Gloves or No Gloves? Pros and Cons from the Pros

Apparel

The other day I was out riding with my boss (Mtbr founder Francis Cebedo) and I was only about 10 pedal strokes away from my truck when I realized I had forgotten my gloves. My first instinct was to turn around immediately to put on my usual hand protection. But, not wanting to break his Strava KOM pace, I decided to push on and just ride without them. Why not, right? Besides, hasn’t that been the trend for a while now? All those MTB video stars hucking themselves off huge jumps with no gloves, even after crashing?

As I rode, I mentally created a list of the Pros and Cons of wearing gloves. Here is what I came up with:

Pro Gloves:

  • Protection from falls or cactus or rocks or poison oak
  • Soak up sweat (moisture, rain) better and provide better grip
  • Provide warmth
  • Padding (helps fight numbness)

Con Gloves:

  • Better “feel” on the bars
  • Gloves are too hot

As I continued my ride, what I slowly found out was that I actually LIKED riding without my gloves. Even though my two current favorite pair of gloves are awesome (I normally ride with Alpinestars Aero gloves or Mavic Single Track gloves, pictured above), I discovered that I liked the tactile feel of my grips. Of course, it probably helped that I was using an exceptionally good set of grips that are unlike any other I’ve used before. The Prologo Chameleon grips are ultra light lock-on style grips that are more like bar tape than the traditional rubber grip.

I realized that I had a better “feel” of what the bike was doing and how it was reacting to the terrain. Even though the gloves I’m use to are both on the thin side with minimal padding, the gloves just didn’t provide the same sensation of connection with the bars. The Prologo grips provided plenty of padding and even though I had a good burn going trying to keep up with my hammerhead riding partner, slippage was not an issue (I am not a profuse sweater anyway). Other than the lack of protection in case of a fall (which is a huge factor not to be easily discounted), I enjoyed my gloveless ride.

Gloves or No Gloves Pros and Cons from the Pros Gallery
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Weir refreshes

Mark riding in France "refreshing" himself and wearing his Royal gloves.
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Mary Moncorge

rockin' da Commencal and never without gloves. Photo credit: Ruben Vigil
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Prologo Chameleon grips on the Haro FLC 29

Innovative grip with a double screw locking system (Loc Sys), and a central part with special interchangeable tape. Ultra-light grip (about 90gr.) specifically designed for Cross-Country, Freeride and DownHill.
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Alpinestars Aero gloves and Mavic Single Track gloves

both are great gloves, minimal padding, thinner material both have lightweight construction and supple feel
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Mark Weir

Mark sez: no glove, no love!
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Joe Lawwill

Racer, coach, photographer, Shimano guy
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Mary Moncorge

Commencal Marketing Manager. Photo credit: Peter Verdone
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Benoit and Vincent

Crados
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ShapeRideShoot - winter riding

Gaetan Rey and Vincent Tupin
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Vincent Tupin

snow riding
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Gaetan, Benoit and Vincent

ShapeRideShoot
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Vincent does his best Kyle Strait imitation!

huck yeah!

I decided to reach out to some real pros to get their opinion on riding gloveless or not. I spoke with Mark Weir, Joe Lawwill, Mary Moncorgé and the guys from ShapeRideShoot. Here is what they had to say.

Go to the the next page for what the pros say »

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About the author: Gregg Kato

Gregg Kato studied journalism and broadcasting in college while working many different jobs including deejaying, driving a forklift and building web sites (not all at the same time). Kato has been the Site Manager of Mtbr.com for over 14 years and enjoys riding local Santa Cruz trails. Besides being an avid mountain biker, he is also a motorcycle fanatic. Two wheels, one Passion.


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  • Alex Kyriacou says:

    I always ride with gloves where possible, I understand the cons of wearing glove such as sweaty hands and things, but I’d rather have some mild discomfort than loosing skin in a crash, I’ve had plenty of hand on ground moments and am always glad I had gloves,

  • Gregg Kato says:

    For sure, if you ride in really rocky terrain or near cactus or lots of poison oak, gloves are a must. Or if you crash a lot. But if you have a more casual pace or place to ride, going gloveless might be worth a try!

