Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

news

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 road.cc 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 road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com 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

Add new comment

36 comments

Avatar
OldRidgeback | 2 years ago
1 like

I always gloves when I'm riding my BMX at the track. It's a requirement. I wear them for serious MTB riding too. Gravel rash isn't nice. I learned that the hard way.

I often wear gloves while pootling around on my bike and commuting too. 

Avatar
Chris Hayes | 2 years ago
2 likes

Because when you fall off they'll protect the palm of your hands which will probably hit the tarmac first...and keep them warm. 

Avatar
Scoob_84 | 8 years ago
1 like

I'm sorry but there is just no solid evidence that gloves prevent injury. There is no design minimum safety standard for manufacturers to adhere to either. I've seen injuries result from gloves gripping the ground on impact and causing twisting injuries. There are also cases where the increased padding connected to the ground when a bare hand wouldn't have and could have avoided a crash. I'll stick to wearing my helmet thanks, but don't you dare make gloves compulsory!  14  14  14

Avatar
check12 replied to Scoob_84 | 2 years ago
1 like

Gloves will save more injuries than cause, I'd bet your helmet on it.

Avatar
Rich_cb replied to check12 | 2 years ago
2 likes

You're forgetting the well established science of risk compensation.

Just believing that your hands are safe from grazes will make you cycle like a reckless maniac.

Who knows how many deaths are caused by glove induced risk compensation?

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
1 like
Rich_cb wrote:

You're forgetting the well established science of risk compensation. Just believing that your hands are safe from grazes will make you cycle like a reckless maniac. Who knows how many deaths are caused by glove induced risk compensation?

So true. I always wear gloves and I'm constantly swerving in and out of traffic with nary a care.

Avatar
oliverjames | 8 years ago
1 like

I wear them for safety and comfort, whether mountain biking or everyday cycling.

Avatar
mrfree | 8 years ago
0 likes

over 7,000km without gloves and counting...

good bar tape.
don't crash.
never wipe nose. Only snot-rocket.

Avatar
MHDennis | 8 years ago
0 likes

Only wear gloves for track or if riding in a large group or with inexperienced riders (not including 4th cat races despite the inability to ride in a group some people have). In cold weather gloves are a must and I as I don't have a lot of money to invest I've heard that latex surgical gloves hold heat well in the winter. Did cut my hands open when I crashed at fairly slow speeds back in 2011/2012 but I was a newbie to cycling and also I probably overexaggerated back then (I was about 13/14) I also didn't know about Rule #5

Avatar
Mungecrundle | 8 years ago
3 likes

So to recap:

I haven't heard anyone ever say that their gloves either contributed to a crash or caused additional injury.

Those who have crashed without gloves mostly seem to have come to the conclusion that gloves would have saved them some pain and consequently now wear them.

Those who have yet to crash / are convinced of their inability to have a crash seem less convinced of the benefits of gloves.

Some are just full of snot.

Avatar
tourdelound | 8 years ago
0 likes

Last summer while out on my hardtail on a gravelly bridleway I managed to go over the handle bars. I found you instictively put your hands out to save yourself. Fortunately I always wear full finger gloves on my MTB, so the skin on my hands was saved. My forearms, elbows and right knee didn't fair quite as well, but I found you can still ride with skinned forearms, elbows and knee. Skinned palms, don't think you'd be gripping the bars too well. Oh, and most importantly, the bike was OK.  36

Avatar
mcnoodle | 8 years ago
0 likes

being a chef i always wear gloves dont want to miss to much work time if im unlucky one day,

Avatar
Asprilla | 8 years ago
0 likes

Mitts aren't needed for riding, but they are vital for falling off.

Avatar
Asprilla | 8 years ago
0 likes

Mitts aren't needed for riding, but they are vital for falling off.

Avatar
jasonbrim | 8 years ago
0 likes

I don't find I need gloves during the summer, but I do wear them occasionally. I usually wear gloves for crits, and take a pair when mountain climbing for the descents, so I have more grip, comfort, and control. Otherwise it is nice to get fresh air flowing over your hands (and your cycling tan doesn't look any funnier than it already does).

For all other times of the year, gloves are a necessity! I have gloves for all types of weather and varying temperatures  26

Avatar
OldRidgeback | 8 years ago
1 like

Never used to back in the day but do now. Full finger for racing, fingerless for normal riding.

