Buying a pair of cycling gloves might seem as simple as just getting a pair that feel and look good when you put them on. However, you won’t really know how good a pair of gloves is until an hour or so into a long ride when your hands will either be wringing wet with sweat, frozen sold with the cold, or aching because the gloves don’t fit very well!
I can tell you from bitter experience none of the above is fun at all!
So, it pays to be careful about which gloves you choose and to make sure that they will be suited to both your riding style and the weather.
Why do I need gloves for cycling?
Comfort/safety – I always wear some sort of gloves/mitts when I’m on the bike. Even when it’s warm enough to go without them, I find that the added padding of my fingerless mitts makes it more comfortable on the handlebars. I also have the added reassurance that if I do ever come off and land hands first on the tarmac, I will at least have a bit of protection to prevent my skin from being burnt off as I skid to a halt.
Weather protection – Obviously, gloves are great for keeping the wind and water out and most importantly, keeping your fingers warm. The pain of having seriously cold fingers on a long bike ride is horrible. It can also get to the stage where your fingers are so cold that it’s hard to break and change gear efficiently so a good warm pair of gloves is essential.
Best Warm winter cycling gloves
I have a pair of Castelli Estrimo gloves and they are truly and utterly awesome. I cycle all year round in the UK which does mean that I will, on occasion, cycle for 2 -3 hours in temperatures just above freezing in the winter. I’ve suffered from cold hands for years before getting these gloves. They really do work, even on the coldest days. I wear them double layered with a pair of silk thermal liner gloves. I have found them to be extremely comfortable even for cycling long distances and they seem to be breathable as well.
Best Waterproof/lightweight gloves
For cycling when it isn’t freezing cold and I still need a bit of warmth, protection and particularly water/rain protection I have a pair of Santini long-fingered gloves. I don’t think they are in production anymore but the nearest Santini equivalent seems to be the Santini Aqua Zero. These are great at keeping the wind and water out – they are completely waterproof but not particularly breathable so my hands can get a bit sweaty in them.
If I was going to replace them I would go for this Gore-Tex pair as Gore-Tex is very well known for being waterproof but also highly breathable. These gloves are lightweight and a bit less bulky than the super warm ones above but use the same materials.
Best Cycling Mitts
I have a rather basic pair of Altura mitts that have lasted well for about three years with regular use. I would highly recommend them as they are relatively inexpensive and seem well made and long-lasting. They have a reasonable level of padding in them for comfort and they seem to wick away the sweat pretty well. These are the nearest I could find to them on Amazon and, as I will be replacing mine probably this year I will most probably get a pair of these.
As I say, the Altura mitts are relatively basic and I might be tempted to buy a more expensive pair in order to get a bit more padding and better wicking properties. I’ve been looking around for a while and when I do upgrade I think I will go for a pair of these Castelli ones. They are the same make as my awesome winter gloves (above) and they have great padding and improved breathability. Allround they should be a comfortable and high quality buy.
A word about the size
To a certain extent, if you buy a pair of general-purpose gloves the exact fit doesn’t matter too much. However, with cycling gloves, if you get them too small they can chafe and rub as well as make your hands and fingers ache. And……if you get them too big it will be uncomfortable and be hard to grip and work the brakes and gears. You might also find that a pair of gloves feel fine when you first put them on but they will be a real pain after a couple of hours of cycling if they don’t fit properly.
So, it’s really important that you look at the manufacturer’s sizing guide and that you actually measure your hands! I have to say measuring your own hands isn’t all that easy because you have to do it…erm…..well, one-handed! So, find a willing helper and get them to measure you. Generally, you need a measurement around the widest part of the hand and also possibly a measurement from the tip of your longest finger to your wrist.
It’s a great idea to wear gloves on the bike whatever the weather as they can increase your grip and comfort as well as offer some protection if you are unlucky enough to fall off. Depending upon the type of cycling you do and the type of weather you cycle in the chances are that you will need two or three pairs for different eventualities.
Having bought a rather expensive pair of winter gloves recently I can tell that you really do get what you pay for. Particularly when it’s cold, I can guarantee that if you are an hour from home with hands so cold that you can barely squeeze the brake levers you would pay almost anything for a decent pair of warm gloves!
When you are buying them, take the time to measure and check your size carefully to make sure that they are as comfortable and efficient as possible.