    • feeltheburn says:

      I’ve had a couple notable crashes taking those casual rides you’ve mentioned – 1st time I did a nice hands-first asphalt landing which resulted in very itchy scabs and difficulty doing things like typing for about two weeks; 2nd time the result was some very white meat sticking out of my palm – definitely did not enjoy picking out pieces of gravel out of it or a throbbing sensation when the hand started finally healing in a beautiful scar… One vote for gloves

  • Harreson says:

    I have been wearing gloves for 30 years since going over the bars on a dirt road as a kid and landing palms down in a pile of broken windshield glass- gloves would have saved me big time, and three weeks healing time with no riding

  • Loll says:

    After watching Lance Armstrong and tour de France one year, I decided to go bare minimal. Helmet and thats it. Decending the backside of a climb (on the road) at around 35 mph, the construction road crew didn’t do a very good job at the temporary road repair work. It bounced my hands off the handle bar.

    I still have a layer of double skin that was left from when the new skin grew over it. To minimize the graphics, my two palms were completely de-skined.

    To the pro that said I can still ride with bloody hands…A few things are obvious…One, a girlfriend will never wants to hold your hand with all the crud everywhere. Thats not important to everyone I suppose. Two, you dont have to shake clients hands on a Monday morning meeting. And three, may be, just may be, your hand doesn’t hurt like heck in the shower.

    My bias and opinionated two cents.

  • James S says:

    I rarely crash, but when I do, it’s almost a certainty that my hands are going to slide along the ground. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a trail that is made of silk, bunny fur, and baby skin – every one I’ve been on is made of dirt and rocks. I once slid out on a fire road on my cyclocross bike and really wished I was wearing full finger gloves instead of my road gloves because I ended up with a nice skin flapper hanging off one finger. But hey, I don’t care if you wear gloves or even a helmet. Go naked if you want (just don’t get in front of me unless you are female).

  • Loll says:

    One more to add. The most classic world cup downhill rider that doesn’t use gloves is former Yeti downhill rider Sam Blenkinsop.

    A couple season ago he had a crash during a WC downhill race and came out with pretty bloody hands. The devil inside me just want to go over and ask how his hands felt after the crash.

  • Ian says:

    Gloves in the woods. No question. Angry rocks and foliage love to devour hand flesh! I’m currently enjoying Oakley Hand Ratchet finger coverings

  • jim says:

    without gloves, where do you wipe your nose drips? on your hands?? just let it run down your lip? Carry a box of tissues in your pocket?

  • Bob says:

    I always wear gloves now, both time I’ve stacked hard I wasn’t wearing any and my hands took the brunt of it. First one was a broken bone in one and ligament damage in the other, second time I pretty much skinned my palm.

    Skinning the palm was way more painful than having two wrecked wrists.

    Always wear gloves!!!!

  • Greg says:

    Gloveless may be okay for casual riding, but no way would I go gloveless for trail riding. Bailing is an inevitability. Sure, going gloveless may provide a more tactile feel UNTIL you bail and absorb the crash with your hands. Bars won’t feel so good when your palms are gashed up. Not to mention that it takes forever for those wounds to heal, which impacts your riding until you heal.

  • Mossy says:

    Gloves, always. Troy Lee Grand Prix provide excellent feel and grip. Maybe a bit warm for the hottest days…

  • eDub says:

    I wear short finger gloves (Fox or Gore primarily) if possible and full finger ones when it is colder than ~50 deg. F (ode skoo Lake synthetic or Outlast for extreme cold). I’ve ridden without gloves as well however I find on longer rides (25-60 miler’s for example) a bit of extra cush from gloves is a good thing.

  • bob says:

    Lack of feel is b.s.

    Controlling the throttle hand of a high performance motorcycle requires eye surgeon finesse and sensitivity. You are making extremely fine wrist, arm, and finger movements simultaneously while feeling for subtle feedback from the motorcycle. Yet it can be done with extreme precision while wearing clunky 1mm+ thick leather gauntlet style gloves that extend past the wrist. And while you do need to have feel on a mountain bike, the feedback you are getting from the bars is much much more pronounced than the feedback you get while riding a motorcycle. Thin full fingered gloves should be more than enough to satisfy control and feel needs of a mountain bike.

    The perceived loss of feel is also minute compared to the healing time and pita factor of messed up hands.

  • DJ says:

    Riding without gloves to class one day with a full load of books in my backpack, I ended up taking a digger on pavement (wobbly hub likely culprit). Scraping the skin off the base of the palms was bad enough, but then for weeks every time I did *anything* with my hands it split the scabs back open. Ended up rubbing lotion into the scabs in desperation. Took about a month to finally settle down.
    Nowadays with MRSA floating around… well… yeah, let’s not go there. Gloves please.

  • criscobike says:

    Are these the same dirt jump guys at the pump track who don’t wear helmets? But instead make sure their “Trucker” hat is turned to the side just so perfectly?

