There are a number of reasons cyclists wear gloves while riding. On cold days, they keep hands slightly warmer, on hot days they keep sweat off the handlebars. Nobody plans to crash, but if you do take an unexpected fall, gloves provide a bit of a barrier between hands and the road.
Padded gloves are often marketed as an option to help reduce road vibrations running through the hands to the arms. According to a study presented at the 2020 conference of the International Sports Engineering Association, depending on their magnitude and frequency, vibrations can lead to injuries and disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries and neurological disorders.
The study explored how gloves help reduce vibrations in cyclist’s hands and arms. Counter to previous thought, the researchers found that padded cycling gloves had no significant effect in reducing vibration transmissibility.
The researchers tested flat and padded gloves on cyclists with small, medium and large hands. The cyclists rode in the drops, but the study cites another paper which found gloves to be similarly ineffective in the hoods. They theorize that cycling gloves were not designed to reduce vibrations in the first place, although many brands do claim shock-absorbing properties.
The results of this study should be taken with a grain of salt, as the researchers have obviously not tested every pair of cycling gloves on the market. That being said, if you are experiencing discomfort from vibrations, it’s probably best to not seek a full solution in a pair of gloves.
How to reduce the effect of vibrations
The same study that tested gloves in the hoods found that bar tape played a significant effect in reducing the transmitted power and energy through the handlebar. A thicker bar tape will dampen vibrations and make grasping handlebars much more pleasant—on pavement and gravel. Some pro cyclists, such as Tim Wellens, even add a second layer of bar tape when they compete in classics with particularly rough cobbles.
If you’re looking for a bar tape to reduce vibration or ‘road buzz’ go for a tape 3mm or thicker. Fizik’s Soft Tempo Bondcush, Pro’s Sport Comfort and Lizard Skin’s DSP Bar Tape V2 are all good options.