For a mountain biker just starting out, choosing the right gear can be tricky. We can simplify this process by finding out what type of riding you do and matching the right gear to the right people. In this case, we are deciding whether full-finger vs half finger mountain bike gloves will be better for you.
Generally speaking, a mountain bike rider will wear full-finger gloves rather than half finger gloves. Fingerless gloves are more popular with road cyclists, but there is nothing really stopping you from wearing fingerless gloves on a mountain bike ride! We will discuss in-depth the advantages and disadvantages of both further on.
As a quick definition, the full finger refers to the gloves that cover the whole length of your finger. Fingerless gloves, also known as half or short finger gloves, cover right up to beneath your knuckles, leaving the top part of your fingers bare.
Advantages of Full Finger gloves
1. Greater Protection
Full finger gloves have the advantage of greater protection as they cover a bit more skin. So if you do come off or have an altercation with a low-hanging branch, your fingers will be much better protected.
In a few safety-conscious bike parks around the world, full-finger gloves are listed as essential items to ride in their park.
2. Greater Warmth
Full finger gloves also leave the skin less exposed to chilly air temperatures. During the cooler months, having full-finger gloves is a no-brainer. No one likes having frostbite on their fingers- it makes it pretty hard to brake!
Winter gloves are generally waterproof and windproof are lined to keep your hands nice and toasty for those cooler rides. See this post for the top winter mountain biking gloves.
On the other hand, you can also get quite thin and well-ventilated full-finger gloves for summer riding if you prefer.
Advantages of Half Finger gloves
The half-finger glove is popular in summer road cycling for a number of reasons, listed below.
1. Greater Ventilation
Fingerless gloves become a bit more popular in the summer months. Air can get in the finger holes allowing for better airflow and stop your hands from getting sweaty.
In saying this, the lining in full-finger gloves absorbs any sweat, so you won’t be getting slippery hands either way!
2. Greater ‘feel of the bars’
Some riders prefer the fingerless gloves as they can ‘feel the handlebars’ much better. Supposedly this makes you a bit more responsive and connected with the bike.
Personally, I prefer the vibrations being damped by the glove, but if you are a rider who likes the feel of the bars, then fingerless gloves may be for you.
3. Often then cheaper option to get more padding
If all you are after is a bit of cushioning on the palms, then fingerless gloves are the cheaper option. They are also often quite a bit more padded than full-finger gloves. This is due to fingerless gloves being aimed at road cyclists, and road cyclists spend hours riding with their hands in one position. This commonly causes the nerves in hand and wrist to be compressed, causing hand numbness. Having more padding reduces the pressure on the hand, reducing the chance of getting hand numbness.
See here for the best gloves to reduce hand numbness.
Touch Screen capability
These days, you are able to fully operate your phone while wearing full-finger gloves. (This is as long as you do purchase gloves that have touch screen capabilities!). Gone are the days where you needed to stop and take off your gloves to take a photo or respond to a text. Even checking maps is a breeze with full-finger gloves.
Hence there is no advantage to either type of glove in terms of being able to use your phone while out on a ride.
Which Gloves are right for you?
If you ride gnarly downhill or high-speed tracks, you will probably want a full-finger glove for a bit more protection. Gloves are also very weather dependant. If you ride in the cold and wet, a full-finger ‘winter’ glove probably isn’t a bad option, and have a summer pair for the warmer weather.
See here for a full list of winter gloves and summer gloves.
If you want more padding, sometimes you can find a very good deal on half-finger gloves that provide more padding than a full-finger glove. But I would only advise this for those riders, not tackling difficult descents or rocky terrain.
What else to look for in gloves?
There are three main things to look for in a pair of MTB gloves; padding, fit and material.
Gel padding can increase the comfort of your ride by reducing the vibrations felt while out riding. If you get a bit of numbness in your hands, having gel pads can significantly reduce the pressure on your hands that causes the numbness.
The fit is entirely up to the individual. Finger length makes a big difference when purchasing full finger gloves, as long slender fingers will have a completely different fit to short stocky fingers. Obviously, the size of the hand itself also makes a bit of difference to the fit of the glove.
The material makes a large difference to the durability of the glove. Avoid the cheaper, unbranded gloves as the materials – in particular the Velcro closure – tend to wear out or stretch. The material also varies on breathability, warmth and waterproofing. A synthetic leather palm is well wearing and absorbent material which makes for a long lasting, comfortable glove.
Obviously, the final decision is full finger vs half finger mountain bike gloves!
While fingerless gloves are pretty uncommon in the mountain bike world due to the lack of protection, they still are a viable option for some, especially for those who tend to prefer having a bit more padding on the palms.
A full-finger glove will keep your hands a bit more protected from abrasions, as well as keeping your hands warmer. If you are a bit concerned that your hands might get a bit too warm, see this post on the top summer MTB gloves.
For the majority of us, having greater protection supersedes any other factor. Especially since you can get comfortable, breathable full-finger gloves that you can even use your phone with!