  • Joe T says:

    gloveless for the win. i sweat a lot and my gloves would get SOAKED. when i would take them off my hands were a prune. gloves got so uncomfortable for me i hated it. then one day i forgot my gloves. best thing that ever happened to me. some decent grips give me the feel i desire and love, and i feel confident in my grip. as for falling, it’s gonna suck no matter what if your hands are a point of contact, but gloves will certainly help. that being said, we shouldn’t break our falls with our hands…unless you don’t care about your wrists.

  • JustinR says:

    Gloves all the time, every time. Living in Arizona, I suppose one could get away with gloveless during the winter months, but during the summer, the thought of touching any sort of metal with a bare hand is not a good one. In addition, since sweating is inevitable, I prefer to have thin, lightweight material on the top, with thicker but still breathable material on the palm. As such, I go back and forth between two sets of Fox: the 360 Flights, which I tend to use during colder rides as the material is a bit more supportive, and the Reflex Gel, which is really thin on the top, but really comfy on the palm with the added strategically placed gel padding. I use these on longer rides, as there is never a sense of numbness or fatigue from my hands or wrists.

  • derby says:

    Scratches and scrapes can be very painful, become infected. I make my living mostly at a keyboard. And hand injuries can make typing much slower using the wrong hand or using fewer fingers. And riding feels off balance when there is pain and swelling in one hand. I like full fingered light gloves with no padding in the palm and good ventilation. And use gloves when commuting to work too.

    I can see little use for gloves for unemployed or labor workers or the few paid pros (are there really any?) who ride big air stunts on buff groomed artificial park runs. And townie commuters on easy pike paths rarely need the protection of gloves, or helmet, but those rare times are worth the protection.

  • True Biker says:

    to the person who said they have to shake hands with clients on Monday morning, get off the bike and stay off our roads and trails. we are bikers not lawyers or accountants. you are no more a biker than a little kid with a huffy that rides around in the parents driveway to pass the time. if you have to wear gloves to pretty yourself up so that your “clients” can touch your hands better than you dont belong on 2 wheels. go back to wearing your white shirt and tie or maintenance coveralss or whatever you wear.

    i have yet to this day to understand why people who are obviously not bikers insist on trying to ride on the weekends. if you devote yourself to a full time job then you cant afford to be riding anyway.

  • ti-triodes says:

    I always wear gloves. Mostly Specialized, but I’ll try anything if the price is right. I value my hands too much to risk damaging them. Gloves are cheap enough protection. Why play around?

  • tv says:

    Somebody needs a geography lesson. Andorra is bordered by Spain and Italy? Andorra is on the France/Spain borders in the Pyrenees, ~700km from Italy.

  • alias says:

    One damn good reason to wear gloves is so that IF you end up in the hospital with with all kinds of crash induced problems, you might not have to ask the nice nurse to wipe yer arse if your hands are not a mangled, road rashed mess.

  • Sven says:

    I find that I sweat too much without gloves. After a while my grip on the bars suffers tremendously. The key is to find a well fitting pair of gloves.

  • Jimbo says:

    I say wear full finger gloves or no gloves, fingerless gloves make you look like a Village Person.

  • Will T Smith says:

    There are no real cons. This is like having a helmet vs no helmet debate.

    The debate is fingerless vs fingered. The answer is … fingerless do not protect your fingers. And if there is anything worse then a skinned palm, it’s a skinned finger or shorn off fingernail.

    Next … wearing chamois’ … yes or no??? duh.

  • John says:

    I have a dozen pairs of gloves, Fox, Oakley, 661, you name it. I always wear them on the trail, AM &b DH. Recently, I found myself at Aptos and realized I brought had two left’s of very similar black Fox gloves. So I decided to go bare hands. 7 hours later my hands were raw, but I got used to riding without them again. Now I ride bare when Im jumping around the hood practicing bunny hops, jumping street stuff and just having fun on my DJ, AM or DH. Its good to change it up and be able to ride either way.

  • Freestyle Motocross Gloves says:

    I can see little use for gloves for unemployed or labor workers or the few paid pros (are there really any?) who ride big air stunts on buff groomed artificial park runs. And townie commuters on easy pike paths rarely need the protection of gloves, or helmet, but those rare times are worth the protection.

  • Freestyle Motocross Gloves says:

    One damn good reason to wear gloves is so that IF you end up in the hospital with with all kinds of crash induced problems, you might not have to ask the nice nurse to wipe yer arse if your hands are not a mangled, road rashed mess.

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