What Bike Gloves Are For

Bicycle gloves
Daniel Oines/Flickr

Do you really need gloves for riding a bike? Actually, many cyclists find that gloves are an important part of their gear and wouldn’t be found on the bike without them. Let’s take a look at the seven main functions that bike gloves perform.

Improved Grip and Control With Cycling Gloves

You know that being out on a bike can make you pretty sweaty – especially if it is one of those warm and humid days. And that means your hands are wet, too. Like clothes with wicking technology, a good pair of gloves will help keep your hands dry, which means that you can maintain a better grip on the handlebars.

The gloves also serve to trap the sweat that would otherwise be likely to drip into your shifters. And over time, moisture – and especially perspiration because of its high mineral content – can cause those components to deteriorate.

Comfort and Protection for Your Skin

If you’ve ever spent a couple of hours or more on a bike, you probably realized that, somewhat surprisingly, cycling can be pretty hard on your hands. From the constant pressure on your palms to the wear on your fingers from running your shifters through the range of gears, it doesn’t take long for calluses or blisters to develop. A pair of bike gloves can give your skin the extra layer of protection you need to be comfortable, even on the longest ride.

Shock Absorption

You’ll notice that many pairs of gloves on the market today have some type of cushioning, such as gel padding, etc., built into the palms. The reason is that gloves with this padding serve a very useful function in absorbing shock from the road that would otherwise be transferred to the rider.

Think about it this way. When you’re riding, whether on a road or mountain bike, and you hit some bumps in the road, the shock and impact from that carry straight up from the front fork through your arms and into your shoulders. That’s why you may be achy in that area or your neck and back after a long ride. When wearing bike gloves, the cushions in the palms act as shock absorbers, helping to dampen some of the energy being transmitted up from the bike before it gets into your body. Not only will this help the ride feel smoother as you go, but it will also help reduce those aches you feel when you are done.


Another reason many cyclists wear bike gloves is to keep their hands warm. (Bike gloves are still gloves, after all!) For cool weather riding, glove choices can range from regular bike gloves that just help break the wind, to glove liners that help add layers. For extremely cold weather riding are products like thick “lobster claw” gloves or Moose Mitts, which are thick, well-insulated mittens that attach to the handlebars of your bike and cover your regular biking gloves. This type of gear allows you to still grip the handlebars and work the brakes and gear shifters like normal.

Protection in Case of a Crash

What do most people do as they start to fall? They put their hands out to try and catch themselves, to break their impact as they hit the ground. If you’ve ever fallen like this, you know that you can really tear up your palms when they go skidding across pavement or rocks. A pair of bike gloves can give you the protection you need to save your hands and keep the gravel and grit out of your hands and on the street where it belongs. They may be completely shredded when you take stock of things after the wreck, but tearing up a pair of gloves is a whole lot better than wrecking your hands.

Granted, this is a secondary benefit of wearing bike gloves, but still a very important one. Think about it this way: if you knew you were going to wipe out, would you rather be wearing gloves or not have them on?


On top of all these other features, wearing a pair of snazzy bike gloves can make you look and feel cool. It’s like being a kid and getting a new pair of sneakers: instantly you feel like you can run a lot faster. And there is nothing wrong with buying a pair of bike gloves for this reason alone. The image is everything, right?

So, if you've never ridden with a pair of bike gloves, give 'em a try. There are lots of things that can do to help your riding. And at the least, you'll find yourself (like the kid with the new shoes), riding twice as fast as before you had gloves. At the very least, you'll be so cool, it'll feel like you are!