How To Pack For A Mountain Bike Ride

Getting ready, for a mountain biking escapade can be both exciting and overwhelming given the range of choices at your disposal. Whether its about must haves like water packs or adjusting tire pressure right every little aspect adds to the excitement of the adventure. Our manual provides tips to ensure you're fully set for the trails. Come along as we set off on a journey, through terrains armed with the wisdom to tackle any challenges nature throws our way. Lets jump in and prepare for a mountain biking escapade!
Mountain Bike Pack

Modern mountain biking gives so many options to riders that gearing up for a ride can get pretty complex. Of course, even a novice understands that the longer the ride, the more you’ll be taking with you, but what are the boxes you should be checking when you pack for your next outing on the trails? Our guide is here to help.

As someone who loves mountain biking, I totally get the excitement of gearing up for an epic ride through rough terrain. Every piece of gear I pick out, every item I pack, adds to the anticipation of the adventure ahead. From making sure my hydration pack is full to checking my tire pressure twice, every little thing counts for a smooth and fun journey on the trails. With our guide, you’ll have everything you need to take on any challenge nature throws at you. So let’s gear up and hit those trails!

We’re going to break things down into different ride lengths. 

There are:

  1. Quick Laps – that short route (<5) that gives you the MTB fix that keeps your sanity in check.
  2. Short to Medium Length – longer than a lap but under 15 miles.
  3. Longer Rides – between 15 and 30 miles.
  4. Bike Parks – yes, there’s definitely a collection of gear and equipment that smart riders will take when they are riding park.

How to Gear Up for Quick Laps

A ride of 5 miles or less doesn’t need much in the way of preparation but what the items you take could turn out to be absolutely essential. They include:

  • A multitool
  • Tire plug + CO2
  • 1 sachet of energy gel
  • 1 water bottle carried on your bike

Overview: 

A multitool is pretty self-explanatory – it is a must for every ride, because if you want to detach, reattach, loosen or tighten something, a multitool is your best friend. A tire plug will get you going again after a puncture, while CO2 keeps the point of “The Lap” intact, allowing you to pump that tire back up in a jiffy and be home quick style. Energy gel may come in handy to keep the steam going, just because you’re doing a short lap doesn’t mean you’re not going to deplete those calorie reserves, a short ride tends to mean riders push it a little more.

How to Gear Up for Small to Medium Rides

You’re out for between 6 and 15 miles this time, so there’s a few more things to consider. They include:

  • A multitool
  • Tire plug + CO2
  • Mini-pump
  • Spare innertube (if you use tubes)
  • Bumbag
  • 1 energy gel sachet + 1 meal bar
  • 2 water bottles (one on the bike, one in the bumbag)

Overview:

Small to medium rides are about bringing in some spares/backups. The meal bar gives you a solid food option to add to the energy gel, allowing you to spread the nutrition out some over the rider. Proper hydration calls for a good sip every 15 minutes, so on this length of ride, 2 water bottles is non-negotiable. A mini-pump ensures you’ll get going again if you have more than 1 puncture or the CO2 canister turns out to be a dud. 

How to Gear Up for Longer Rides

You’re about to head out for a long one – between 16 and 30 miles in the mountains, you’re going to need the right stuff to keep those legs cranking all the way through the final stretch. We think it’s essential to take the following:

  • A multitool
  • Tire plug + CO2
  • Mini-pump
  • Spare innertube (if you use tubes)
  • CamelBak or other water reservoir carried on your back that with at least 2 liters of H2O
  • 2 energy gel sachets + 2 meal bars + one hearty portion of honest-to-god food (Example: a filling beef or turkey sandwich)
  • 1 water bottle on the bike.

Overview: Layering endurance-related items on top of the gear setup for medium rides will gain you the energy and longevity to et you to the finish line on longer rides. A proper but easy-to-carry meal along with the energy gel and bar will keep your body fueled – this is where well-wrapped or boxed sandwiches are just what the doctor ordered. The hydration you need is taken care of by the 2 extra liters you’re carrying in the reservoir on your back – make sure you can access the drinking tube easily while on the go – while you can bring the bottle count down to one. 

How to Gear Up for Riding Parks

You’ll be in a contained area, doing short stints down well-ridden paths and jumps, but you’re still better off prepared with:

  • Multitool
  • Tire plug
  • 1 energy gel sachet or energy bar
  • Everything else – including water – keep in your car or a locker

Overview:

You bike and your body doesn’t need anything unnecessary, but keep those clothes on, ditch any bottles and packs. Still, your bike can take a beating at a park even though the trails are often smooth, so bring your multitool and any spare parts you think will can keep you rolling throughout the day. Also, even though you’ll be keeping your water and snacks/food in storage, don’t neglect to refuel and rehydrate often. That’s something easy to overlook until your body starts to protest, after which you’ll be behind the ball.

How to Gear Up for Multi-day Rides

A ride during which you will be out on the trails for days, potentially camping under the stars (hopefully), and being in a position where you must rely on yourself fully brings so many more elements into consideration. 

Even if you aren’t camping each night, being far from civilization and timely assistance means extra emphasis on:

  • Personal/Physical Safety
  • A rideable bike throughout (ie: being able to fix your bike in a pinch)
  • Keeping your body fueled

You should be carrying:

  • Multitool
  • A tent
  • Spot GPS
  • Lightweight medkit
  • Food rations (high-calorie count)
    • 4 energy gel sachets & 2 meal bars/solid food PER DAY of riding
  • Water & a LifeStraw
  • A survival blanket
  • 1 spare tire + multiple tubes (we like to take 4 tubes on multi-day rides)
  • Minipump (CO2 if you have it)
  • Bags/Storage
    • Pack
    • Frame bags
  • Adequate lights (we recommend 800+ lumens)
  • Solar charging kit

With this collection of gear and accessories, you may be lugging more weight, but not one item is superfluous. When your ride goes smooth, you have what you need to provide yourself with shelter, hydration and nutrition. When you find yourself facing unexpected and adverse circumstances, you have tools at your disposal that can get you out of trouble. 

Summary: How To Pack For A Mountain Bike Ride

We may be preaching to the choir with some of our next tips but they are gear essentials nonetheless and will be particularly useful to beginner/novice riders tackling their first rides in any of the categories above.

Make sure that:

  1. Your mountain bike suits the terrain you will be riding on. Whether you are riding for minutes or days, the ride can turn sour very quickly if your mountain bike is not up to the task. Due diligence and research will tell you what’s in store and whether your bike can handle it. This will keep you from damaging your equipment or, worse, your body.
  2. Your water supply is an overestimation of what you will need during the ride. Whether a short loop or days-long, things can go south on any trail, and if that means you’re going to be out there longer than planned or you’re hurt, water instantly becomes your most valuable resource. Our bodies become dehydrated long before growing hungry and will quickly begin to underperform and eventually fail unless their water content is promptly replenished. Clean water is also invaluable for cleaning any injuries you may incur during a fall, so having too much H2O on a ride may add some weight, but will serve you well when things go sour.

Armed with the information above, you will be confident in your pre-ride prep and cover all the stages and needs for any adventure you embark on. 

Ride safe!

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