There’s so much that goes into making your MTB adventures safe and enjoyable that it’s easy to take some facets of this pastime for granted. By the end of this article, everyone from mountain biking hobbyists to passionate racers will be able to cross everything off the list when it comes to the top 10 essential mountain bike accessories you need for safety, comfort, and optimal performance on the trails.
The veterans among Pro Mountain Bike’s team cannot emphasize the importance of MTB accessory knowledge enough. You may have been in the saddle for years, you may have ridden all kinds of bikes, but if you dismiss a well-loved and useful accessory, you do so at your own peril. When it comes to accessories, our expert advice is to check it out, understand it, maybe even test it before you decide whether it will work for you. In our experience, most of the time, you will adopt the accessory in question and quickly ask yourself how you ever survived without it!
Key Takeaways on Mountain Bike Accessories
- The most important of all mountain bike accessories is your helmet. You should find the right one for you, prioritizing safety and comfort, with additional features to think about such as MIPS or WaveCel.
- Select flat or clipless pedals according to your skill level and preferences.
- Use water bottles/hydration packs to stay hydrated.
- Invest in protective gear, bike computers/GPS devices, storage solutions and mountain biking apparel for a safe and efficient riding experience where you can focus on having fun.
Protect Your Head: Choosing the Right Helmet
Your helmet is the most critical safety accessory while mountain biking. Selecting the right head gear involves considering your personal preferences and riding style. MTB-specific helmets offer:
- Increased back-of-head coverage compared to road-style helmets
- Adjustable visors for sun and low-hanging branches protection
- Provisions for lights or GoPro attachments
Whether you are looking for a lid to go with your first bike or have a garage full of bikes, it’s always best to physically go to a bike shop to try helmets on unless you have thorough experience with that particular brand and their sizing.
Helmet Comfort and Fit
A properly fitted helmet ensures maximum protection and comfort. Look for adjustable straps and retention systems like the Advanced Rollsys System (ARS) or Advanced Turnfit System (ATS). To achieve an optimal fit, follow these steps:
- Position the helmet level on your head.
- Adjust the straps to form a “Y” shape below the ears.
- Tighten the straps securely yet comfortably.
- Use the dial or ratchet system to fine-tune the fit.
Remember, helmets that fit well should feel comfortable and stay in place while you are riding.
Helmet Safety Features
Advanced safety technologies like MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) and WaveCel can significantly reduce the risk of brain injury during a crash. Both MIPS and WaveCel are designed to absorb rotational forces and protect the brain, with WaveCel technology also absorbing linear energy.
A lid equipped with these safety features will provide your head with a higher level of protection.
Pedal Power: Flat vs. Clipless Options
MTB pedals come in two main types: flat and clipless. Simply put, your shoe rest on top of a flat pedal, while with clipless systems your shoes each have a cleat that clips (yes, we know – there’s a whole story behind the “clipless” name) into the pedal and only detachs when you pivot your foot precisely. Each pedal type offers unique benefits, and selecting the right one depends on your skill level and personal preferences.
The Case for Flat Pedals
While Flat pedals are the only choice for certain types of mountain bikes (eg: downhill), they are also ideal for beginners and casual riders, providing straightforward foot placement and rapid dismounts. Flat pedal shoes have specialized outsoles for optimal grip, ensuring your feet stay in place during descents. This type of pedal also give riders the advantage of quickly putting a foot down when necessary, which builds confidence and aids skill development.
Advantages of Clipless Pedals
For more experienced riders, clipless pedals offer improved efficiency, power transfer, and control. With a secure connection between the rider’s feet and the pedals, clipless systems allow for better pedaling efficiency and increased power output. But, before you take on challenging trails, make sure you’re comfortable with the process of clipping and unclipping.
Stay Hydrated: Fluid Solutions for the Trail
Hydration during rides is key, and there are various options available like water bottles and hydration packs. Depending on the length of your ride and your bike’s water bottle capacity, you might need to carry additional water in a hydration pack.
Water Bottle Essentials
Choosing the right water bottle for your rides involves considering factors like size, insulation, and ease of use. Look for bottles made from durable materials that can handle rugged trail conditions and provide adequate insulation to keep your water cool during hot rides.
Hydration Packs for Endurance
Hydration packs are ideal for longer rides, as they offer increased water capacity and storage for essentials, and are easier to access than a bottle. They’re also a perfect solution if your mountain bike has limited space for water bottles.
Opt for a hydration pack that aligns with your water and gear requirements, as well as your riding style.
