar tape or the hoods. I wore these on some seriously wet rides and no matter how many bumps or whatever you hit, they aren't going to slip.
Off-road on the gravel bike I'm testing, hitting tree roots and potholes never saw me lose grip on the hoods or drops even in the wet; the grip levels are really impressive.
Altura's supremely comfortable ProGel 3 mitts come with very effective padding, fantastic fit and brilliant reflectivity. Which means they should appeal just as much to cycle commuters as road riders.
I first used the ProGel 3 mitts while riding a fairly stiff hybrid and, while my backside sure felt plenty of shocks, my hands got away effectively scot-free. What's even more impressive is that I've had a broken finger throughout the time I've been testing them. I quickly grew to realise that once the NHS-issue finger splint was squeezed through the relevant hole, everything would feel really quite fantastic.
It's all too easy to be cynical when it comes to a brand's marketing spiel but it's hard to argue with the 'strategic placing' of Altura's ProGel inserts. There are two raised but still very modest padded sections on the lower palm below a silicone grip surface, plus a shallower, wider band of padding at the top of the palm. Combined, these give perfect hand support on the top of flat bars then, when transferred to a road bike, excellent comfort on brake hoods and more than enough movement to hold the drops unencumbered.
Preferences regarding levels of cushioning and coverage in gloves are very personal, but for women who like a minimalist feel yet enough cushioning for distance riding, the Rapha Souplesse Mitts are definitely ones to consider. They are great looking, lightweight and extremely comfortable.
Fifty quid might seem like a lot to pay for a pair of lightweight summer cycling gloves, but these deliver value in spades in terms of quality, style and comfort.
Despite the super-lightweight feel, they're made from durable materials and are designed to last, no matter how long or how hard you ride.
On the backs is a breathable moisture-wicking fabric with SPF 50+ and an antibacterial treatment, while the abrasion-esistant synthetic suede palms are home to military-grade padding (as used on gloves designed for snipers). The thumbs also feature the synthetic suede for nose or brow wiping.
To complement their Speedsuit, Galibier make these rather snazzy looking Crono aero gloves for those days when every second counts. There are a few competitors on the market but none seem to offer such a package that gets anywhere near this price.
Sticking straight out in front of you on the tri-bars the hands are exposed to the wind and while these haven't got the smooth profile of the 'flipper-like' Castelli Aero Gloves they are still a very tight fit with the lycra body finishing high up past the wrist. There are four sizes too so that you can get the fit as close as possible.
Unlike the Castellis though, Galibier have gone for some decently-thick padding. Padding isn't really that necessary in short distance time trials but if you go long distance you'll be thankful of it. It's deep enough to reduce road buzz but thin enough to not ruck up when being used on small diameter tri-bars.
Deft Family's Catalyst Divide glove is a lightweight trail glove with an excellent fit, thanks to perfect panelling that runs to all the right places. It's not one for cold weather, but perfect for short trail sessions, warm days or faster riding.
The Catalyst Divide's 4-way stretch material allows a close and sag-free fit with no tightness or restriction anywhere. The palm is a single layer of Clarino synthetic leather, and while there's no extra padding, it works well to give you a very connected feel to the bars. It can also cope okay with your little unintended lie downs, and despite their low weight, they take bramble pulls and branch scuffs happily.
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Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.