Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bicycle Gloves: The least necessary accessory?


You like-a the gel? I like-a the gel.

In his recent excellent book, Just Ride, Grant Petersen has a chapter called "Gloves: the least necessary accessory." Now, he truly knows more in his little toe about bicycles and riding than I do in my whole body, but sometimes I like riding with gloves. Sometimes they do not seem like a needless affectation to me, a spurious accessory foisted on an unsuspecting bicycling public by corporate-funded bike racers. So I reflected on the facts of my usage of them, and, as always, will try to let them speak for themselves.

What are gloves (allegedly) good for?
cold weather, accident protection, comfort, sweat drip removal

Do they actually accomplish these?

Cold weather: check, but I don't experience that very often
Accident protection? A couple times when I crashed, they performed very well in protecting my hands and palms, particularly in a mountain bike crash on gravel, when many other parts of me fared much worse.

Do I use ever them:
for commuting? No, never
for grocery-getting? No, never
coffeeneuring? No, never
city road rides? Usually, for the longer ones, anyway, I think the ride is more comfortable
mountain biking? Always

Do I wash them? Once in a while, yes. Usually when the salt and grime becomes visible.


Are there other less necessary bicycle accessories? Surely!
What about: spoke cards? handlebar tassels? pie plates? lawyer lips?

31 comments:

  1. For riding any form of distance ride I do think that gloves make the whole experience more comfortable....But for the coffee shop..commuting ride etc I personally wouldn't bother.

    -Trevor

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  2. When my hands are cold I like them.
    An old time horseshoer while watching me try to shoe a horse while I was wearing gloves once told me that "the only thing gloves are good for (in this instance) was peeing your pants".
    Ever try to work a zipper on Levis with gloves on?

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    1. Unfortunately, I have. Is that why bike gloves usually have the fingertips cut off?

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  3. I wear gloves pretty much all the time, except when I forget them. Reason: my palms sweat a lot sometimes, and that means that without gloves the handlebar grips can get slippery or I'd be wiping my sweaty hands on my work pants.

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  4. When I had a mountain bike with handlebar grips, gloves were essential because the grips sucked. My current bike has cork-wrapped bars, gloves not really needed. When it's cold, if it's cold enough for gloves, I just wear my normal gloves. I don't know of any cycling gloves warm enough for a New England winter.

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  5. I like gloves in the summer for road cycling, because they protect the tops of my hands from sun damage and they also make my hands less slippery on the handlebars. In the winter I like gloves for all kinds of cycling because they keep my hands warm.

    But the padding aspect is more or less useless to me; my handlebars are perfectly comfortable as is. So I choose gloves with minimal padding and maximum sun/cold protection, depending on season.

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    1. Sun damage is also a vital glove function in Arizona, Velouria. Several people I know have had various -nomas (carcinoma, melanoma) removed from the back of their hands, which I often think about when I put on gloves. I can only imagine handlebars so comfortable you would never need gloves! But, since I find the gel padding only of limited effectiveness in compensating for less-than-perfect bars and setup, maybe I should focus less on the gloves and more on the actual problem...hmmm.

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  6. I started using padded gloves since I mounted noseless saddles on all my bikes, as with that kind of seats you put more weight on your hands and padded gloves add some comfort. I don't use them daily, just for long rides.
    I use them always also for off-road footbiking, for protection.

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    1. From using a keyboard all day, I have sore wrists (ganglions are not happy), so any set up which put more weight on my hands would render my wrists unusable long before the padding in gloves would come into play for other sorts of numbness or discomfort in the hands. To each his or her own, definitely, but I prefer a cockpit configuration where I could, if I want to, ride short distances with my hands barely touching, or hanging comfortably over, my handlebars, to ensure that I'm not putting too much weight on them. On the other hand, as in the photo caption, I do like-a the gel.

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  7. This post is my laugh for the day. While some claim they are unnecessary, nonetheless I'd feel naked without gloves (well,almost). I rather like the fuzzy thumb covering and crocheted cotton backing. I get the best spotted tan too by late summer. But seriously, I like them for their use as a tissue. I seem to have a constant nose drip, though I suspect that if I stop wearing gloves my nose will leak more! I don't care about the padding at all. To each his own.

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    1. Indeed, to each his or her own, anniebikes! Some prefer the snot rocket method. I find the subtle glove wipe more seemly myself, except in case of severe post-nasal drip, when only a well-directed snot rocket will do.

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  8. I wear gloves cause they make me look pro.

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  9. For some people, bike gloves are important for protecting their love life.

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    1. ...or ARE their love life...but it's not that kind of blog.

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  10. I only wear gloves in winter to keep warm. The rest of the time they are not really useful for anything I find.

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  11. I wear gloves so much I have extra tan lines. IMO, they are a far more useful safety device than are helmets, as they help one whether a crash occurs or not. Even should the worst occur, gloves are far more likely to help mitigate injury than any other device. Personally, I think Grant was firing for effect.

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    1. I'm pretty sure from reading the book that he really thinks gloves are unnecessary. And I'm in agreement in the sense that I am far from the "you better get some gloves before you ride a bike" school. "Just Ride" is a good mantra. But I like them sometimes, and all of the time in some modes, and moods. I have some full finger motocross gloves I call my cactus punchers. Not because I punch cactus with them, but I could, if I felt like it.

