What Gloves Should You Wear Mountain Biking? (Explained!)

Are interested in mountain biking and you need to buy MTB gloves but are overwhelmed by the number of options available on the market? Don’t worry I got you covered, in this article I will tell you what gloves you need for each type of mountain biking riding style.

For low-intensity riding, even the simplest of MTB gloves will do, for cross-country riding gell-padded fingerless or full-finger MTB gloves are the best choice, for downhill and enduro mountain biking gel-padded full-finger armored MTB gloves are recommended, and for riding in winter times you need winter gloves.

In this article, I will tell you what are the differences between full-finger and fingerless MTB gloves, gel-padded and normal MTB gloves, armored and non-armored MTB gloves and I will tell you which kind of MTB gloves you need for the different types of mountain biking.

MTB summer and winter gloves
Mountain biker holding a winter MTB glove while equipped with summer MTB gloves

One of the most important advantages of wearing MTB gloves is climate control, so it really doesn’t matter the season if you have the right gear you can still ride your mountain bike.

Most mountain bikers will have at least two pairs of MTB gloves, one for the cold season and one for the warm season. The main difference between the two is the insulation and the improved thermals.

Winter gloves are ticker, hold your hands warmer, and are better at wind repelling than summer gloves. If you only want to ride on a good wheater then forget about winter gloves and focus on the summer ones.

Full-Finger or Fingerless Gloves

Full-Finger vs Fingerless Gloves
A short preview of the main features of full-finger MTB gloves compared to fingerless MTB gloves

This is maybe the greatest debate when it comes to MTB gloves, should you get fingerless or full-finger gloves. As you can see in the infographic above there are pluses and minuses for each option.

Full-finger gloves will offer you finger protection if you crush or some small rock is thrown from the weel into your hand, this will happen less often when you ride off-road but still sometimes it will happen.

Fingerless gloves will give you more breathability and allow you to have more dexterity when it comes to handling your phone or if you need to ty your shoelaces. Sometimes when you need to handle smaller objects full-finger gloves can become annoying.

If you mostly ride downhill or enduro it is recommended that you get full-finger gloves for extra protection. When you ride at high speed on long forest downhill portions you may feel cold on your fingers if you wear fingerless gloves (the weather will not always be your friend).

Some riders prefer full-finger gloves because they offer better grip on your shifter/ brakes levers when your hands are sweaty.

Gell Padded or Simple Gloves

If you are a road biker then getting gel padded gloves is just a matter of increasing your comfort but if you are a mountain biker and are results orientated they become a necessity.

If you ride at high speed on rough off-road terrain your hands need to be able to absorb all the shocks resulting from your wheels getting in contact with the rough parts of the terrain on which you ride, so a good pair of gel-padded MTB gloves will help your hands to absorb these shocks.

A good pair of gel-padded MTB gloves can reduce the sore hands feeling at the end of the ride due to the fact that they will diminish the shocks absorbed by your hands.

Get a good pair of gel-padded MTB gloves and you will thank yourself later!

Armored or Non-Armored Gloves

Non-armored gloved become much more popular than armored gloved due to the increased comfort level that they offer, in our days most enduro and downhill riders prefer non-armored gloves even if they offer less protection.

In most crashes, gloves will not play an important protective role and that’s why most riders will overlook armored gloves but this is a mistake because there are some fantastic armored gloves on the market on which the armor doesn’t affect the comfort by much, for example, Fox Defend Fire.

Getting good protective gear if you ride downhill or enduro is crucial, gloves are often overlooked but this can cost you if you are unlucky, better to be safe than sorry. Many riders will say that they used non-armored gloves for a long period of time and they are fine but keep in mind that nobody has regretted having more protection but many did regret that they didn’t have enough in the case of a crash.

If you mostly ride enduro or downhill the chance of falling and hitting your hand on a rock is greater than on the other disciplines and for this reason, armored gloves are recommended in these cases.

Gloves Features Recommendations for Your Riding Style

Of course that there isn’t a pair of gloves that fits all needs but if you take into consideration your preferred riding style then picking a good pair of MTB gloves becomes an easy task.

mountain biking
mountain biking
mountain biking
mountain biking
fingerless/ no glovesfingerless/ full-fingerfingerless/ full-fingerfull-fingerfull-finger
normalgell paddedgell paddedgell paddedgell padded
non-armorednon-armorednon-armored/ armoredarmoredarmored
low-budgetdon’t be cheapdon’t be cheapdon’t be cheapdon’t be cheap
Recommended MTB gloves feature in regards to riding style

If you just want to enjoy nature and most often you just ride at low intensity then you can even go gloveless but for a more results-driven approach things to become more complicated.

For cross-country riding it is important to have comfortable gloves that offer great breathability, for trail mountain biking protection becomes more important but still is not the main focus.

Enduro and downhill mountain biking are more demanding and present more risks and for this reason, protection will become at least as important as comfort and grip.

Why Do Most Mountain Bikers Wear Full-Finger Gloves?

Many mountain bikers tend to prefer full-finger gloves because they keep your hands warm even if the weather is against you and they offer a better grip on the brake lever when your hands are covered in sweat.

Most riders want to have one or two pairs of gloves that will do the job right even if it is colder outside. If you use fingerless gloves and it is colder outside (spring, fall) and you are lucky enough to ride on a windy day your hands will get cold fast.

A good pair of full-finger gloves will allow you to comfortably ride your mountain bike despite the rough weather, practically you will need a separate pair of gloves only if you want to ride in wintertime.

Final thoughts

I hope that by now you know what MTB gloves are right for you because they are an important part of the protective gear you need to really enjoy your rides.

In the first place you need to identify your preferred riding style and then your job becomes easier. See you on the trails!

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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.