I haven't cycled for many years already and long ago when I was cycling I didn't pay much attention to equipment. Now I see that many cyclists wear a certain kind of gloves - that only cover the palm and leave the fingers uncovered.

What's the purpose of wearing such gloves (and not usual gloves for example)? In what non-cycling activities can such gloves be useful?

  • 2
    After a long glove-less ride on a rough road you would kill for any kind of padding on your hands
    – crasic
    Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 4:24
  • Gloves are less likely for road riders partly because they have several hand positions and they have bar tape. Other bikes, like MTBs only have one hand position and it is usually lined with a rubber grip. This makes sweat acumulate, thus turning the grip slippery. A glove helps with this situation a lot, since many of them still provide enough friction enven when soaked.
    – Jahaziel
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 16:11
  • 1
    Not necessarily fingerless... I wear full fingered ones cos sunburn on fingers is horrid.
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 18:44
  • There are additional answers on the duplicate at bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/49894/…
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 22:48

12 Answers 12


Cycling gloves do a few basic things:

  • reduce friction between your hands and handlebars, which could otherwise cause blisters
  • dampen vibrations which might cause hand/finger numbness
  • reduce pressure on your ulnar nerve, which also causes numbness

Of course, if none of these are problems for you, it's fine to ride without them. Other types of gloves should offer similar benefits too (wool gloves with "grippy" palms are nice in cold, wet weather). I try to ride without cycling gloves for rides up to an hour to toughen my palms and reduce the bizarre tan lines the gloves create. But for longer rides (especially randonneuring, which is 200km+) I can't ride without them.

What else can you use them for? Basically anything where a padded palm would help. They make great workout gloves, and I've occasionally used a pair for paddling, doing yard work or helping someone move.

  • 11
    Bizarre tan lines! A badge of honour if you ask me :-)
    – Anthony K
    Commented Oct 24, 2010 at 12:40
  • 11
    They also are nice protection if you fall and try to catch yourself with your palms. Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 3:53
  • What's really fun is when you pull up to the gym without your gym bag and you end up doing powerlifting movements in full-finger Troy Lee moto gloves.
    – eckza
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 15:48

Cycling gloves come in different varieties (like full-fingered or half-fingered). Typically:

  • Cycling gloves have extra padding at the palms, which for me makes a difference when riding for hours at a time.
  • They protect your palms in case you attempt to use them to break a fall.
  • Like regular gloves, they can keep your hands warm in cold weather, especially since your hands aren't moving as much as your legs.
  • My particular pair of cycling gloves have a "towel" built in at the base of the thumb "finger" so I can actually wipe off water/sweat by running my fist over it.
  • 5
    @sharptooth: It's not a defining characteristic of cycling gloves - you can get full-fingered cycling gloves if you want. The half-fingered ones can allow for extra ventilation and doesn't interfere with your sense of touch for bike controls.
    – In silico
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 6:13
  • 1
    The aim is to provide padding - you want padding all year round i.e. when its warm as well as when its cold so in the summer you only need sufficient glove to hold the padding on your palm where its needed. Leaving most of your fingers uncovered gives you more feel (for brakes and, once upon a time, for gears) and hence more control.
    – Murph
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 7:52
  • 1
    My fingerless gloves are just mesh (like fishnet) on the back of the hand. It's really all about the palm: the rest is extra, for fall protection or warmth as needed.
    – Andrew Vit
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 19:31
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    @sharptooth - so you can pick your nose
    – mgb
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 20:33
  • 1
    @sharptooth So your hands don't get hot and sweaty in the summer; in the winter, people tend to wear full-fingered gloves. Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 12:28

Cycling gloves dampen the vibrations coming into your hands from your handlebars.

I find that if I cycle for more than one or two hours without gloves I slowly loose feeling in the tips of my fingers and I get a tingling feeling in the pinky side of my palms near my wrist. This slowly spreads to essentially make both my hands feel numb. It goes away quickly when I get off the bike at first, but during cycling holidays where riding a bike is a daily activity I ended up with numb hands essentially all the time. Simple cycling gloves have solved this for me.

Note that front suspension would probably address at least part of the same problem.

  • I've had the opposite reaction. I used to always ride my roadbike with gloves (but my MTB without). My hands would always start to go numb after a couple hours on the roadbike. I quit wearing gloves and no longer have that problem. Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 16:25

For bmx, the greatest benefit is grip. If your hands are sweaty, you'll have to apply a lot of extra force to prevent throttle grip. Gloves eliminate all that. Also, the padded palms work nice to prevent meat paw, terry cloth thumb is good for wiping sweat away, and there is usually some tacky material on the fingers for good brake lever grip.

