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Why do cyclists wear gloves?

Comfort, sweaty palms, snotty nose, crash protection, there are many good reasons for wearing cycling gloves

A story this week about Michael Rogers crashing and skinning his gloveless hands prompted an interesting debate about the pros and cons of wearing cycling gloves. So why do cyclists wear gloves?

For many cyclists, gloves (and we’re talking about short finger mitts here) are as essential as padded bib shorts and a cycling jersey. Reasons for wearing gloves included enhanced grip and control on the handlebars, extra cushioning with padded and gel inserts, protection for your hands in case of a crash, and something to wipe a snotty nose with.

Your hands can get pretty sweaty when cycling on a warm day, and unless you’ve got really grippy bar tape, your hands can easily slip around the handlebars. Gloves soak up that sweat, keeping your hands dry and allow you to maintain a safe grip on the handlebars at all time.

Gloves can have padded palms, providing extra comfort by cushioning your hands from the vibrations passed through the bike and handlebar to the main contact points. The amount of padding varies hugely from one brand to another. Gel padding is popular. Some people prefer no padding, and there are many gloves with a simple, unpadded palm if that is your preference.

- Reviews: Gloves and mitts

Gloves can provide a bit of extra protection in a crash. Of course, nobody starts a ride planning to crash, but accidents can happen, no matter how careful you are. There are a huge number of variables at play in a crash, but quite often it's a reflex reaction to stick your hands out in front of you to break your fall. Gloves can act as a useful first layer of defence, enough sometimes to prevent painful cuts and grazes.

Of course, when the temperature drops or it starts raining, the reason to wear gloves are based on insulation and protection from the elements. If you want to know more about the best cold weather and winter gloves, this guide is a good place to start.

- Best cycling winter gloves — keep your hands warm and dry

Oh, another reason for wearing gloves: wiping your nose or sweat. Lots of gloves have a soft towel section, typically across the thumb, that can be useful for wiping your nose or sweaty face.

So there are good reasons to wear gloves, but some people equally prefer the freedom of not wearing gloves. It’s your choice, you might decide it’s a good investment or a waste of money.

Second opinion

To find out what the readers feel about this subject, we our Facebook page recently for your thoughts, and we had a variety of responses. Here are a few of them:

Neil Millar commented: “gloves are more comfortable, better at wiping away sweat than your hand, help you grip the bars better and in the event of a fall they save your hands.”

Some people wear gloves following a nasty crash. Robert Shennan tells us he “Had a palm ripped open as a kid & don't fancy it again. duh!”

Tom Baker happily rides a long distance without gloves. “Longest without gloves is 144km. Wasn't bad at all, but in the rain I would agree they are a good idea, especially compared to bare hands,” he said.

Peter DeMos reckons bar tape is more important than gloves. “Never wear gloves. Just good bar tape,” he added.

Alan Morgan said his glove wearing decision comes down to temperature. “I only wear gloves when it's cold,” he said.

And for many, cycling gloves are just a handy thing for wiping your nose with. “Where else would you wipe your nose wearing a short sleeve jersey?” said Anita van Eijndhoven.

So, why do you wear gloves?

David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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