Mountain bike gloves are one of those things that you don’t really think about until you’ve got a lousy pair on your hands. Some riders choose not to wear them, however, the best MTB gloves can improve grip on your bars, protect your hands from branches and sharp plants and also prevent the ever-dreaded gravel rash on your palms when you come off.
On the other hand, a second-rate pair of gloves can pinch, rub and even cause blisters. Scroll down for a look at our favourite mountain bike gloves.
Skip to: Best mountain bike gloves: what you need to know
Our pick of the best MTB gloves
Gear from Swedish outfit POC usually occupies the upper end of the pricing spectrum, however, for the most part, the clever features, fit and style make them well worth the extra cash. With well-articulated fingers and a snug fit, the Resistance Pro DH offers surprising dexterity despite the VPD padding on the outside of the hand and over the thumb.
With the padding shod in the brand's tear-proof Resistance ceramic fabric, these mitts can take a beating but still breathe pretty well. The silicone dots on the index and middle finger seem to have good staying power, however, the stitching on the thumb designed to be smartphone-friendly is pretty useless without a lick.
While Giro is best known for its helmets and shoes, the brand also continually produces some of the most comfortable MTB gloves around. The palm and knuckle pads are made of Poron XRD, one of the many non-newtonian foams which harden on impact for better absorption properties. With AX suede synthetic leather making up the palm, the three-piece construction has a lot of seams but makes for a snug fit with no bunching.
The four-way stretch mesh on the rear of the hand and lightweight see-through mesh on the sides of the fingers makes them comfortable in warmer temps too. In my experience, the sizing on these gloves does run a bit small, so I’d recommend trying a pair on before you buy.
A minimalist glove, Troy Lee Designs XC fits well and is available in five colours to match any style. The fingers are pre-curved, and the four-way stretch spandex on the back of the hand allows for plenty of venting and offers surprising durability.
Instead of padding on the palm, TLD have added a double layer Clarino synthetic leather below the fingers and around the heel of the hand which continues up around the thumb. For added grip, there are also indented stars complete with silicone for added purchase.
Free of padding, the Fox Ranger is a lightweight, versatile glove that doesn’t break the bank. With a compression moulded cuff, the upper is made from four-way stretch polyester and is completely padding free. A 'microsuede' nose wipe is strategically placed on the back third of the thumb panel keeping the soft material on the part you actually wipe your nose with, and nowhere else.
The Clarino palm is seam-free and finished with silicone bands on the thumb, index and middle fingers, as well as touchscreen-friendly thread on the fingertips. If you prefer a bit of padding on the palm, Fox makes a gel version too. Even better, they are pretty crash-resistant and can be found pretty cheap.
The previous version of 100%’s Ridecamp featured a small bit of moulded ‘armour’ which, beyond looks, didn’t have a whole lot of function. The latest version, however, sees the strip of rubberised plastic removed giving the nylon spandex upper that little bit of extra movability. 100% have also nailed the finger length, and the top fabric is exceptionally comfortable against your skin.
The palm is made from single-layer Clarino, and fingers feature silicone grippers to prevent your hands slipping. The previous version of the glove also featured a similar cut, but the pull tab on the wrist had a seam that rubbed like crazy. 100% have wholly redesigned the Ridecamp and removed the culprit, which is good news!
Easily some of the thinnest gloves I’ve ever slipped over my hands, the DBX 2.0 Flow gloves feature a full mesh back for ultimate breathability. There's moulded padding over the outside two knuckles and on top of the pinky which serves as more of a brush guard than for blunt impact forces.
The palm is one of only a few not made with synthetic leather, instead Leatt opting what they call MicronGrip, which is made from fibres claimed to be considerably thinner than a human hair. The result is a seamless, extraordinarily soft and pliable fabric that offers superior bar feel but can leave your hands feeling a bit tired after a long ride.
Being so light and thin, they are far from the most robust gloves out there, but hold up well considering the weight of the materials used.
With a mesh back, the Boundary gloves are super airy and ideal for scorching hot temps. The majority of the palm is made using a silicon-infused mesh, which offers plenty of grip, while the heel of the hand is shod with 2mm gel padding to help relieve pressure and dampen some of the vibration coming through the bars. The index finger and thumb are also finished in silicon and are touchscreen-friendly.
