Mountain Bike Gloves: "Handy" little pieces of fabric used to cover hands, provide more grip on the handlebars, and prevent damage to our digits when things go wrong! There are various types of gloves out there, and the array of choices for such as seemingly simple item may seem overwhelming. But when you break it down, it's not too hard to work out what you need in a glove, so let's dig in to decide which gloves will suit you best.
Why wear gloves?
When your hands get sweaty or wet, so do your grips. This makes your grips not so grippy, and that's not ideal out on the trail. Gloves can help in this regard.
When you have a stack on your bike, instinct tells us to throw our hands out in front of us to break the fall. Gloves can help minimise skin damage in this instance, and saves the pain of having a nurse pull bits of gravel out of your palms.
In this post, we'll go through the different types of gloves, features, parts of the gloves, materials used to make them, and how to make sure they will fit you.
If reading all the way through for the nitty gritty details isn't your thing, let me break it down for you.
- If you like your gloves tough, warm enough, and simple, give these a look over: Giro DND Full Finger Gloves
- Even tougher again with some thick knuckle protection, these are a great option: Fox Defend D3O Gloves
- Like simple construction, but rowdy designs? FIST gloves may be for you: FIST Handwear
- More after something light, breathable, and comfy? Browse through these fingerless gloves here.
Features to look for in MTB gloves
- Breathability: This is how well the glove's different fabrics allow hot air to escape. Fabrics with a poor breathing quality get condensed moisture trapped next to the skin where it can either become cold and gross, or warm and uncomfortably wet on hot days. The better the breathability, the better your skin will be kept dry and at optimum temperature.
- Wicking: The ability of the fabric to draw sweat away from the skin and to the surface of the glove, where it can evaporate.
- Protection: Different levels of protection are offered by different types of gloves.
- Waterproofing: Special membranes on some gloves help to keep your hands dry in wet weather. Due to not letting moisture in, they also don't let any moisture out, making them a poor choice for hot conditions.
- Warmth: Winter gloves are designed with the maximum amount of insulation to keep your fingers from freezing off when the temperatures drop. Obviously, this makes them a poor choice for the summer months, as well as being heavier and a bit more restrictive.
Parts Of A Glove
Gloves are made from a different number of parts all stitched together. These are the upper, palm, fingers and cuffs. Sometimes the back of the thumb will be a Terry Towelling material for wiping sweat from your brow, or snot from ya shnozz.
This can include any combination of the following:
- A lightweight and breathable material - perfect for the summer months but offer minimal protection
- Protective layers on the tops of knuckles - This increases weight and restricts movement slightly, but offers the best protection if you do clip a tree or punch the dirt.
- Insulated and windproof - Perfect for winter months, but too warm in the summer months
- Water resistant - Great for when the heavens open!
The part of the glove that goes around your wrist, and holds the glove to your hand. Options available here are either:
- A pull tab with hook and loop closure so you can dial in the perfect fit
- Stretchy material that allows for a "slip-on" fit
These can be either:
- Single layer - Great for keeping the glove light and breathable with the best bar feel, but don't offer lots of protection and will tend to wear out the fastest.
- Dual layer - Often it's only sections the highest load or crash prone areas that will have the additional layer, but these provide increased crash protection, while still remaining relatively light. Some can cause irritation on long rides if the glove doesn't fit right.
- Padded - A thin foam layer sandwiched between 2 layers to help absorb vibration. Great for comfort and crash protection but are a bit warmer/bulkier.
- Gel Inserts - Similar to padding, but a little bit nicer and more high tech. These are a great way to alleviate aches and pains in your hands. You do receive the least amount of trail feedback through these gloves.
- Protective - Heavy duty gloves often feature protection on the heel of the palm where they won't interfere with your grip on the bars, but certainly will help out if you're sliding down the trail.
There are a couple of different variants to consider when looking at the fingers on your next pair of gloves.
- Fingerless/Half Finger/Short Finger - Fingerless gloves are a favourite of the XC crowd, due to less heat build-up and the ability to make adjustments and/or repairs without having to remove them. Fingerless can be defined as either half finger or short finger. Half finger gloves have covering down to the second knuckle only, exposing the lower part of your digits. The downside to fingerless is that your fingers are exposed in the case of having an accident.
- Full Finger - Full finger gloves come in many different styles. These offer the best protection, and are more common. With full finger gloves, it's worth looking for ones that have a "tech thread" on the fingertips so they will work with touchscreen devices.
MTB gloves are usually made from materials like polyester, acrylic, fleece and polypropylene, or a mixture of some. Each different material has different properties.
- Polyester - Excellent breathability and moisture wicking, but little to no wind resistance or waterproofing.
- Acrylic - Breathable, stretchy and warm, but not great for wind or weather.
- Fleece - Used in gloves for winter riding, fleece is fantastically warm and insulated but doesn't breathe well at all.
- Polypropylene - Great resistance against the elements, but not so effective at letting the moisture out.
When it comes to sizing up a new pair of gloves, you'll want to find an approximate measurement of your hand. You'll need two measurements -
- Circumference: Take your dominant hand and lay it flat. Measure the circumference around your palm at the widest point below your knuckles, excluding your thumb.
- Length: Measure from the tip of the middle finger to the base of the hand.
Now check the sizing charts on the gloves you're after, and compare to the measurements you've taken.
Most gloves will stretch over time. This is perfectly fine and normal, as long as they're still comfortable for you. Comfort is a big factor with gloves, as you will have them on your hands for hours at a time. Pop the gloves on, go grab your handle bars and see how they feel when you're hand is bunched up, and reaching for levers. Make sure they're nice and comfortable, before popping the tags off.
One great thing about MTB gloves is that there is no shortage of brands and manufacturers, meaning that you will be spoiled for choice. Now get out there and start looking for your new pair!
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