Avatar
FatBoyW | 8 years ago
0 likes

Rubbish things - last time I came off (yes I know your not supposed to) one mitt completely destroyed.

Seriously they are for comfort, control and crash - I dread to think what state I would have been in without them, my hip and leg as ever show the scars - when will someone invent a leather hip protector! I was thinking something integrated into the short but then as soon as you start scraping down the road it would slide around to your backside.

I always seem to shave a great lump of my hip - serves me right for having so much fat on it!

Avatar
martincashman | 8 years ago
0 likes

Only wear them racing, for crash protection. Otherwise glove free until winter. Used to wear them every ride when I started cycling about five years ago but that was just from following the seeming established dress code.

Have acquired a few vintage bikes in recent years, I can see the where the necessity would be there for comfort and grip with older bikes having ribbon thin tape with little grip or vibration damping.

Newer padded bar tapes offer more comfort than gloves alone back in the day of thin tapes, so gloves aren't really essential for comfort. Risk of 'doing a Rogers', is reason enough to wear them tho, so I always glove up when chances of a crash are increased.

Avatar
dassie | 8 years ago
0 likes

I always wear mitts for a degree of shock absorbency & palm protection, but also fringe benefits such as an occasional nose wipe. If cold enough full gloves instead.

Avatar
KnightBiker | 8 years ago
0 likes

Going Gloveless, unless riding races or track or winter. I find that in summertime mitts trap the heat. I do have 2 layers of thin bartape to compensate.
(also did the Paris Roubaix sportive without gloves, and that went fine! (2 thick layers of soft bartape))

Avatar
Wookie | 8 years ago
0 likes

It affords some protection to the palms of my hands. I also feel more comfortable wearing gloves than not. I generally wear fingerless mitts during the summer and full fingered gloves for the rest of the year.

Avatar
Cheesyclimber | 8 years ago
0 likes

The towel section is perfect for drying a wet saddle too.

Avatar
hampstead_bandit | 8 years ago
0 likes

Full finger gloves for me, all year round (thin ones in summer, thicker in winter)

Been wearing full finger gloves after years of MTB and BMX, and just don't feel good in mits. My fingers are a bit wonky after numerous accidents over the years, so I also find mits very difficult to remove!

Avatar
oldmixte | 8 years ago
0 likes

Came off the bike on some loose gravel a week ago, hips and shoulder still painful. My Gore short finger gloves showed the scratches that would have taken the skin off my left palm.m.

Avatar
farrell | 8 years ago
2 likes

People who wear gloves should be beaten to death.

And people who don't wear gloves should be hanged until they no longer live.

I think I've covered everything in a suitably hysterical and aggressive manner.

Avatar
mad_scot_rider | 8 years ago
0 likes

In Scotland there are about two months of the year when it's warm enough to go glove-less

From September to June, anything over 17mph is gonna be numb fingers time without some protection

Avatar
crikey | 8 years ago
0 likes

It would appear that cycling has become too posh for the art of the snot rocket to be perfected...

...and what's all the 'hard man' nonsense?

I don't wear gloves because I don't want to; poncing around in lycra isn't offset by bare hands is it?

Avatar
gonedownhill replied to crikey | 8 years ago
0 likes
crikey wrote:

It would appear that cycling has become too posh for the art of the snot rocket to be perfected...

...and what's all the 'hard man' nonsense?

I don't wear gloves because I don't want to; poncing around in lycra isn't offset by bare hands is it?

Always remember to check if your mate is still on your wheel before discharging the nostril. Luckily last time I did this to someone we were 95 miles into a 100 mile sportive and he was too knackered to care.

Avatar
mcockshoot | 8 years ago
0 likes

Always have done since a couple of road rash incidents in my teens.

Warm ones in cold weather and crochet back mitts the rest of the time.

They have certainly protected my hands and nothing looks cooler than a good pair of crochet back mitts  1

Avatar
tatsky | 8 years ago
0 likes

I wear padded mitts for protection in case I do crash or come off the bike. I have never come off, touch wood, but I wouldn't like to learn the hard way that a bit of leather on the palm offers some protection.

This morning I went full fingered, because it was cold.

Also, I cycled 120mile in holland recently with padded gloves, but even after that distance (and smooth roads) I could feel some soreness in the flesh parts of my hand. I can only begin to imagine how much more painful it would have been with no gloves. It would have made the 70 miles the following day much tougher I imagine.

Pages

Latest Comments