If you’re anything like me, gloves always seem to evade the washing machine, only to be found after a load of riding clothes are nearly finished (just me?). To prevent the Boundary Gloves from becoming overly funky for the extended period between washes, Dakine use a 'Polygiene Odor control treatment', which seems to work pretty well. There is also a plush nose wipe on the thumb, something the hayfever sufferers and runny nose types like me greatly appreciate.
Not everyone lives somewhere that is conducive to warm weather riding year-round, and for those that don’t, keeping your hands warm is of paramount importance when the weather is foul.
The Specialized Deflect gloves achieve their warmth through windproofing rather than insulation, which not only eliminates some of the bulk but also helps them to breathe. They will shrug off a light shower but are not waterproof, so keep that in mind if you are regularly out in the rain.
The palm is made from what Specialized say is a hydrophobic AX suede, and provides for sufficient grip and more importantly, dexterity. In my experience, the Wiretap touchscreen thread on the thumb seems to work about as well as the POC thumb (ie: not very well at all), but manages well with a lick.
The 100% Brisker is a lightly insulated glove that opts for a reverse mullet configuration to keep your hands warm. The front of the glove is insulated, complete with a microfiber interior to wick moisture, while the palm is your standard single layer Clarino leather, and to my pleasant surprise, the system works pretty darn well.
With the standard palm, there is no sacrifice of bar feel, and they provide comfortably warm hands down to about freezing. The cuff runs a bit higher than most gloves, and features a Velcro closure to seal the cold out.
Best mountain bike gloves: what you need to know
Just like anything else, the fit and cut of a glove will vary by brand, however, the overall sizing is based around the same basic measurements; the circumference of your hand at the widest point (just below the knuckles) and the length of your middle finger.
From there, it comes down to your personal preferences of snug or loose fitting glove - everyone is different. I tend to err on the side of tighter gloves, knowing they will stretch out over time.
2. Padding and protection
Gloves come with different levels of padding and protection both around the knuckles and fingers, and on the palm.
With everything from wispy mesh-backed gloves, to fully armoured mitts, what suits you will largely depend on your style of riding and the climate of the region you call home.
While lightweight mesh gloves breathe well and offer some degree of abrasion resistance, they don’t provide much in the way of impact protection. Gloves shod with knuckle and finger padding help to stave off impacts but are likely to leave you with sweaty palms.
When it comes to what gloves you should wear for specific styles of riding, there are no hard and fast rules, it all comes down to personal preference.
Mountain bike gloves also come with all different levels of padding on the palms. If you find yourself with overly sore hands at the bottom of a long descent, it might be worth looking into a pair of gloves with padding along the heel of the hand - this could also stem from a myriad of other variables like your grips, brake lever position or suspension setup, of course.
The best mountain bike gloves these days feature synthetic leather palms because the material efficiently wicks sweat without compromising grip and is resilient against hands-first slides in the dirt.
Many brands add patterns and silicone details to the palms, which may provide a marginal increase in purchase depending on the glove and your chosen handlebar grips. The staying power of the silicone details is also brand-dependent, and quite often these will wear away well before the gloves are ready to be retired.
Most gloves also feature touch-screen-friendly thread sewn into the tip of thumb and index finger which work with varying levels of success.
Pro Tip: if you can’t get your touchscreen to work with your gloves on, lick your finger! It sounds gross, but it works without fail and is considerably more efficient than using the tip of your nose or trying to rip your glove off to answer a call.
4. Finger length
Our friend Fat Cyclist put it best when he said fingerless gloves are stupid. When it comes to mountain biking, fingerless gloves tend to bunch up between your fingers which cause discomfort, and even blisters - I would recommend you opt for full finger gloves.
5. Velcro or elastic wrists
If a glove fits well, an elastic wristband should keep it exactly where it needs to be, however, some riders prefer those with a Velcro closure. I find these straps are more functional on cold weather gloves and they help to keep chilly air from sneaking in through the cuff.
6. Nose wipes
It may seem like an afterthought, but a glove without a nose wipe can leave you looking like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Usually, on the thumb, brands will make nose wipes out of fleece or terry cloth and I prefer the latter as the material is softer on the skin and seems to better camouflage dried snot.