In much of earth’s northern half, the leaves will start their annual swap across the color wheel next month, shifting the smells and sights that fill our mountain bike rides. Temperatures will ebb, and for some folks, the post-work headlamps and gloves will come along for the ride. Our test crew tried out a few sets of hand-protection in case you’re on the hunt for some. We even left one in the forest, and unfortunately, it didn’t turn into a shelter for all the woodland animals like the one in the Ukrainian folktale. Alas, we tried.
Dainese HG Caddo
The HG Caddo gloves from Dainese are wicked thin, with a sharp eye on warm weather riding. The top of the hand is made of breathable material that’s tough and somewhat less stretchy than Lycra, while the fabric between the fingers is ever more breathable, with an almost transparent mesh construction. The synthetic palm material is perforated to allow further airflow while it’s also tougher than the rest of the glove to prevent some road- or trail-rash.
My usual size large fits well with this pair, with just enough tautness that they don’t slide around or bunch up. While the fingers could be a few millimeters longer, they eventually slide into place for full comfort. I appreciate that there’s no cuff adjustment to fiddle with that would make them take longer to get on and off. The tighter fit does require an extra second to remove when sweaty, but I’ll happily deal with that to have a snug glove.
The tough screen print on the fingers works as advertised, and you can mess about with your phone or bike computer with either the index digit or the bird. The cuff material extends toward the thumb to create a sufficient snot-wipe, which is always appreciated. The thickest chunk of fabric sits right where your outer palm rests at the edge of the grip, cleverly placed in that common spot where your hand can get pinched between the bar and a tree. Finally, the gloves have a little tab on the cuff that pairs with a clip on Dainese shorts or pants to store them while climbing. I’ve been impressed with this feature, and in particular that my gloves were still hanging from my shorts, and slightly drier when I reached the summit.
These gloves are plenty breathable for sunny spins, while somewhat more durable than a lot of lightweight options. The thinnest material between the digits has started to pill a little at the seams after several months of washes, but that doesn’t affect the glove’s fit or functionality.
Recommended for: Dry summer riding.
Dainese HGR EXT
I’ve broken and dislocated a few fingers on the trail, and banged them all against trees and other plants, and I still don’t like most gloves that offer outer hand and finger protection. It typically feels cumbersome and distracting, like wearing American football pads to do anything other than be clobbered by a heavy someone. These HGR EXT gloves from Dainese are some of the first with extra guards that feel good while riding. I have taken a few branches against my knuckles in these, and that thin layer of armor undoubtedly makes a difference. They might even be the right pair to wear to a private school before pulling a prank on the principal.
Like the Dianese pair above, the palm and upper fabric is nice and breathable for hot rides, though this pair kicks up all of the thin topside fabrics by one notch. It has the same attachment feature to connect the gloves to a pair of Dianese trousers, similar touchscreen capability, and the fit feels identically good. Unfortunately, there’s no mucus wipe, so you’ll have to sort that out someplace else.
While I can get behind the added protection, I’m not a fan of the velcro cuff adjustment. It seems an unnecessary step to keep the gloves in place, and it often pops open requiring me to stop and re-lash it shut. Now that I’m done photographing these, I’ll likely cut it off and continue wearing them without. Another point for the install and removal discussion is that the glove has a flap of fabric on the outer wrist cuff to tug on, making it easier to pull on when your hands or gloves are sweaty.
MSRP: €49.95. More info at Dainese.
Recomended for: Added protection from branches and crashes.
Fox’s Ranger gear is made for lightweight trail protection, and the gloves fit right in there. The Rangers have a mesh front and a thin palm with mesh gussets in between the fingers for better movement and airflow. They also have a conductive thread on the thumb and pointer finger for easier swiping on your phone.
A lot of gloves feature touchscreen compatibility that often doesn’t work that well, so I was surprised that the Rangers swipe and tap easily, even when they’re dry. Though they are black, the Rangers don’t feel too hot in the summer and do allow air to circulate around your digits.
Some might not like the Velcro glove closure because they can wear out over time, but they do make donning and removing the gloves easier. There has been some wear on the palm already, but other than that they are working well, and feel like they provide a solid connection to the grips. The fit is a touch baggy right out of the package.
Recommended for: Minimalists who want the least amount of glove and don’t mind the Fox logo.
G-Form has a reputation for using their SmartFlex material for form-fitting, breathable knee pads and they’ve found another great use for the material on the outer knuckles of the Sorata gloves. The Soratas have a thin, breathable mesh on top with a clarino synthetic suede palm that is similar to the Rangers, in that it’s one minimal piece of material for enhanced grip.
The Sorota gloves aren’t the slimmest, most form-fitting in the bunch. The added SmartFlex pad feels like it requires extra material around that portion of the hand and the padding can slide back and forth. Ours have collected some scratches from the walls of rocky trails.
The touchscreen fingertips do work nicely on the thumb and pointer fingers, and the pull tabs make them easy to yank on. These are comfortable and well-vented gloves for summer rides.
Recommended for: Riders who want added protection without feeling like they’re adding a lot more glove.
The DND gloves by Giro are definitely tried and true rather than new, and they are still made to get Down N’ Dirty. The DNDs have a three-piece palm construction for better fit, and there is a 2mm piece of padding on the outer palm for just a smidge of impact absorption. The DNDs have “flex zones” on the index and middle fingers for better articulation, and silicone on the tips of those fingers and the thumbs for improved contact with brake and shift levers.
Giro’s DND gloves fit well according to size and leave little extra room. After a wash, they’ll likely fit perfectly. These feel rather breathable but they’re definitely not the lightest gloves in this review and offer a little more protection. The black doesn’t help with heat in the summer, but they are available in 10 different colors. The pull tab on the underside makes it easy to pull them on.
