The other day I was out riding with my boss (Mtbr founder Francis Cebedo) and I was only about 10 pedal strokes away from my truck when I realized I had forgotten my gloves. My first instinct was to turn around immediately to put on my usual hand protection. But, not wanting to break his Strava KOM pace, I decided to push on and just ride without them. Why not, right? Besides, hasn't that been the trend for a while now? All those MTB video stars hucking themselves off huge jumps with no gloves, even after crashing?

As I rode, I mentally created a list of the Pros and Cons of wearing gloves. Here is what I came up with:

Pro Gloves:
  • Protection from falls or cactus or rocks or poison oak
  • Soak up sweat (moisture, rain) better and provide better grip
  • Provide warmth
  • Padding (helps fight numbness)
Con Gloves:
  • Better "feel" on the bars
  • Gloves are too hot

As I continued my ride, what I slowly found out was that I actually LIKED riding without my gloves. Even though my two current favorite pair of gloves are awesome (I normally ride with Alpinestars Aero gloves or Mavic Single Track gloves, pictured above), I discovered that I liked the tactile feel of my grips. Of course, it probably helped that I was using an exceptionally good set of grips that are unlike any other I've used before. The Prologo Chameleon grips are ultra light lock-on style grips that are more like bar tape than the traditional rubber grip.

I realized that I had a better "feel" of what the bike was doing and how it was reacting to the terrain. Even though the gloves I'm use to are both on the thin side with minimal padding, the gloves just didn't provide the same sensation of connection with the bars. The Prologo grips provided plenty of padding and even though I had a good burn going trying to keep up with my hammerhead riding partner, slippage was not an issue (I am not a profuse sweater anyway). Other than the lack of protection in case of a fall (which is a huge factor not to be easily discounted), I enjoyed my gloveless ride.

I decided to reach out to some real pros to get their opinion on riding gloveless or not. I spoke with Mark Weir, Joe Lawwill, Mary Moncorgé and the guys from ShapeRideShoot. Here is what they had to say.

Go to the the next page for what the pros say »

Mark Weir
Mark Weir has many titles: Pro DH/Enduro Racer, Pump Track fanatic, Riding Skills Coach, WTB Marketing/Product Tester, World Traveler, RC enthusiast, husband and father. We appreciate Mark taking a few minutes out of his busy schedule of testing, training and racing to answer a couple of glove-related questions. Mark answers them in his own inimitable fashion.

Mtbr: Do you ever NOT wear gloves when biking? DJ or pump track? Why or why not?
Mark: I wear gloves doing everything. The amount of time I spend using these things with gloves and I still have bad calluses. Hate to see them if I did not. Besides that I sweat like a rain cloud. I need something to wipe my brow.

Mtbr: Do you think it's stupid that some people choose to not wear gloves?
Mark: To each his own. Not the guy to cast judgment for not wearing gloves. If you were asking about rubbers, well that's a different story.

Mtbr: What are your current favorite pair of gloves?
Mark: Right now it's the Royal Victory or the Turbulence.

(Mark refreshes on the trail while wearing his Royal gloves.)

Joe Lawwill
Besides his current position as MTB Marketing Specialist for Shimano, Joe Lawwill has a long history as a mountain bike pro racer and all-around nice guy. (Joe is also the son of motorcycle legend/racer/hall of famer Mert Lawwill). When he's not racing, Joe also enjoys photography, coaching for Bike Skills and he is a graphic designer. We asked Joe similar glove-related questions.

Mtbr: Do you ever NOT wear gloves when biking? DJ or pump track? Why or why not?
Joe: I always wear gloves. Full finger gloves and not those goofy looking XC weenie short finger gloves. Blisters and chunks out of my hands are not cool. Also since I tend to gravitate toward single track trails I am often bashing through bushes and branches.

Mtbr: What are your current favorite pair of gloves?
Joe: I have migrated toward padless gloves and I've been using the Oakley Automatic gloves the last few years. Recently Pearl Izumi came out with the new Launch glove that has a little bit of padding on the outside palm which has turned out to be great. For longer downhills that extra padding makes a difference and the padding is light enough that it doesn't bother my grip. Although it is generally pretty nice weather here in Southern California it does in fact get cold from time to time and when that happens I don't leave home with the the P.R.O Softshell Glove or the P.R.O Softshell Lite Glove. Having cold hands and feet on cold rides is a huge buzz kill and between a set of booties and those gloves, you can ride and be comfortable in some pretty adverse conditions!

