The reason why sim racers wear gloves when sim racing is because they offer a layer of protection for their gear and their hands, as well as increase the grip on their wheel for the duration of the race. Sim racing wheels are susceptible to wear and tear from the friction, sweat, and natural oils from the drivers’ hands. This friction can also result in the drivers’ hands receiving friction burns and blisters. Sweaty and fatigued hands result in less consistent grip as the race progresses. Wearing gloves solves these issues for many sim racers.
Protecting Your Hands
During races, moving around the wheel a lot against high force feedback will cause a lot of friction between your hands and the wheel rim. You really won’t notice this if you’re sporadically entering shorter racers, however, in longer (1 hour+) sessions, I have had my hands suffer from friction burns. It really makes it uncomfortable having to constantly readjust your grip mid-race in order to avoid the spot that is starting to hurt because of the friction.
If you’re already starting to feel some discomfort from longer racing session but aren’t 100% sure if you should invest in a good set of gloves or not, then consider looking into some cheaper alternatives.
Let’s be honest, you don’t need top of the line FIA approved racing gloves with full fire protection for sim racing. Many sim racers use karting, mountain biking, or even mechanic gloves. I would recommend that you try and find a cheap pair to see if that helps with the discomfort and if it does and you’re happy wearing gloves, you can always upgrade.
Protecting Your Wheel
It doesn’t really matter if you have a cheaper entry level wheel, or a top of the line customer setup, friction and sweat are going to take its toll on your gear to some degree. Wear is normal with any sim racing gear but it is important to be able to minimize the amount of unnecessary wear that we put on our gear.
Personally, I find that Alcantara rims are more prone to this sort of damage as the soft fabric has a tendency to absorb more sweat and oils than a leather wheel, for example. If you’re using an Alcantara rim, it is important to take care of it from the beginning and regularly maintain it so that it keeps its fresh look and feel.
On the topic of Alcantara wheels, it is highly recommended that you use gloves if you have one in order to keep it in good condition.
Similarly to sweat damaging rims, the friction from sweaty-moving hands can also cause materials to receive damage from the constant friction. Again, this is more noticeable on Alcantara wheels, but leather and vinyl rims are also exposed to these same issues but from what I’ve observed, to a lesser noticeable extent.
If you do choose to use gloves for sim racing, it is important that you choose a glove that is made from a similar material as your rim is. For example, don’t do what I do and use my motorcycle gloves on my wheel. They have carbon fiber plating on the palms that do more harm than good. If you’re using an Alcantara rim, then try and find a glove that has Alcantara (or similar soft material) palms and if you have a leather rim then consider using gloves with leather palms.
Again, that is the ideal situation and not the rule. As mentioned previously, anything from a mountain biking glove to a mechanic glove all the way up to a FIA approved gauntlet will do the job.
Aside from protecting your hands and preserving your wheel, the main reason people use gloves (and the only direct ‘performance increase’ from using them) is that they not only increase grip but allow you to have a consistent level of grip throughout the race.
There is nothing worse than spinning out, crashing into a wall, taking someone else out, or messing up an overtake because your hand slips off the wheel. This is probably the main reason that I use gloves when I race. I want to make sure that when I need to make that tight turn or overtake, I’m going to make it stick.
Now, obviously depending on what sort of racing you’re going to be doing, will depend on how much this will benefit you. If you are mainly an oval racer then perhaps this isn’t as crucial to you as someone that mainly drifts or does rally where they are throwing and catching the wheel a lot more.
The main reasons that anyone is going to be looking to get racing gloves for sim racing is to solve three issues. Damage to your wheel, preventing your hands from getting friction burns, and having a consistent level of grip on the wheel for the duration of a race.
Gloves are by no means mandatory at any stage of your sim racing career, however, if you start racing for longer periods of time, whether that be back-to-back smaller races or longer endurance style races, I would highly recommend it. I would also recommend it to anyone that wants to make their rims last as long as possible, and specifically for anyone that owns an Alcantara rim as they can get pretty nasty, pretty quickly, if they are exposed to heat and sweat.