Recommended for: Trail riders who want a glove that will last a while, feel comfortable in three out of four seasons, and give a little bit of protection.
Handup Lost in the Sauce
Let’s face it, buyers probably aren’t choosing these gloves for their technical features, but that’s not to say Handup doesn’t include them.
For starters, the brand says “new FULLTOUCH technology [provides] seamless touchscreen capabilities woven throughout the entire palm.” Personally, I’m content to use my thumb and fingertips, but it’s nice to know I can use other parts of my hand if necessary.
Classified as a “most days” glove, Lost in the Sauce is about as comfortable as any I’ve tested for general riding. The colorful back of the glove is lightweight and vented, while the classic Clarino leather palm is free of irritating seams. Speaking of the palm, Handup is known for printing inspirational and often cheeky sayings spelled out when the left and right gloves are held together. (This particular pair simply says ‘Shred.’) The rubbery print provides a nice amount of grip, but aside from that, it feels a bit gimmicky, but then again, social media.
I’ve owned a few pairs of Handup “most days” gloves over the years, and while they aren’t the most durable, they are some of my favorites in terms of both fit and comfort.
MSRP: $29. Available from Handup.
Recommended for: Standing out and making a statement.
Over on the warmer end of the spectrum, the FERNM. gloves from Maloja are heavy-duty, making them a solid option for cooler mornings or dig days when you want a little added palm protection. The corduroy-like material on the top is heavy, like a burly pair of gardening or framing gloves, while there is a thick sort of lycra between the fingers to allow for some airflow.
The tighter fitting size large is ideal for shoveling soil, with little movement between the glove and your skin. The wrist cuff and finger liners are the only stretchy fabric on the gloves, so you may want to try them on before buying if possible. The cuff is shorter than some hefty pairs, making it a little easier to get these on and off, and the stiffer fabric doesn’t stick to your skin too much when it’s damp.
The silicone grippers are designed to hold a handlebar or shovel, and not to actuate a cell phone, so you can just focus on digging or riding. The chevrons stick to wooden handles quite well, and it’s almost as if Maloja designed these for trail work more than riding. There is also a heavy piece of leather-like fabric right where the thumb skin often wears thin while shaping trail.
If you like the olive-green design and heavy black shell, these are a sweet pair of gloves for all manner of trail activities. They are a little warm for pedaling outside the winter months, which makes them ideal for park laps where they come off when not descending.
Recommended for: Double as dig and skid hand protection.
POC Essential DH
Between the burly Maloja gloves above and a thin pair of summer slip-ons, there’s the POC Essential DH pair. The topside fabric is of a tough canvas sort, with a perforated synthetic leather palm, and the expected stretchy bits between the fingers. A hunk of armor is nested on the smallest two knuckles, right where we often suffer the dreaded “boxer’s break.” Like the padding on the Dianese gloves, it moves with your hand and is largely unnoticeable when you’re not hitting things.
This pair fits my hand better than any other, with the finger-crotches seating precisely between the base of my digits. The short cuff adds the glove’s overall comfort, with no extra material getting kinked in that big bendy joint. The sturdier fabric makes these easy enough to remove when wet, and getting them back on requires similar effort.
Both of your longer fingers can play with touch screens in these gloves while riding, but maybe watch out for rocks. There is a little silicone on the wrist to help pull them on, and wipe that stretches from inner wrist to thumb-tip.
For the sort of gravity riding I enjoy, these gloves are ideal in most seasons. They get tucked into my kneepad while climbing to be slid on after sliding that kneepad into place at the trailhead. They’re thick enough to provide protection and endure a couple of seasons of riding without being overly thick and awkward.
Recomended for: Trails with lots of hand-smacking obstacles.
Glancing at the black Tasco Pathfinders, they appear to be pretty basic mountain bike gloves. There’s actually a lot going on here with extra padding, reinforcement, and handy features like touch-screen compatibility and a decent snot rag.
The knuckles on the three outer fingers are protected with synthetic rubber cells wrapped in neoprene that moves and articulates comfortably and easily. This form of knuckle protection doesn’t provide as much insurance against hand smacks as the hard plastic and D3O guards others use, but the upshot is that it moves well and feels great.
Tasco added a suede palm for extra durability and comfort, and the material provides a nice amount of grip. I’m not a fan of velcro wrist closures, though this one is easy enough to get along with.
On the thumb, there’s a soft nose wipe and a grippy, touchscreen-compatible tip. The index fingertip receives a similar treatment, and I’ve found it works better than most at navigating basic phone functions. You’ll still want to use your voice assistant for sending longer text messages though.
The Tasco Pathfinders make an attempt at ventilation, though, with all the various fabrics and layers involved, these may not be the best choice for the hottest summer riding days.
Recommended for: All-around comfort, durability, and protection.
Velocio Trail Gloves
Velocio’s Trail gloves are a bit steeper in price than other options in this review, but they do add a noticeable level of quality. The Trail gloves have a synthetic microsuede incorporated into the palm as well as a thin layer of high-density padding on the underside of the knuckles and the outer edge of the palm.
The Velocio gloves have a very snug feel to them with no baggy fingers or fabric. This makes them a little trickier to get on compared to other gloves, but the aesthetic benefit is worth it, as is the dexterity and feel around the grips. They work reasonably well with a touchscreen, but you might have to press harder than normal.
In between the fingers, there’s a very open mesh fabric for wind channeling in between the digits. That keeps hand humidity down and comfort up, as does the ventilation throughout the palm and the rest of the glove. Yes, they might be more expensive than other options, but if a clean look and dry hands are your thing, the Trail gloves are a great choice.
Recommended for: Riders who want a fitted feel and as much airflow as possible.