Go to the the next page for more of what the pros say »

Mary Moncorgé
Mary Moncorgé is a DH/Super-D/Enduro Pro racer as well as the Marketing Manager for Commencal Bikes. Mary recently left the Santa Cruz area and is now living the high life in Andorra (the sixth smallest nation in Europe bordered by Spain and France, well known for epic scenery.) We were seeking a female racer/rider's perspective and what Mary provided is perfect.

Mtbr: Do you ever NOT wear gloves when biking? DJ or pump track? Why or why not?
Mary: I always wear gloves (I use to ride horses before getting into MTBing and it's an old habit). I hate to have dirt under my nails, it protects my manicure (sorry girly side) and in case I dislocate a finger (it happened more than once), it makes it easier for me to re-set them if I don't see the skin. Also, if you crash and put your hands down first you want a little protection so you don't get skinned alive.

Mtbr: What are your current favorite pair of gloves?
Mary: I love my old Time gloves for XC and longer AM ride as they have good padding on specific areas and not uniform padding. Otherwise, I use the Endura ones that I love: really sturdy.

(Mary always wears gloves and her favorites are from Time and Endura.)

Let's face it; the type of mountain biker most likely to NOT wear gloves is the freeride/dirt jump style rider. As can be seen in any one of their awesome riding/hucking videos, the ShapeRideShoot guys from France usually don't wear gloves, even in the cold winter snow! We asked our friends Benoît Gurnel, Gaëtan Rey and Vincent Tupin for their opinions.

Question 1): Why do you not wear gloves? What is it, in particular that you like about going gloveless?
Question 2): Aren't you afraid of not having protection on your hands?
Question 3): Do you EVER use gloves? DH racing maybe? If so, what are your current favorite pair of gloves and why?

Benoît Gurnel:
1) I don't wear gloves because I prefer riding without. It's a bad habit I have since a long time but gloves disturb me for some tricks.
2) I'm not really afraid. Sometimes in the bikeparks where we are going very fast I do wear gloves even if I know that they won't avoid big injuries. Helmet and knee protections are very important however.
3) I used to wear gloves in the past for dirt jumping or DH. I liked Oakley gloves or TLD cross country ones. I prefer thin gloves.

Gaëtan Rey
1) I'm never wearing gloves just because I can't ride with. My feelings are very bad on the bike when I ride with gloves. I feel my hand moving in the glove before my move is effective on the handlebar. I also need to feel right my brake lever. The only problem is that my hands are quickly wet in the summer but I spend a few time with them in the dust at the top of the tracks to dry them.
2) I'm not afraid at all. Gloves prevent scratches only. You can ride with scratches and bloody hands, that doesn't matter.
3) The only time I wear gloves is for some trial riding. Last time was last year I think and it was thin IXS XC gloves just to prevent moisture. Otherwise I do never wear gloves. Neither in the winter, in the snow or for DH or dirt jumping.

Vincent Tupin
1) Riding gloveless offers more liberty and sensation on the grip. You are not disturbed by a fold or a glove moving because it is bad attached. I like to move my hand on the bar to make some tricks and I need to feel the button of my Gopro.
2) No, most of time when you are riding you don't think about that. It's just sometimes watching videos I think "oh you should not fall here!"
3) Yes sometimes I wear gloves, when it's very cold. I wear thin and tight gloves to approach gloveless feeling.

So there you have it. Some reasons to wear gloves and some reasons not to. In the end, it all boils down to what you personally prefer. Protection and moisture absorption seems to be the key reasons for wearing gloves. But there seems to be a preference to not wear gloves or to wear thin gloves that maximize the feel for the bike with very high level riders. The hands are a key contact point for the rider to process what the bike is doing so gloves that transmit bike feedback to the rider are good. So check out your gloves and ensure that they fit perfectly and consider some new ones that don't have too much padding on the palm to improve your riding and feel for the bike.

(Do you like to ride gloveless? Is there a Pro or Con that I missed? What is YOUR current favorite pair of gloves? Let me know in the comments below.)