Gloves or No Gloves? Pros and Cons from the Pros


Mary Moncorgé
Mary Moncorgé is a DH/Super-D/Enduro Pro racer as well as the Marketing Manager for Commencal Bikes. Mary recently left the Santa Cruz area and is now living the high life in Andorra (the sixth smallest nation in Europe bordered by Spain and France, well known for epic scenery.) We were seeking a female racer/rider’s perspective and what Mary provided is perfect.

Mtbr: Do you ever NOT wear gloves when biking? DJ or pump track? Why or why not?
Mary: I always wear gloves (I use to ride horses before getting into MTBing and it’s an old habit). I hate to have dirt under my nails, it protects my manicure (sorry girly side) and in case I dislocate a finger (it happened more than once), it makes it easier for me to re-set them if I don’t see the skin. Also, if you crash and put your hands down first you want a little protection so you don’t get skinned alive.

Mtbr: What are your current favorite pair of gloves?
Mary: I love my old Time gloves for XC and longer AM ride as they have good padding on specific areas and not uniform padding. Otherwise, I use the Endura ones that I love: really sturdy.

(Mary always wears gloves and her favorites are from Time and Endura.)

Let’s face it; the type of mountain biker most likely to NOT wear gloves is the freeride/dirt jump style rider. As can be seen in any one of their awesome riding/hucking videos, the ShapeRideShoot guys from France usually don’t wear gloves, even in the cold winter snow! We asked our friends Benoît Gurnel, Gaëtan Rey and Vincent Tupin for their opinions.

Question 1): Why do you not wear gloves? What is it, in particular that you like about going gloveless?
Question 2): Aren’t you afraid of not having protection on your hands?
Question 3): Do you EVER use gloves? DH racing maybe? If so, what are your current favorite pair of gloves and why?

Benoît Gurnel:
1) I don’t wear gloves because I prefer riding without. It’s a bad habit I have since a long time but gloves disturb me for some tricks.
2) I’m not really afraid. Sometimes in the bikeparks where we are going very fast I do wear gloves even if I know that they won’t avoid big injuries. Helmet and knee protections are very important however.
3) I used to wear gloves in the past for dirt jumping or DH. I liked Oakley gloves or TLD cross country ones. I prefer thin gloves.

Gaëtan Rey
1) I’m never wearing gloves just because I can’t ride with. My feelings are very bad on the bike when I ride with gloves. I feel my hand moving in the glove before my move is effective on the handlebar. I also need to feel right my brake lever. The only problem is that my hands are quickly wet in the summer but I spend a few time with them in the dust at the top of the tracks to dry them.
2) I’m not afraid at all. Gloves prevent scratches only. You can ride with scratches and bloody hands, that doesn’t matter.
3) The only time I wear gloves is for some trial riding. Last time was last year I think and it was thin IXS XC gloves just to prevent moisture. Otherwise I do never wear gloves. Neither in the winter, in the snow or for DH or dirt jumping.

Vincent Tupin
1) Riding gloveless offers more liberty and sensation on the grip. You are not disturbed by a fold or a glove moving because it is bad attached. I like to move my hand on the bar to make some tricks and I need to feel the button of my Gopro.
2) No, most of time when you are riding you don’t think about that. It’s just sometimes watching videos I think “oh you should not fall here!”
3) Yes sometimes I wear gloves, when it’s very cold. I wear thin and tight gloves to approach gloveless feeling.

So there you have it. Some reasons to wear gloves and some reasons not to. In the end, it all boils down to what you personally prefer. Protection and moisture absorption seems to be the key reasons for wearing gloves. But there seems to be a preference to not wear gloves or to wear thin gloves that maximize the feel for the bike with very high level riders. The hands are a key contact point for the rider to process what the bike is doing so gloves that transmit bike feedback to the rider are good. So check out your gloves and ensure that they fit perfectly and consider some new ones that don’t have too much padding on the palm to improve your riding and feel for the bike.

(Do you like to ride gloveless? Is there a Pro or Con that I missed? What is YOUR current favorite pair of gloves? Let me know in the comments below.)

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

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 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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