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    2. You may look forward to "Glove Love" before long. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    3. If I read that correctly, something I have written here has inspired a cyclist in Texas (not in Austin) to write something on the topic of "Glove Love." I feel as if I have made some sort of breakthru.

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  12. Well, first of all I'm glad to hear that in moving to Phx I won't be in constant fear of losing my gloves because I pretty much always have them packed. In the summer, I usually keep some bike gloves in my pannier or purse in the event I'm pedaling after the sun goes down and the temperature drops. Last year in the middle of the summer I was without gloves when returning home from dinner and had to stop and warm my frozen hands around a terrible cup of hot coffee at a convenience store. During the winter time I ride in ski gloves, first warmed in front of the fireplace. Even then, sometimes they get so cold and numb that I can barely shift gears.

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    1. After living in PHX for so long, I consider it "cold" when people in more temperate places are still wearing shorts. Around 50F or cooler, and I feel more comfortable with gloves, typically. I found it interesting that Grant Petersen recommends long-sleeve seersucker or cowboy shirts for riding, particularly in the desert, because they provide protection and shade, while he spurns gloves. Surely my hands deserve protection and shade equal to that provided to my back by a cowboy shirt? Perhaps I shall wear both!

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  13. I've been a devoted reader of Grant Peterson's "Rivendell Reader" for many years. I don't, however, necessarily abide by every one of his prescriptions for effective bicycle riding.

    I ride with cycling gloves, and have done so for 30+ years. They provide some padding with handlebars that aren't wrapped with a thick tape and definitely (IMO) reduce problems with compression of the ulnar nerve and reduce numbness in hands. They may also decrease the likelihood of injury to hands after an accident, but I've personally never experienced that effect.

    I also ride with cycling specific clothing, something which Grant apparently considers the bane of enjoyable riding. They suit my riding and I don't worry too much about impressing anyone!

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    1. I am very enthusiastic about many of his pronouncements--frame size, tire clearance, component selection, cowboy shirts, all the anti-fad stuff. Some of the other things he states require additional parsing and post-processing to make sense to me, or even additional clarification. Yes there's more to riding than racing, but there's also more to racing than the TDF. 700x23 tires are more or less pointlessly skinny to an average rider, but go and buy a road bike and that's probably what you'll get, with little to no clearance with the frame to go larger. Ug. On the other hand, I agree with you about gloves, and the occasional use of cycling-specific clothing, too. I don't get all lyrcra'd up for my medium distance, medium speed commute into work, and don't see much point in doing so, but I have found much usefulness, protectiveness, and comfort firsthand at certain other times, from a helmet, gloves, and cycling clothing, and just want to remind everyone that an anti-fashion statement that translates into what you wear becomes another fashion statement.

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    2. I agree that many of Grant Peterson's ideas about bike design and sizing are very useful. I purchased an original Rivendell Road Standard in 1996, at the start of the Rivendell bike era, and it's still the bike that I ride the most.

      I was, however, already a devotee of the traditional steel frame bicycle, and that's all I've ever owned/ridden. The only other bike that I currently own (I've been in a bike attrition mode over the past several years) is a very nice Chicago-era Schwinn Paramount P-15 road model. That bike underwent a full re-paint and restoration at CyclArt and is a lovely bicycle.

      At present, I haven't read Grant's book "Just Ride" (although I've read some on-line excerpts). My impression is that it's a distillation of many of the ideas for which Grant has been a proponent from the beginning. His encouragement for an acceptance of bike riding, with minimal gear required, is certainly useful to get people on bikes!

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    3. It occurs to me that a lot of ardent cyclists may like to play dress-up. Similar to the rituals of a superstitious baseball pitcher, or True Fans who dress identically to the object of their obsession, cyclists may be practicing the Invocation of Magick, wherein they take on the shape and form of their idols, at least in their own minds, out of desire to touch the lofty heights of performance and fame achieved by the select few champions of the sport.

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  14. I like gloves. I only wear them for commuting when I need them for warmth, but if I'm doing longer rides I wear them all the time, for padding and for grip. I sweat a lot and my bars get slick, gloves help me get a better grip.

    Grant has a lot of interesting opinions, some more useful than others. I haven't read his book, but I'm not really sure I need to; after reading things from the Riv site and catalog for years, I think I pretty much have my fill.

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    1. Perhaps Grant would approve of silk-lined, hand-sewn goatskin gloves as worn by the early pioneers of randonneuring.

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  15. Well, there certainly are some very exclusive cycling gloves available. The "Grand Tour" gloves made by Rapha ($160.00) and the "La Grande" gloves made by Dromarti ($138.18) are examples.

    Personally, the idea of spending that much money on a product that wears out in a fairly short period, isn't my thing. I like some of the gloves that are available made with the Pittards brand leather. Here's one example:
    http://www.giro.com/us_en/lx-5493.html
    (These gloves aren't cheap, but they're quite nice.)

    My primary gripe with cycling gloves is that the dye used in the gloves is often fugitive and will smudge up a lighter color handlebar tape. I've tried to use a natural color or tan glove to avoid this problem.

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    1. One year when I told my mother-in-law that my dream air pump was an SKS Airbase Pro, she got one for me for Christmas. Should I put the Grand Tours on my "dream glove" list this year? Actually, those Giro LX gloves look like something to check out, thanks.

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