Tool Kits and Repair Equipment
Having essential MTB tools and repair equipment on hand while riding can be a game-changer – they quickly become saviors when you find yourself in a bind. A tool kit, tire repair kits, and a first aid kit are indispensable for on-the-go repairs, ensuring you’re prepared for any trailside mishaps. Don’t forget to include a patch kit in your gear for those unexpected punctures. Any bike shop worth its salt will have tools and repair accessories on their shelves.
Compact multi-tools are versatile and portable, perfect for quick adjustments and fixes on the trail. They come in handy during all types of scenarios, from tightening screws to fixing a broken chain. A well-designed multi tool should have key features such as:
- Allen wrenches
- Hex keys
- Torx drivers
- Chain splitters
- Spoke wrenches
- Tire levers
- Valve core tool
Regular maintenance and care will extend your multi-tool’s lifespan and reliability.
Fixing Flats on the Go
Flat tires can occur unexpectedly, hence carrying a spare tube, patch kits (for bikes with tubed tires), mini pump, and tire levers for quick repairs is necessary. Learning to fix flats on your mountain bike is a valuable skill that can save your ride and prevent you from being stranded on the trail. Note: tubeless tires are more resistant to flats due to the sealant used.
Protective Gear: Armor Up for the Ride
Equipping yourself with protective gear such as knee and elbow pads, along with gloves for better grip and safety, is absolutely vital. Experience or skill has no bearing on your need for impact protection, both mountain biking professtionals and amateurs alike should approach riding gear as a necessity to help minimize the risk of falls and other injuries while navigating rugged terrain.
Knee and Elbow Pads
Knee and elbow pads provide protection to key parts of your body in a fall, making them an important addition to your MTB gear. Choose pads that are snug yet flexible, allowing for comfortable pedaling and riding.
Many brands provide designs with elastic or adjustable straps to ensure a snug fit.
Gloves for Grip and Protection
Full-finger gloves are a must for improved grip, protection from falls, and comfort during your rides. They provide palm protection and help maintain control when riding on challenging and rough trails. Look for gloves with features like breathability, moisture-wicking materials, and a secure fit.
Vision on the Trail: Eye Protection
Safeguarding your eyes from the sun, debris, and low-hanging branches is as much a part of the MTB experience as making sure you have water. Sunglasses and goggles designed for trail use offer the necessary protection, ensuring you can focus on the trail ahead.
Navigation and Tracking: Bike Computers and GPS
Bike computers and GPS devices can simplify the process of tracking your performance and navigating terrain. These tools offer features like tracking your rides, monitoring your progress, and providing turn-by-turn navigation to help you make the most of your mountain biking experience.
Bike computers & Smart Watches
Bike computers and smartwatches are multifaceted devices that can:
- Record rides
- Provide GPS functionality
- Offer Bluetooth compatibility
- Provide options to upload routes
Investing in one of these devices can provide valuable insights into your performance and help you navigate unfamiliar trails with ease.
Secure Storage: Bike Racks and Bags
Secure storage options like bike racks and bags can turn the transportation and organization of your gear from a challenge into a breeze. Whether you need to carry your bike to the trailhead or store stuff during your rides, there’s a storage solution to suit your needs.
Bike racks and transport bags
A dependable bike rack or transport bag is necessary for the safe transportation of your mountain bike to and from the trailhead. Consider factors like storage capacity, attachment systems, and compatibility with your bike when selecting the right option for you.
Frame and Handlebar Bags
Compact frame and handlebar bags offer convenient storage and are bike accessories that attach directly to your bike, ensuring your gear is always within reach when you need it. Some members of the PMTB team use bags that attach underneath a bike’s saddle.
Dress for Success: Mountain Biking Apparel
MTB-specific apparel is designed for freedom-of-movement, durability, and protection on the trail, and makes riding mountain bikes as comfortable as possible. Some must-have items include:
- Protective gear
The right clothing can make all the difference during your rides. When you shop for MTB clothing, we recommend taking into account the summer and winter weather extremes of your location, the type of riding you will be doing, and, last but not least, your own personal style preferences.
Mountain Biking Apparel Tips (Jesseys and Shorts):
- Opt for breathable, padded, and durable jerseys and shorts in materials like polyester, Capilene, or merino wool for comfort and protection on rough trails.
- Ensure a snug but not restrictive fit; some brands offer gender-specific designs for a tailored fit.
- Adapt to changing weather with layering for comfort and protection. An extra layer can make all the difference.