  • Damn right. I literally cannot ride without gloves. My hands sweat so much and so quickly that within 10 minutes I have no grip on the bars, at all.
    – eckza
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 15:50

Gloves do help with hand numbness/discomfort, but the primary benefit to me is safety. If you fall and take a handlebar spill, your hands won't be torn up if you instinctively put your hands out to protect you.

  • 1
    This is super true for mtb riding. Gloves also stop bits of dry plants hanging over the trail from cutting your hands.
    – Qwertie
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 5:07

Padding and warmth are covered in other answers, but in the winter I have a third use. In the warmer weather my fingers swell slightly, which doesn't happen so much in the winter, so my wedding ring has a tendency to be looser in colder weather.

Long fingered gloves stop me from worrying so much about it slipping off when on bumpier rides.


When you fall off a bike your natural reactions will lead to putting your hands out to stop your fall. Your hands are quite likely to hit the ground first so gloves provide some protection against that.

Comfort is another factor - damping vibration and providing protection from the elements.

Depending upon your climate you may want different gloves for different seasons. I wear motorcycle gloves on my bicycle in the winter.

  • 1
    When I rollerblade I use strap-on wristguards with plastic plates fron the palm to past the wrist. Cycling gloves only protect against abrasion, not wrist-bone breaks.
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 22:02

To answer the second question. Gloves like that are great for working on cars... The padded palm keeps you from tearing up your hands on old rusty parts. The top of the hand is covered for when you slip and bang into sharp rusty parts. The fingers are exposed so you can still easily grip small parts. I find they work much better than traditional "full finger" mechanics gloves...

  • They also work pretty well as weightlifting gloves.
    – Gary.Ray
    Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 14:25
  • 1
    I've actually gone the other direction with this... I bought some 'mechanics gloves' and use them as full-finger gloves for those early and late-season rides when fingerless gloves aren't warm enough. It's worked out great for me! Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 4:32

aside from the warmth and padding, I also wear them to protect my hands in case of wipeout. grinding gravel into my palms doesn't sound like a fun thing to do.


One thing that I use my gloves for on nearly every ride is putting my palm down on the tops of my tires after going through a section of stone dust or cinders. In fact, just today I was forced to ride through a section where some fresh blacktop spillage stuck to my tires. A quick drag on each wheel and the tires were completely clean again.

  • 1
    Be careful doing this - just recently a guy in our bunch went down after getting his hand caught between the tyre and the rear stays. I have had it nearly happen to me a couple of times as well.
    – Anthony K
    Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 12:28
  • @Anthony K: use the top of your foot instead (placed low to the ground, just behind front wheel or ahead of the rear) -- it's more stable plus no risk of losing a finger. Also works for bikes with fenders.
    – darkcanuck
    Commented Oct 31, 2010 at 19:46
  • Every pair of cycling gloves I've seen have had a reinforced strip that extends to a point between the thumb and forefinger for exactly this purpose! Brushing one's tires seems to be becoming a lost art, to the benefit of tube sales. Doing it means one can ride more and repair tires less. Another answer explains brushing tires.
    – andy256
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 23:55
  • @andy256 There's no such reinforcing strip on my gloves. Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 13:18

One other purpose for gloves is that if you have rubber grips, for example grip shifters on a hybrid or mountain bike, gloves will protect them from deterioration due to sweaty palms.

I ride two bikes with rubber grips, one always with gloves and one without. After a few years, the grip shifters on my hybrid are ruined and the rubber can't be replaced without replacing the whole shifter. The other bike's grips still look great after 8 years.


Trying not to mention what has already been said but:

Gloves that wick well will also help to keep you cooler (and cut offs are not a significant disadvantage in this sense, due to surface area to volume ratios and blood flow.)

The main reasons for choosing cut off gloves as opposed to more protective full finger gloves (given that both can keep you more or less equally cool if made out of the right materials) is partially personal preference, but often relates to better feel when dealing with zips, packed food/energy, gear adjustment and not having to take them off when working on the bike, some also claim a superior feel for the brakes.

What other activities are they useful for: potentially anything where you grip anything but don't need your finger tips covered or are willing to take the risk of finger tip injury, also for typing in the cold. I use gym gloves for cycling, better value, fit AND durability (in my case) than cycling equivalents at twice the price. I only use actual cycling gloves when it comes to full-finger + extra protection, or waterproof + breathable (since those are expensive in any sport, so I may as well have something with more attention to cycling relevant details).

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