Do you need gloves for mountain biking?

When you’re out mountain biking, you will often come across other bikers wearing gloves. If you are someone who doesn’t wear gloves then this can make you feel like you’re perhaps missing a trick. The question is – do these gloves provide other bikers with an advantage over you in any way?

Today, we’ll be looking at whether gloves are a necessity for mountain biking or just something you should consider for stylistic reasons.

Do you need gloves for mountain biking? The simple answer

While you don’t need to wear gloves to be able to go mountain biking, they are a piece of clothing that is going to make your experience a lot more enjoyable. Therefore, we would say that gloves are indeed a necessity for mountain biking.

There are three key reasons why gloves are an essential piece of kit for mountain bikers:

  • They protect your hands.
  • They improve your grip on the handlebars.
  • They reduce vibrations. 

Gloves protect your hands

Mountain biking gloves are specifically designed to protect your hands from bumps and falls. Mountain biking can be incredibly dangerous, with many routes being littered with potential hazards from tree branches to uneven terrain.

When you do fall from your bike, the natural reaction is to put your hands out in front of you to break the fall. If you do this without gloves on then you are going to suffer from cuts, abrasions, and/or burns from the dirt and gravel on the ground.

As a result, companies that make mountain bike gear ensure that their gloves are designed to give you an extra layer of protection between your skin and these potential hazards.

Biking gloves are made from fabrics such as ripstop, leather, neoprene, and twill – all of which are durable and tough to guarantee this protection. Not only that but some glove manufacturers also add a layer of carbon fiber reinforcement around the knuckles and fingers for extra protection.

Gloves provide you with better grip on the handlebars

One of the most thrilling, yet most difficult, aspects of mountain biking is trying to grip onto your handlebars while navigating your way downhill through rocky and uneven terrain. If you are only interested in cycling on flat terrain then mountain biking quite simply isn’t for you.

Due to the nature of mountain biking, having gloves that give you a better chance of gripping your handlebars during these difficult moments is going to be advantageous. One slip of your fingers and you are going to end up tumbling off your bike and hurting yourself.

Glove designers typically use a special fabric on the contact points to help provide this better grip while suede is predominantly used in the palms. Sometimes, manufacturers will also add gel to the fingertip and thumb sections to further improve your handlebar grip.

Not only will a gloveless approach increase your chances of losing your grip and falling off your mountain bike, but it will also increase your chances of developing blisters on your hands. Once blisters are formed, your grip will naturally loosen and it will be almost impossible to enjoy yourself on a mountain bike.

Gloves help to reduce the vibrations experienced on a mountain bike

One final reason why you should be using gloves while mountain biking is that they can help reduce the sensation you get when your bike vibrates. Mountain bikes are prone to vibrating for two reasons. Firstly, because of the bumpy terrain, they are typically exposed to, and secondly because of how intense the acceleration of a downslope can feel.

Having any type of gloves on will help to soften these vibrations, but mountain biking gloves can help to mute these vibrations entirely. Some manufacturers add gel and padding to the palms of their gloves to absorb these vibrations further.

Why some people don’t wear gloves for mountain biking

Despite gloves providing a purpose on a number of levels, some bikers still elect to go out without them. The main reason why some bikers prefer a gloveless approach is that they prefer the feel of the handlebars on their bare skin.

It’s a more natural approach that allows bikers to feel all the vibrations and bumps that make mountain biking so exhilarating. Sure, it makes the experience more difficult but a lot of mountain bikers are in it for the thrill.

Another reason why some people like to ride their mountain bikes without gloves is that they can make your hands very hot and sweaty, particularly during the summer. This can make the biking experience uncomfortable and unenjoyable, meaning going gloveless can often be less hassle.

What type of mountain biking gloves should you purchase?

It’s clear that gloves are essential to having the most enjoyable mountain biking experience possible. Unsurprisingly, though, there isn’t just a one-size-fits-all pair of gloves that are universally used by bikers all over the world. The following glove types should all be considered:

Full-fingered gloves

These gloves cover the entire hand and all fingers. They provide riders with the ultimate protection and will their hands nice and warm in wintery conditions. The one downside to these gloves is that they can make gear shifting more difficult.

Fingerless gloves

These gloves also cover the entire parm but don’t cover fingers or thumb. They allow more movement in the fingers for braking and gear changes while also offering protection to the main part of the hand. As a result, they are the preferred option for experienced bikers.

Knuckle guard gloves

These gloves come in full-fingered and fingerless forms and are unique because of the metal guard that sits over the knuckles. They provide excellent protection for your hands from potential falls, however, they make it more difficult to grip the handlebar.

Final thoughts

To summarise, the majority of mountain bikers across the world use gloves for one reason or another. The main reason is due to protection, but they also provide bikers with better grip and reduce vibrations. If you’re looking to purchase a new pair of mountain biking gloves then hopefully our guide above will help you to find the best style for you. 

Photo of author
Written By Robert Gibbons
From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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