What safety and protection do gloves provide for a rider?
- Protection from abrasion or impact from falling
- Vibration/shock absorption from the terrain you are riding over
- Padding to reduce compression/pressure on your palms
- Temperature control
Let’s have a look at each of these in more detail.
No one wants to fall off but when you do having a pair of bike gloves on your hands will save you a lot of damage. Gravel, grit, tearing from whatever surface you land on can be avoided with a pair of gloves. Gloves also help to protect your knuckles and fingers when passing by close to objects – trees, rock walls etc.
The padding will also help to absorb some of the impact as your hands try to break your fall. Lets hope that your gloves won’t be put to the test in this way too often!
All bike gloves offer protection however a full finger glove will offer more protection than a fingerless glove and are often chosen by mountain bike riders for this added coverage.
This is one of the most important aspects of wearing bike gloves. Over multiple days or even on just a long day ride your body will be dealing with the effect of energy being transferred from the wheels. Bumpy, uneven surfaces mean you will be dealing with a lot of vibrations and impacts. The pads in the palm of your gloves absorb some of this energy. Which is really important over time to protect the nerves that run through the palm of your hand.
Your comfort can be more compromised the longer you spend on the bike. The position we ride in (with our wrists extended) means that there is stretch on nerves that feed into your palm. The longer on the bike, the longer these nerves are on stretch. The combination of this stretch of nerves as well as the compression from the pressure on the palm can cause problems such as pins and needles or numbness. Gloves provide cushioning which relieves the pressure/compression through your palms. This can protect some important nerves (ulnar, median) from compression type injury. Gloves also protect from the onset of any blisters or rubbing on the hands (more common in warm summer months).
Don’t rely totally on ‘protecting’ your hands with gloves. You need to also think about your grip on the handlebar. This grip should be light and relaxed. This can be achieved by maintaining an ‘A’ position when you ride. This position encourages core control through a good low back and mid back position providing you with the base you need to not lean heavily on your arms and grip too hard. Also when you spend a lot of time on your bike – big day rides, multi-day rides – it is important to regularly adjust your grip and be aware that as you get tired you may “lean” more heavily on your handlebars. Be aware that downhill riding for prolonged periods of time puts more weight and therefore pressure into your hands.
Bike gloves not only provide warmth in cold weather but help deal with heat in hot conditions.
Let’s deal with the cold first. Long fingered gloves insulate your hands providing warmth. Depending on the severity of the conditions you can find varying degrees of warmth to match. Remember you still need to maintain good control on your handlebars which means being able to grip them correctly. This is when having the correct glove size is important and not too much bulk. If your full fingered gloves also need to control sweat look for mesh inserts and wicking fabrics.
In the heat, or if you tend to sweat quite a lot while riding, gloves should keep your hands dry. Dry hands are safe hands that can maintain a good grip and control on your handlebar. Gloves should be made from wicking fabric that absorbs and pulls moisture away from the skin. During the warmer riding months fingerless gloves provide all the benefits of protection and comfort but allow for some airflow around the fingers.