Buying Cycling Gloves: Your Guide to Getting the Right Protection and Performance
Whether you’re a new cyclist or you’ve been riding the trails or roadways for years, it is important that you have the right equipment. This ranges from cycling shorts to your helmet. Cycling gloves are also essential components and affect not only your comfort, but your performance. Today’s cycling gloves are designed to do more than just protect against potential blisters. They help to reduce vibration while riding, decreasing the chance of developing an injury from prolonged exposure.
However, it can be difficult to determine which bicycling gloves are best for your needs. There are many models on the market, and they all claim to be the solution to your needs. The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. What is perfect for you in a pair of bike gloves might be wrong for someone else. You’ll need to make an informed decision for yourself. Our buying guide will give you the information that you need to do just that.
Related: Best Cycling Sunglasses
Glove Type and Purpose
The first consideration is going to be the type of glove that is most suited to your purpose and to the time of year that you’ll be riding. For instance, you will need a different style glove for road-riding in the summer as opposed to cyclocross during the fall. There are several different styles of glove on the market, each designed for a different purpose. We’ll talk about some of the basics below.
Full-Fingered – While all of the gloves on our list are half-finger, there are full-fingered cycling gloves out there. These are generally best for late fall and winter riding when you need additional protection for your fingers.
Half-Fingered – All of the cycling gloves we reviewed on our list are half-fingered. This actually offers you a number of benefits and even some advantages over full-fingered styles. For instance, these are much cooler than full-fingered gloves. They also make it easier to use other accessories because you don’t have to contend with fabric covering your fingertips.
Winter Gloves – While any full-fingered biking glove can be worn in the winter, you’ll find some specific pairs that are designed to help protect you even in the depths of the arctic chill. These are usually insulated, and they are often both wind and waterproof, as well.
Mitts – These are closer to the half-fingered glove style we’ve reviewed in our list above, but they’re a bit more minimal. Usually, these cycling gloves are designed for racing and feature adjustable straps on the wrists. Padding is present, but is usually minimal.
MTB Gloves – Several of the cycling gloves we reviewed could fit into this category. Mountain biking gloves usually have a highly textured palm with robust padding.
Mittens – These fall into the winter bike gloves category, even though they’re not technically gloves. Most of them feature a three-finger design and help to protect your fingers and hands from the cold. Mittens may or may not be waterproof.
If you’ll be riding in warmer weather, from early spring through late fall, the biking gloves we covered in our reviews will be more than sufficient. However, if you plan to ride during the late fall and winter months, you may decide to invest in more than one pair of cycling gloves.
While the type of glove you choose is certainly important, fit is arguably even more so. A well-fitted pair of cycling gloves offers comfort and protection, while a poor fit could actually lead to decreased comfort and potential injuries.
Loose gloves make for sloppy handling, and they can even lead to blisters, the way that loose cycling shoes can. Gloves that are too tight will chafe and rub your hands raw, as well. So, how do you ensure you get the right glove size for you?
The ideal option is to use the manufacturer’s size chart. These usually give you a size for US and EU models, combined with hand measurements in inches and centimeters. You’ll need to break out your measuring tape (ideally, a cloth measuring tape) and measuring the circumference of your hand just below the knuckles. You should also measure from your wrist to the end of your middle finger to get the length.
Today, most cycling gloves are made from synthetic materials. That’s a good thing. They’re more breathable than leather, and they’re not prone to stretching out of shape in the same way. However, leather does offer superior wear and tear resistance, which is why you’ll find synthetic leather palms used so widely in the industry.
Other fabrics of choice include nylon mesh, Lycra, spandex, and more. These are usually used for the back of the glove and offer expandability/stretching, moisture-wicking, and breathability. There’s really no type of fabric that is hands-down better than another, and they all come with their own pros and cons. This is why most manufacturers combine multiple fabric types to achieve the functionality they need.
You will find a wide range of padding materials used in cycling gloves today, but they’re not all the same and they do not all offer the same level of protection and comfort. First, though, why is padding needed?
It’s really all about absorbing vibration and fighting fatigue. The vibrations passed from the wheel up through your forks, into the handlebars, and then into your hands and arms do many things. First, they can actually cause serious injuries – think carpal tunnel. Second, they sap your muscles of energy, which affects your endurance, your reaction times, and more.
Today, manufacturers use three primary types of padding. Basic foam is probably the most widely used, although it tends to deteriorate quickly and is usually reserved for lower-end gloves. Next up is EVA, which stands for ethyl vinyl acetate. It’s used in many other areas, as well, including running shoes, and usually finds its place in mid-range and high-quality cycling gloves. Finally, there’s gel, which can be found in most of the bike gloves on our review list. Gel is the best performing padding material, and is found in mid-range and high-end gloves.
Is padding really needed, though? The answer is “it depends”. What does it depend on, though? There are many factors at work here. One of those is the frequency with which you ride. If you’re only riding every now and then, you’re probably ok without padding. If you’re not riding for longer periods, you may not need gloves at all, much less padded ones. Your personal preferences also play a role – are you the type of rider who wants to feel the handle bars? If so, padding may be the wrong option for you.
Biking gloves need a means to secure them to your wrists, unlike casual wear gloves. Hook and loop (Velcro) closures are the most widely used method in the industry, as they allow you to close your gloves tightly without worrying about elastic, or about dealing with buckles. The thing to consider here is the size of the securement flap or strap. Very small straps may be difficult to grasp on your first try. Larger flaps may lead to less comfortable fit than you would prefer.
Biking gloves are made to fit very snugly. Getting them on over your hands can be challenging, particularly with the minimalist style of glove. A pull tab makes it much easier to get your gloves on quickly and with a minimum of fuss. These tabs take many different forms. Some are nothing more than extended portions of the glove’s body. Others are sewn to the glove, but are distinct from the body. The type you choose is largely personal preference. Even buying gloves with pull tabs is personal preference, as you’ll find plenty of decent options out there that lack them, including at least one pair on our list.
While all of the cycling gloves on our review list are minimalist, half-finger style, they actually look very different from one another. This is a good thing, as it allows you to find the right style to match your other riding gear. You can even choose different colors and color combinations if you like. Overall, style and design have little to do with functionality or protection, so it’s all down to what you want and prefer.
Most of our cycling glove reviews revolved around pairs with textured palms made from synthetic leather. There’s a reason for this. It offers excellent grip on your handlebars in a wide range of different weather conditions. Grip is a critical consideration – the wrong material may be slick, causing your grip to slip at a critical moment, which could cause more than just mild embarrassment. Many riders have been injured in situations similar to this.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of cycling gloves, there are plenty of options available to you. In addition to the top-rated bike gloves we reviewed above, there are numerous others on the market, including winter gloves, insulated gloves, and more. Making the right choice begins by knowing the key factors to look for in a good cycling glove, defining your personal preferences, and then sorting through your options to find the right pair.