- Test attire beforehand to balance warmth and mobility, especially around joints.
- Use moisture-wicking base layers like polyester or merino wool for temperature regulation, and outer layers for wind and rain protection.
Accessorize Your Ride: Enhancing Performance and Comfort
With custom grips and a non-standard saddle on your bike, your overall performance and comfort during a ride can experience a significant boost. They are easily installed accessories that help you focus on the trail in front of you by providing stability and support.
Custom Grips for Control
Since your handlebar is a main contact point between you and your mountain bike, it’s easy to understand that the right custom grips can greatly improve control and comfort. A personalized fit and feel that suits you will allow for a more secure grip and help you keep your bike on the line you want.
Upgraded Saddles for Comfort
For long rides, a comfortable saddle with great support is a must. Upgraded or non-standard saddles provide improved support and cushioning, keeping discomfort and pressure points to a minimum during extended rides.
Sharing your ride: Action Cameras:
Use an action camera to record and share your mountain biking adventures. These compact, lightweight cameras produce high-quality footage, allowing you to record your rides and share them with friends, family, or fellow mountain bikers.
Reviewing your ride to improve your time or share your ride with the world
Using an action camera to document your rides can provide insights for self-improvement and allow you to share your achievements with others. Here are some benefits of using an action camera:
- Reviewing your footage can help you identify areas for improvement
- You can learn from other riders by watching their footage
- Tracking your progress over time can be motivating and rewarding
Indoor Trainers: Good or Gimmicky?
The value of bike trainers extends beyond avoiding bad weather conditions, they provide time-efficient and safe indoor cycling options. Cost-wise, while basic models start at around $100, high-end smart trainers offer enhanced features at a premium.
Investing in a bike trainer is justified for its versatility, offering benefits like safety, efficient training, precise intervals, race preparation, recovery rides, and virtual racing experiences.
Reasons to Consider an Indoor Trainer:
- Safety: Eliminates crash risks and encounters with aggressive drivers.
- Eliminates Weather: Rain and other inclement conditions are out the window, literally.
- Efficiency: Time-efficient training without the need for outdoor travel.
- Structured Training: Seamless interval workouts with apps like TrainerRoad.
- Race Prep: Controlled warm-ups and cool-downs for racers.
- Recovery: Consistent recovery rides with adjustable resistance.
- Virtual Racing: Enables engaging global racing experiences through apps like Zwift.
Beyond weather concerns, bike trainers offer a versatile and functional solution for cyclists. Their multifaceted benefits make bike trainers a valuable addition to optimizing training routines.
We at Pro Mountain Bike hold two current trainers in high regard. First is Garmin’s Tacx Neo 3M Indoor Trainer, an accurate and realistic trainer that works both with and without power and connects seamlessly with their proprietary software, Garmin Connect. Second is the Wahoo KICKR MOVE Trainer, which boats ease of setup, quiet operation and comfort. If you’re in the market for an indoor cycling trainer, either of those is a great option.
Mountain Bike Accessories Summary
Equipping yourself with the right mountain bike accessories and gear can significantly enhance your safety, performance, and comfort while riding. By investing in key items like helmets, pedals, hydration solutions, tool kits, and protective gear, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle any trail and make the most of your backcountry adventures.
Frequently Asked Questions
This section will address common queries and concerns about MTB accessories and gear, aiming to aid you in making informed choices and improving your mountain biking experience.
What accessories are needed for a mountain bike?
To get started mountain biking, you’ll need to be equipped with a helmet, gloves, spare tube, bike pump, and multi-tool. Additionally, you may want to invest in cycling shoes, hydration pack, and appropriate attire to make sure you’re ready for your ride.
What should you carry with you when mountain biking?
When you head out for a ride, it’s important to be prepared with highly-useful items like a multi-tool, tire levers, spare tube, hand pump, zip ties, first aid kit, snacks, water, phone and small LED lights. Additionally, carry a torque key, CO2 cartridges, Stans DART tool and extra tubes for on-the-go adjustments and repairs.
How can I make my mountain bike perform better?
Replace worn-out parts, change up the graphics, swap out stem caps and spacers, replace boring bolts, add name stickers, anodized components, new tubeless valves and caps and color-matched zip ties to make your mountain bike look more professional.
Are flat or clipless pedals better for mountain biking?
Flat and clipless pedals both have their benefits, so the best choice depends on the individual rider. Ultimately, it is up to the individual rider to decide which pedal works best for them.