There was a time when I assumed I needed a pair of fingerless gloves in order to properly ride a road bike in the United States of America. If the backs of those “gloves” also had a crocheted back (the better to aerate my hairy mitts) well that’s just some ’70s pro street cred, not an embarrassing macramé disaster. As with so much of my education, I was furnished with flawed information. My hands got real sweaty anyway, my tan lines got funkyAF, and civilian passersby shook their heads in judgmental bemusement.
This is a good example of how group think and cultural appropriation can take us down bizarre fashion dead ends. It’s also worth asking whether the proliferation of crochet-backed fingerless gloves wasn’t in fact the beginning of automotive society’s rejection of cyclists as “too goddamned weird” to share the road with.
It was/is a fair point.
Quite how our velo brethren and sistern (?) pedaled past hobo camps, saw the down-on-their-luck crew of boxcar jumpers, wine sippers, and baked bean aficionados clustered there, and thought “Those gentlemen have clearly made a long series of poor life choices, BUT THOSE GLOVES!!” I will never understand.
What was the goal?
Anyone who has ridden for hours at a time knows the pain of blisters that form in the gap between thumb and forefinger or along the top of the palm. You want protection from that, but also you don’t want hot hands. Our skin cools via the evaporation of sweat from its surface, so you need skin exposed to air, while you also need skin not exposed to handlebars. If we just snip the ends off these perfectly good, normal gloves perhaps we have just what we need.
What became the fingerless glove could have been named the ‘hand chamois.’
As an aside, the hobo wearing fingerless gloves is only doing that because he wore the tips right off his gloves, right? Isn’t there some perfect scenario in which cyclists buy full-fingered gloves, cut the ends off the fingers and give them to hobos, who can then sew them onto their own, very old gloves? Perhaps I’m an idealist. Perhaps I’m an idiot.
OK, back to the task at hand (nyuk, nyuk).
The problem I always had with fingerless gloves was that, over the period of time I might normally get a blister riding bare-handed, the gloves themselves became sweat-soaked and just as likely to give me blisters. Then I had blisters AND looked like some sort of leotarded hobo.
I can think of another place where riding-related friction gets uncomfortable and the industry has proposed a solution, but who’s going to walk into a bike shop and ask for a tube of Palm Butter? The masturbation joke write themselves, and the world already has too many of them.
At some point, at no one’s urging, I stopped wearing fingerless gloves, opting instead for no gloves (and the same old blistering problems) or full-fingered gloves, which are somehow stylistically ok, even though a person wearing gloves with short sleeves would normally lead you to identify the nearest exit, lest “something weird” happen.
Cycling’s sartorial history is rife with miscues, odd conventions, and a cult-like devotion to looking like a gymnast/astronaut. Since we came to grips with the idea that the 20th century’s cheerful hobo is actually a tragically poor person with overlapping mental health issues or someone caught betwixt the gnashing jaws of society’s lack of human empathy, the fingerless glove has mainly been in retreat.
If they work for you, wear them, but perhaps also consider that it’s not 1982, you’re not a carny, and a blister here and there builds character.
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