Gloves are typically a cold-weather accessory, but many cyclists wear cycling gloves year-round. If you're susceptible to hand injuries, routinely travel long distances on your bike or just need to wipe sweat from your brow during a ride, include gloves in your list of cycling accessories. When you're not out on the road or trail, you can use them during a workout or any task for which you want extra protection for your hands.
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The constant friction of handlebars moving against the skin of your hands -- especially when they're damp with sweat -- can cause blisters. Wearing gloves prevents blisters, chafing and other discomfort resulting from friction and road vibration. With padded gloves, you're also less likely to contract handlebar palsy, or ulnar neuropathy, which is characterized by tingling and numbness resulting from pressure on the ulnar nerve in the hand and wrist.
Some cycling gloves are equipped with rubbery, gripping palms that help you grasp slick handlebars in wet weather or hot, humid weather. If you mountain bike in inclement weather, the extra grip provided by gloves could mean the difference between staying in your seat and landing in a puddle. The improved grip enables better control of your bike because your hands are less likely to slip on the handlebars each time you turn.
Wool gloves help keep your hands warm in cold weather, even when they are wet with sweat or rain. If you're gripping a cold object such as handlebars, it's easy to lose heat through your hands. This makes full-finger gloves doubly useful in cold weather to prevent hypothermia. In summer, wear cycling gloves that leave your fingers exposed to vent heat. In extreme cold, add a pair of glove liners.
Perhaps most important, wearing gloves enables you to break a fall with your hands, preventing serious damage to other parts of your body. Throwing your hands out in front of you to protect your body is an excellent survival response, but could cause serious skin abrasion without gloves. Regardless of whether you choose to wear gloves or not, don't forget to wear a helmet to protect your head in case of a spill.