Best Cycling Gloves: Buying Guide For Hand Protection

For most cyclists, a good pair of gloves is essential for optimum comfort as well as protection from wind, rain, cold and possible accidents. We’ve all you need to know in our best cycling gloves buying guide.

Why do I need gloves?

Cyclists will benefit from the additional grip and protection offered by gloves – keeping sweaty hands from slipping from the bar grips, or offering palm protection in the event of a crash. Gloves vary in price and application, ranging from lightweight summer mitts offering basic cushioning and crash protection to highly-technical and fully weatherproof winter gloves for polar conditions.

The kind of gloves you choose will depend on the type of sport you enjoy (gloves for MTB and road riding, for example) and the weather conditions you are out in (winter gloves will be optimised for warmth and weatherproof, summer gloves will be lighter and more breathable).

Assess your priorities based on what kind of riding you do, and in what kind of weather, and choose your gloves accordingly. Some of the main factors that designers take into account when making different types of glove are breathability, wicking, protection, waterproofing, grip and warmth.

What cycling gloves are best for me?

The kind of gloves you choose will depend on the type of sport you enjoy (gloves for MTB and road riding, for example) and the weather conditions you are out in (winter gloves will be optimised for warmth and weatherproof, summer gloves will be lighter and more breathable).

Mountain Bike Gloves

These gloves typically offer a greater level of impact protection with tougher materials and construction and external armouring in the form of moulded plastic or carbon fibre panels.

Many MTBers will opt for the level of protection from thorns and trailside vegetation that is afforded by a pair of lightweight full-finger gloves, which can also be used on milder autumn and winter days.

Summer Road Mitts

For summer wear, the traditional roadie-style fingerless mitt provides an extra level of cushioning between hands and bars by means of extra palm padding, or ergonomic gel inserts on more expensive models.

These mitts also protect the hands from being shredded by road rash in the event of a spill.

Full-Finger Road Gloves

During the cooler autumn and winter days many riders will opt for something that provides an extra layer of warmth.

Often windproof and waterproof, full finger gloves are produced using breathable microporous membrane fabrics which stop water from getting in but allow moisture to escape.

Features to look out for include silicone finger grippers to improve control on brake and gear levers, as well as reflective piping for commuting duties.

Kids Gloves

Protect young riders’ hands and fingers with youth-sized versions of adult MTB gloves.

Kids’ MTB gloves have all of the great features of grown-up gloves (breathability, wicking, protection, warmth, etc) and are available in full-finger or mitt options.

Other Considerations

  • Waterproofing: Waterproof membranes on gloves help to keep your hands dry in inclement weather however they may also impact on the breathability of the fabric so are not ideal for all weathers. 
  • Warmth: While all gloves will provide some additional degree of warmth, winter cycling gloves are designed with maximum insulation to keep your fingers toasty when the temperatures drop.
  • Breathability: This is the ability of the glove’s fabric (or different fabrics, as the case may be) to allow water vapour escape. 
  • Wicking: This is the ability of the fabric to draw sweat away from the skin and to the surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate.
  • Protection: Different gloves will offer different levels of protection – summer cycling mitts can protect the palms in the event of a fall. Full-finger MTB gloves for gravity disciplines will feature additional reinforcement.
  • Grip: Most cycling gloves will feature leather or synthetic palms to improve handlebar grip, while some also have additional silicone grippers on the fingers for brake levers, gear shifters etc.

Features to consider: in-depth

Some common features and terms to be aware of when looking a pair of cycling gloves:

  • Parts of a glove: Gloves are made from a number of constituent parts, these being the upperpalmfingers and cuffs.
  • Uppers: This is the ‘back’ of the glove. The material is often thicker here to provide extra protection from wind and weather, and may have a waterproof coating membrane.
  • Palm: Cycling gloves have thicker palms made from leather or a synthetic leather for grip on the handlebars.
  • Fingers: ‘Full-finger’ gloves cover the entire finger while fingerless gloves are often described as ‘mitts’. The former offer more warmth and protection for winter trail/gravity riding, which are a popular summer choice for cyclists that still want the grip and palm protection of a glove.
  • Cuffs: This is the part of the glove that goes around your wrist. It needs to be snug and comfortable – too tight and it will restrict circulation, too loose and the glove won’t feel like a snug fit. Cuffs should ideally be adjustable (by means of a Velcro fastener) so they don’t flap or chafe.
  • Materials: Cycling gloves are generally made from synthetic materials including polyester, acrylic, fleece and polypropylene, or a blend of different ones (gloves may be constructed of individual panels, with the material in each one dependent on location and desired properties).
  • Polyester: High breathability and sweat-wicking ability but little wind- or waterproofing.
  • Acrylic: Breathable, stretchy and warm but again without much in the way of weather resistance.
  • Fleece: Used in winter running and biking gloves, fleece (microfibre) is warm and insulated but not so breathable. Many gloves have a microfibre or towelling panel on the upper for wiping away sweat.
  • Polypropylene: Better wind- and weather-resistance but this material is not so effective at moisture management

Tom Adams

Tom is a bike enthusiast! Originally a mountain biker, Tom enjoys going fast on two wheels, whether it's on the road or on the gravel, mountain bike or commuting! Tom has been riding bikes for almost 18 years and loves nothing more than getting out on the roads or trails and testing out the newest and most innovative things on the Chain Reaction website!

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