Do I Need Gloves for Mountain Biking?

Gloves are seen by some as non-essential pieces of mountain biking equipment. They are great for protecting your skin in a crash, but they aren’t for everyone. So, you need to ask yourself, do I need gloves for mountain biking? 

We will take into consideration a number of factors, such as the type of terrain, climate, and factors you likely hadn’t considered when deciding on whether or not you need gloves. 

Why Wear Gloves for Mountain Biking?

The reason mountain bikers wear gloves is firstly to protect the skin on your hands if you come off. The other reasons include reducing vibrations transferred from the bars to your hands, stopping sweaty hands, but also keeping them warm in the winter and preventing blisters on your hands. 

  1. If you do come off, especially on gravel, tarmac, rocks, or any other rough terrain, wearing gloves will prevent layers of skin from being taken off. Speaking from experience, the skin on your hands comes off pretty easily when the hands are the first thing to reach the ground.  
  1. Another large factor of wearing gloves is for comfort. They improve the grip when your sweaty and slipping off the handlebars.  
  1. But they also keep your hands and fingers warm in the descents. This is particularly important for those winter months, where you start to lose feeling in the ends of your fingers. 
  1. Gloves prevent blisters from appearing on your hands. The rubber handlebar grips commonly cause blisters on your hands, possibly due to the vibrations.  
  1. The vibrations sent from the ground up to the handlebars can also cause numbness and tingling in the hands. The padding helps prevent the compression of nerves, which can lead to weird sensations in your hands! 
  1. Gloves protect your hands while riding past scratchy bushes and branches- and pickles! 

Why Do Some Riders Not Wear Gloves For Mountain Biking? 

I don’t actually know of too many mountain bikers who don’t wear gloves. But the one thing that does come up when I ask is that they simply prefer the feel. I assume this refers to the responsiveness of the bike through the bars, but I don’t personally understand it! 

Others tend to just find them annoying. Maybe they regularly use their phone during the ride, or it is too hot to wear gloves all the time.  

Fox Ranger Palm

But those who have lost a bit of skin from the palms in the past tend to wear gloves! 

I personally do not wear gloves when I am commuting or going for a very relaxed trail ride. In these cases, there are minimal ruts and rough sections. I am very unlikely to come off and never reach high speeds. In these cases, I do not feel gloves as essential, so I choose not to wear them.

However, as soon as I head out for a ‘serious ride’, I will have my gloves on. Simple as that, really! 

A Recommendation 

Gloves, in my opinion, are pretty important. If you can, find gloves that suit the weather and the type of terrain you are riding.  

In winter, wear warmer gloves. In summer, lighter gloves.  

For rough, rutty, rocky terrain, try extra padded gloves. For smooth flowy trails, try a little less padding.  

Gloves will last a good few years before they need replacing. So, make sure you get a good pair, or a couple of pairs that you think will suit what/when you ride.  

Do I Need Gloves for Mountain Biking
Gloves are pretty handy in rocky, rough terrain.

What type of Gloves should I get? 

If you have decided you do need gloves for mountain biking, you have a few options. We will outline the types, advantages, and disadvantages of each below.  

Full finger gloves are better for mountain biking than fingerless gloves. They give you more protection, better grip (especially on the breaks), and keep your fingers warm! 

In terms of padding, you can get some without much padding and some with heaps of padding. Choose what feels right to you. The advantage of lots of padding is reduced vibrations being transferred to your hand and hence increased comfort. But the disadvantage is that you can’t ‘feel the bike’ or terrain as much. It really is up to personal preference here.  

Slip-on gloves or Velcro strap? I prefer slip-on gloves as Velcro gloves tend to lose their ‘stick’ over time and tend to come undone too while riding. But you do need to get the perfect fit if you go for slip-ons, as there isn’t anything to tighten them up or loosen once they are on.

Best MTB Gloves
Fox Ranger gloves have a velcro strap, meaning I can tighten and loosen as needed!

In terms of materials, you want something durable. You don’t want the gloves to come apart after a single crash. You also need to think about the weather conditions you ride in. Thicker, fleece-lined gloves are excellent for cold weather rides. Thinner materials are cooler for summer. It is very common for riders to have two sets of gloves, one for the cold and one for warmer rides.  

Final Remarks 

Gloves are essential for any time you go on a ‘serious’ ride. The advantages are numerous, and the risk to effort ratio is too high not to wear them. They are not an expensive part of the kit and can save you enormous amounts of discomfort if you were to take a layer of skin off. 

The type of gloves needed varies greatly from rider to rider. Choose what you are most comfortable with and what kind of riding you do in order to choose what works for you! 

Gloves are a handy piece of equipment that can make the difference between riding out and walking out! 

Side Profile Giro DND Gloves Review
The Giro DND is a top-quality slip-on glove.

For a bit more of an idea on mountain biking gloves, see the best mountain bike gloves, or the Fox Ranger vs Giro DND here.