Are cycling gloves necessary?
One of the 14,000 reasons that I love cycling is that it’s so steeped in tradition. The bicycle was invented in 1817 and has a long, storied history when compared to the flash-in-the-pan whatever that someone is trying to make a quick buck on.
My great grandpa never did a juice cleanse, P90X or went to a Crossfit class but he did ride a bike through the Italian countryside. Undoubtedly with a bottle of wine in tow.
I love that feeling of connecting with history when on a bicycle. There we are climbing mountains that are millions of years old. We’re a just a tiny blip on that mountain’s existence which puts everything into perspective. The mountain doesn’t care if your socks match your jersey or if you spent $30 on a Rapha water bottle. It doesn’t care about you at all. Hundreds of years from now some other cyclist will be sweating, downshifting and pedaling her way up that very climb. Probably also swearing a bunch.
And it won’t care about her either.
Aside from some advancements in aerodynamics, frame materials and components, not much has changed and nor will it. It has been and will always be two wheels, your legs and mother nature.
With a long history comes traditions
Eventually, after something has been around for a while a bunch of rules and customs are created. A culture emerges. And being immersed in a culture can lead to some inefficient and impractical decisions.
Think of how many things we just blindly do because “that’s what you do.”
Like buying $100 worth of roses on a specific day in February or driving 6 hours to have Thanksgiving dinner on a Thursday when there’s significantly less traffic the following Saturday.
But we do it because that’s what you do. A lot of it is arbitrary but we don’t seem to care.
Culture exists in sports as well. Unwritten rules are followed in baseball, football and most especially, cycling. I honestly don’t think there’s a sport more focused with its own vanity than cycling.
For example, cycling subculture often dictates that riders:
- Shave their legs
- Match their shorts to their jerseys
- Care about the length of their socks
- Stop for a mid ride espresso
- Wear cycling gloves
Trust me, there’s way more. Just ask The Velominati.
As a former competitive swimmer I haven’t shaved my legs since college and my black shorts from Performance Bike “match” all the randomly ugly colored jerseys that I’ve scored on clearance racks.
Sock lengths? C’mon, I’ve already discussed how sport specific socks are ridiculous and my Costco socks definitely break the rules.
But I do love me a mid ride coffee.
But cycling gloves?
Is wearing cycling gloves just another one of those things that we do to look like the pros? Like shaving our legs, do we do this to distinguish ourselves from other “less serious” riders although there’s almost no performance impact whatsoever from doing it?
I mean, we don’t cycle with our hands.
Have I really written this long of an intro to answer the question of “are cycling gloves necessary?“
Appears I have. But I needed some filler for what could have been a really short post.
Plus I wanted to set the mood.
They’re the cheapest option for a more comfortable ride
Road bicycles don’t have front suspension which means each time that you hit a pothole, crack, twig, rock, etc. you’re feeling it right in your hands and shoulders. The impact from the road is almost completely absorbed by you which is gonna leave you feeling sore really quick.
So what are some of your options to help offset road shock?
How about a carbon frame?
Carbon frames are said to absorb some of the road vibrations and provide a more comfortable ride.
But, my god, are they not cheap. The below picture shows the same Cannondale Synapse bike with 105 components in both carbon and aluminum.
That upgrade to carbon is gonna run you exactly $1,000.
OK, maybe carbon wheels
HOLY CRAP! They’re even more expensive. A decent wheelset from a reputable brand is going to be about $1,000 if you catch a good sale.
Cycling gloves look pretty frugal now, huh?
Cycling gloves have padded palms which help absorb the impact when your handlebars whack your palms over, and over, and over.
And they’re about $12.
So, $1,000 for a carbon frame, $1,000+ for carbon wheels or $12 for cycling gloves.
That’s a no brainer. You should at least start here and see how much better you feel after wearing gloves before rushing out for that fancy carbon frame.
Sweat and snot!
I previously disclosed that I am the President of the Sweaty Beast Club and wearing gloves help keep my grip when I’m sweating something nasty. Additionally, along the thumb is a section designed for wiping the sweat and snot right off your face.
Eww, sounds gross. But it is what it is.
I’d rather wipe my snot off on a pair of gloves than my skin directly.
Lastly, it should not be overlooked that we often use our hands to break a fall. So, in the unfortunate event of a crash you have some protection from your hands getting all cut up from the pavement.
The Cheap Athlete’s recommendation
Now cycling gloves are something that I almost never buy at the local bike shop because I don’t think a lot of money needs to be spent here. I am completely brand agnostic and look for almost no specific qualities in them aside from price and some decent amazon reviews.
It’s a padded snot rag that the bike shop will charge you $25+ for.
The gloves I use are from Nextour which you can get for $12 on Amazon. This is definitely not a brand you’ll see anyone wearing at the Tour de France but who cares? Maybe after this article we’ll see them at the next tour?
See what I did there?
So are they necessary?
I’m a believer that cycling gloves are an important part of a cyclist’s gear stash but are they necessary?
However, looking at comfort alone, the value is incredible when compared to other options and they’re at least worth a try. And once you start riding in them you ain’t going back.