How Mountain Biking Gear Works

Mountain Biking Gloves

Mountain biking gloves can help riders keep their hands protected during rough rides like this one.
Mountain biking gloves can help riders keep their hands protected during rough rides like this one.
Doug Berry/Getty Images

Mountain biking gloves serve several important functions. They improve your grip on the handlebars, reduce blisters, keep fingers warm during fall and winter rides, absorb bumps and shocks and offer extra protection during a crash. The basic types of mountain-biking gloves are half-finger, full-finger, three-finger and mittens (also called pogies).

Half-finger gloves are perfect for short trails and hot-weather riding. They're usually made of leather, which absorbs sweat well and lets the fingers breathe. Half-finger gloves are lightweight but durable, with double-stitching in key stress points between the thumb and forefinger and along the palm.

Serious riders and professional racers prefer full-finger gloves. They're made of a mix of leather and waterproof synthetics for all-season riding. Downhill racers and freeriders use full-finger gloves with extra padding to protect against whipping tree branches and crashes.

For fall and winter riding, three-finger gloves are an interesting option. The idea is to keep the fingers warm by giving them a "partner" to cuddle up with. Three-finger gloves have a spot for the thumb, a shared spot for the forefinger and middle finger and a third shared spot the ring and pinky fingers.

Pogies are mitten-shaped, waterproof hand protectors that attach directly to the handlebars of your mountain bike. The pogies cover the handles as well as the brake controls, allowing you to fully operate your bike safely inside their warm confines. You can even wear a pair of thinner mountain bike gloves and stick them inside the pogies for an extra layer of protection.

The prolonged stress and bumps associated with mountain biking can lead to hand soreness and even carpal tunnel syndrome. There are a wide range of padded gloves and gloves with special gel inserts that absorb some of the shock and lessen the severity of these conditions.

And now for the question you've been dying to ask: What's up with bicycle shorts? Read more on mountain biking clothing in the next section.