David, David get up here. Smell the Glove is here...
I've got maybe a dozen or 15 summer gloves floating around in a plastic tub at my house. I never realized how key good gloves were to riding comfort until the Baker's Dozen 13 hour MTB race in Leesburg a few weeks back. A long ride like that brings out all weaknesses, whether they belong to the rider or the equipment. My primo Guarneau gloves were wearing a hole in my palms. Hell, those gloves are *money* on the road, but they left my hands very chewed up after just three or four hours. I switched into my Performance Elites and they saved the day - soft insides, unobtrusive padding, soft fine mesh back, and cheap. How nice. I left the race with seriously numb hands though. They are getting better - the fingers have stopped feeling like there are bees inside the fingertips, and now only two or three fingers are numb, and that is just mild. It got me thinking about gloves.
The prime directive for gloves is that they be comfortable and enhance, or at least not detract from , your grip. Glove fit is a very individual thing like saddles. You may have a wonderful pair of cheap gloves that work great for you, but nobody else likes them; and you may have this pair of super high end gloves that work for everybody but you. You need to try them on to make sure the cut is comfortable for your hand (Pearl is not comfortably cut for my ham hands) and try them on rides of varying length, duration and intensity before you order a half dozen of them.
After Baker's, I bucked up and got a pair of Spenco Ironman T2 gloves. They have this interesting set of three pads on them that relieves pressure on the metacarpal nerve. I stumbled onto them through some mountain bike forums - they are pretty highly recommended by people who had trouble with numb hands. This is a really big problem for me on the single speed, since a good portion of single speed MTB riding requires you to grip it and rip it - grip hard and use your upper body to leverage the bike up hills. The bigger you are, the harder it is on your hands. So far, they get an A, there is literally no numbness after 90 minutes... on the road bike. It will take a three or four hour hard ride on the MTB to see how they hold up over time but for now, I likee, better in fact than my Performance fallbacks. If they fail to hold up well on some more extreme ride, I'll let you know, but for now, I think they are money.
I have one other pair of summer gloves that I particularly love. Some days, your hands are a bit chewed up, or it's 59 degrees when you head out, or you are going into the woods and you know you're going to bash some trees. You need better protection, full fingers, but you want something light. Still, the glove should be warm down to 45 or 50, yet not sweltering hot if it gets up to 85. For this, I use the Fox Dirtpaw bike glove. (Not the Dirtpaw motorcycle glove, though it looks similar). It features soft leather (leatherette?) palms, durable yet comfortable webbing mesh fingers and back, and some knuckle padding and hard rubber finger shields - just narrow ridges running down the length of the fingers. The gloves are comfy, reasonable cool in hot weather, reasonably warm in the cold, they grip nicely, and they bounce off trees just fine, with the hard rubber finger shields saving the hands from unnecessary roughness. The only question I have about them is whether they grip in the rain, but I've never worn them in the rain to find out. They should cost around $20 - $27. I got them originally because I needed a pair, and they were cheap and handy. It's worked out remarkably well - what a stroke of luck. Yep, I wear them on the road despite the fact that they are dirt-oriented gloves. They hold up in road crashes pretty darn well.
Other products tried, and found wanting: Louis Guarneau - seemingly comfortable but inner-palm area apparently turns to sandpaper over the course of a long ride. Voler (not cut right), Canondale (fit issue, seam in wrong place for my fingers), Bell, Performance basic gloves and Performance terry-backed gloves and Performance Gel Century gloves - the latter two of which sort of wore out and became uncomfortable fairly quickly. Specialized Body Geometry - cut too narrow and short for my hands. Just a reminder - try different gloves until you find one that's perfect for you. Your experiences with particular brands may differ significantly from mine, and what doesn't work for me may be perfect for you. And, if all else fails, there's always Assos: