What to Wear Mountain Biking: 13 Must-Have Items For The Trail

Top 13 items to wear that are specific to mountain biking

Mountain Biking is hard. We love it. And it’s an activity that takes place in a wide range of outdoor and sometimes extreme conditions so you need to know what to wear before you head out on the trails.

I’ve been mountain biking for over 15 years and I’ve seen the landscape of mountain bike clothing change before my very eyes time and time again. In this article I’ll answer a few common questions on what to wear mountain biking and list out 13 things you should wear and or bring with you before you start shredding trails.

james mackie wearing mtb gear
What many enduro riders wear out on the trail

Do you really need Mountain Bike specific clothing?

Mountain bike clothing is tougher than your average shorts and t-shirt. The fabric is thicker and more tear resistant and the seams are reinforced so they don’t come apart at the first sniff of a crash.

And mountain bike clothing is designed so you are comfortable in a riding position that can last for hours. This means the clothes won’t bunch up or chafe when you’re in a crouched position on the bike.

What should I wear if I’m just starting out?

If you’ve just started mountain biking, welcome to the club! And we must stress that you should wear clothing that is comfortable and won’t restrict your movement.

Baggies or loose fitting shorts are a great option for beginners. They’re comfortable to ride in and won’t restrict your movement. A tech t-shirt or jersey is a good top option, something that breathes well and won’t make you too hot while you’re pedaling.

As you get more experienced you can start to try different styles of clothing.

Is it worth it?

If you’re serious about riding then investing in some good quality Mountain Bike specific clothing is definitely worth it. Not only will it help you perform better on the trails but it will also protect you from the elements and from injuries in the event of a crash.

So you’ll ride longer.

What are the must-haves?

Here are 13 key items of mountain bike gear that are essential for every rider, regardless of their level of experience.

1. Mountain Biking Helmet
2. Mountain Biking Eyewear
3. Mountain Biking Jersey
4. Mountain Biking Shorts, liner shorts and baggy shorts
5. Mountain Biking pads and other protection
6. Mountain Biking Gloves
7. Mountain Biking Socks
8. Mountain Biking Shoes
9. Mountain Biking Jacket
10. Mountain Biking Waterproof pants
11. Dressing for different seasons


1. Mountain Biking Helmet

Fox Flux mountain bike helmet
Fox Flux Trail Helmet

You need to protect your head with the best mountain bike helmet you can afford. Head protection is important in all forms of cycling but especially on a Mountain Bike. On single-track trails you’ll be flying along at speed with rocks and potential stopping points everywhere. Trees, sticks, roots and stones are obstacles that add to the fun of mountain biking but could also lead to an accident at any moment.

Most Mountain Bike helmets have a removable visor or peak whereas road cycling helmets don’t. The reason for this is two fold: protection from the sun’s glare and rays and projection from low hanging branches and raindrops.

There are two types of Mountain Bike helmets: those that cover the whole face and those that don’t.

Full-face helmets are for more extreme forms of Mountain Biking like downhill riding and enduro racing. The best full-face MTB helmets have the most coverage and protection of any helmet style.

While full-face helmets are great protection, they suffer from poor ventilation due to the extra coverage so are usually used on days when descending is the main objective.

2. Mountain Biking Eyewear

Oakey mountain bike glasses
Oakley Wind Jacket – Prizm Trail Lens

Glasses or goggles are essential for two reasons: to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays and to keep dirt, dust and debris out of your eyes. This is especially important on days when there’s a lot of dust kicked up on the trails.

  • Find glasses with a removable lens and different lens choices. This allows you to switch the lens depending on the conditions.
  • A clear lens is ideal for riding in low-light or dark situations, whereas tinted lenses are preferable for lowering glare and increasing contrast.
  • Most of the time, trail riders wear glasses. However, if it is very cold and muddy outside, goggles are a better option because they protect your eyes from the weather while still providing a wide range of vision.
  • Goggles are most often worn with full-face helmets, though they can fit over regular helmets as well – this is commonly referred to as “going full enduro.”
  • Goggles are generally preferred by downhillers over glasses because they are more secure and offer greater protection on extended, technical descents.

3. Mountain Biking Jersey

fox racing mountain bike jersey
Fox Jersey

A mountain bike jersey is designed to wick sweat away from your body to keep you cool and dry while riding. Jerseys have a looser fit than road cycling jerseys to allow for more movement. They also have more pockets to store trail snacks, tools and other essentials.

While it’s not as important as choosing the right Mountain Bike shorts, choosing the right top is still important. You’ll get sweaty when biking – it’s a workout after all! To help regulate your temperature, wicking merino wool and synthetic materials are used in Mountain Bike jerseys.

Secondly, accidents happen and clothing is protection. A tank top will keep you cool on the climb but offers little protection if you fall. To get the best results match your riding style to your gear.

4. Mountain Biking Shorts, liner shorts and baggy shorts

fox flex air raw mountain bike short
Fox Short

Mountain Bike shorts are designed to be comfortable and functional while riding. They’re made from a stretchy material that allows for full movement and breathability.

Some Mountain Bike shorts have removable padding which is good for longer rides.

Like jerseys, the style of Mountain Bike shorts you choose should be based on the type of riding you’ll be doing.

For example if you’ll be doing mostly cross-country riding you’ll want a shorter pair of shorts that won’t get caught on your saddle when you’re pedaling. If you’ll be doing more downhill riding you may want a longer pair of shorts that will give you more coverage and protection.

There are also different types of Mountain Bike shorts; baggy shorts, liner shorts and bib shorts. Baggy shorts are the most popular type of Mountain Bike shorts as they are comfortable and have lots of storage. Liner shorts are worn underneath baggy shorts and provide an extra layer of protection and support. Bib shorts are another option that some riders prefer as they offer even more support and coverage.

Choose Mountain Bike shorts based on where and what you’ll be riding. Choose a pair that’s right for you and has what you want.

If you ride in a hot climate without knee pads for example, look for shorter waisted shorts with more ventilation. If you wear knee pads look for a longer inseam to reduce the gap between them (You’ll lose style points if riders see skin between the pads and shorts – you can thank me later).

A chamois liner is a type of Mountain Bike shorts that has a built in padded insert. This is good as it will keep you comfortable on long rides. But be aware that chamois liners can cause saddle sores if not properly cared for. Make sure to wash your chamois liner after every ride and let it air dry before wearing again.

But some riders prefer Bib shorts. They offer more support and coverage than regular Mountain Bike shorts and are good if you’ll be riding a lot. But bib shorts are harder to put on and off so keep that in mind.

5. Pads and other protection

fox enduro kneepads
Fox Enduro Kneepads

Many riders wear knee pads when trail riding in case of a fall or for extra peace of mind. There are now lighter options that don’t compromise on comfort and still offer protection. For more rough terrain there are bigger pads. Some mountain bikers who race or do technical riding will also wear extra body armour, such as elbow pads and back protectors.

6. Gloves

fox flex air mountain bike gloves
Fox Defend Gloves

Many Mountain Bikers wear full fingered gloves when riding. The palms of the best mountain bike gloves are textured to keep your hands stuck to the bars no matter how rough the ride gets. Some gloves will have padding in the palm for extra protection and comfort but many riders prefer a thin palm for better bar control and feel.

Mountain Bike gloves are meant to be functional and protective because our hands are one of the first things to hit the ground when we fall. In the correct size for a rider these gloves are tight and offer great dexterity which also means they can get quite hot. Most riders wear full fingered gloves in the summer because of the increased grip and protection for mountain biking and are willing to suffer the heat for that.

7. Mountain Bike Socks

Mountain Bike socks are designed to be comfortable and protective. They’re made from a moisture wicking material to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Mountain Bike socks also have extra padding in the toes and heels to reduce the risk of blisters, a small detail that can be a lifesaver in the right situation!

When choosing Mountain Bike socks make sure to pick a pair that will fit with your shoes. Socks come in two heights: crew socks and ankle socks.

Crew socks go up to the calf and provide more coverage, ankle socks stop just below the ankle. Choose the height of the sock you feel most comfortable in. We personally recommend crew socks every time as it provides extra trail protection. Compression socks are also an option for some riders as they help with blood flow and swelling.

Also make sure to choose a Mountain Bike sock that is breathable. This will keep your feet cool and dry while riding.

Look for socks made from merino wool or synthetic materials. Avoid cotton socks as they hold moisture and can make your feet overheat in warmer climates. Waterproof socks are also available but are usually only worn in cold, wet conditions as they breathe less and are too warm in milder or hot days.

No matter what style of Mountain Bike sock you choose make sure they are comfortable and fit well. The last thing you want is for your socks to chafe or be uncomfortable while you’re out on the trail.

8. Mountain Biking Shoes

five ten adidas mountain bike shoes
Five Ten Kestrel Pro Boa Shoes

Mountain Bike shoes are designed to grip the pedals and be comfortable enough to walk in if you need to hike a bike. They often have a lugged sole and recessed cleat to make walking easier. Mountain Bike shoes are also more robust than road cycling shoes to protect your feet from rocks and roots on the trail.

When choosing shoes make sure to pick a pair that will work with your pedals.

The two main types of mountain bike pedals are platform clipless and flat pedals. Clipless pedals require special shoes with cleats that clip into the pedal. This provides a more efficient pedaling motion but can be hard to get out of in an emergency situation. Flat pedals have no clipping system and shoes/feet are simply placed on the pedal. They work with any type of flat shoe but are less efficient for pedaling.

Mountain Bike shoes come in many styles, lace up, velcro, BOA closure. Each have their own pros and cons so make sure to choose the type of shoe that will work best for you.

Lace up shoes are the most affordable option but can be hard to get a tight fit. Velcro shoes are easy to get on and off but may not be as snug. BOA closure shoes use a dial system to provide a custom fit but are more expensive.

No matter what style or type of Mountain Bike shoe you choose make sure to take the time to make sure they are comfortable and fit well. Ill fitting shoes will rub and damage the skin on your feet which can be very painful during and after a ride.

9. Mountain Bike Jacket

mountain bike wind shell
Wind shell that scrunches up and fits in your pocket

Mountain Biking is a year round activity but in many parts of the world the weather doesn’t always play ball.

When it gets cold it’s important to have a good Mountain Bike jacket to keep you warm and dry. Mountain Bike jackets are made from a waterproof and breathable material such as Gore-Tex or eVent to keep you dry in wet conditions. Many jackets also have a Gore-Windstopper lining to block the wind and keep you warm on colder days.

Mountain Bike jackets come in many styles from lightweight rain jackets to insulated parkas. Choose the style of jacket that will suit your needs and the conditions you’ll be riding in. If you’ll be riding in cold weather look for a jacket with a thermal liner or insulation. For wet conditions choose a waterproof jacket with taped seams.

Mountain biking jackets come in three styles

Lightweight jackets are made from water resistant and breathable fabric. This is done by having mesh panels in the jacket which will ventilate your body while also protect you from the elements. These coats are thin enough to be able to fold or roll up and put in your pocket when you don’t need them.

Waterproof jackets are made from a hard-shell material so they’re thick and heavy. They may not be comfortable or fashionable but they’ll get the job done when it comes to keeping you dry. Most importantly for road cyclists these types of jackets fit looser than traditional cycling gear.

Hybrid jackets are a cross between lightweight and waterproof jackets. They’re thicker than lightweight jackets but can still be packed away during a ride. They won’t be as thick or protective as waterproof jackets but are lighter and more breathable so are appealing to Mountain Bikers who want one jacket that does it all.

10. Mountain Biking Waterproof Pants

Fox Defend Pants

For wetter rides some Mountain Bikers prefer to wear waterproof pants over their regular riding gear. Like their jacket counterparts waterproof pants come in different material options such as Gore-Tex or eVent to keep water away from your skin. For extra warmth some pants have a thermal liner.

Mountain Biking waterproof pants also come in different styles from lightweight rain pants to insulated parkas. As always choose wisely and think of the conditions you’ll be riding in.

11. Dressing for Different Seasons

Summer wear

What to Wear Mountain Biking in the Summer?

In the summer or warmer temperatures finding a balance between being cool and being safe while Mountain Biking can be tough. For summer riding look for cooler sweat-wicking jerseys with ventilation that allows the clothing to breathe.

You might consider wearing knee pads that can be attached to your backpack or fanny pack when you’re not wearing them – this will keep you cool on the climb and still protected on the descents.

What to Wear Mountain Biking in the Winter & Cold Weather?

Winter wear

Even if it’s cold you don’t have to stop riding. When you’re properly dressed Mountain Biking in the winter can be just as fun as any other season.

Start with a moisture-wicking base layer and a waterproof and windproof jacket. Because you’ll still be sweating while riding breathability is important; it will keep you dry and warm.

Mountain Bike pants are also a key piece of clothing in the winter, they’ll keep you warmer and more protected from water and mud. The hardest part about staying warm while Mountain Biking in the cold is your hands, feet and ears. Get thicker gloves, insulating socks and a headband to keep your hair out of your face.

12. Mountain Biking Packs

bontrager hippack
Bontrager Rapid Pack Waistpack

You don’t need a huge backpack for most MTB rides. In fact anything between 9L and 14L is more than enough to carry your Mountain Bike essentials from food and water to repair gear and extra layers.

So why can’t I just use a tiny, regular backpack? One of the biggest benefits of using an MTB pack is the spine protection technology.

If you love to mountain bike but hate the idea of carrying a backpack an MTB hip pack is for you. These packs are smaller and hold less stuff but don’t make your back sweaty.

Some backpacks and hip packs have an integrated hydration system but you can also add one to your existing bag. This is the best way to stay hydrated on the trail because—who wants to stop every 10 minutes, unzip their backpack and unscrew their bottle just to take a drink of water?

13. Wearable GPS Devices

Wearing a wearable GPS device while Mountain Biking is important for several reasons. First and foremost it’s a safety feature. If you’re riding new trails or pushing your limits on familiar routes a GPS device can help you stay on track and not get lost. In case of an emergency it can also help rescuers find you faster and more accurately.

Also a wearable GPS device can help you track your progress and improve your performance. By monitoring your speed, distance and elevation gain you can set goals, track your progress and challenge yourself to get better. You can also use the data from your GPS device to analyze your rides and see where you need to improve your technique or endurance.

Finally a wearable GPS device can help you plan and share your rides with others. You can use the device to create routes, share them with friends and even compete with others on the same trails. This can be a great way to stay motivated and engaged in the sport and to connect with other riders who share your passion.

Do You Need to Wear Mountain Biking Gloves?

Gloves are part of your Mountain Biking gear. While they may seem like an optional accessory they provide several benefits. Mountain Biking gloves protect your hands in case of a fall or accident, reduce the risk of cuts, abrasions and blisters. They also provide extra grip and control on the handlebars especially in wet or muddy conditions. And gloves can absorb shock and vibrations from the trail making for a more comfortable ride especially on longer rides.

Why You should wear Mountain Biking Gloves

Mountain Biking gloves provide hand protection on the trail. In the event of a fall or accident your hands are the first point of contact with the ground. Proper gloves can prevent cuts, bruises and serious injuries so you can keep riding without interruption. Also the extra grip they provide can make a big difference in your control and maneuverability especially in tricky terrain or bad weather. Investing in a good pair of Mountain Biking gloves is a smart move to improve both safety and performance.

What is the Best Mountain Bike Glove?

Choosing the best Mountain Biking glove depends on individual preferences and riding style. But a popular option is the “Fox Ranger Gel MTB Gloves”. These gloves offer a balance of protection, comfort and grip. They have gel padding in key areas for extra comfort and silicone fingertip printing for extra grip on the brake levers and shifters. Lightweight and breathable design for a comfortable fit makes them good for long rides.

Conclusion

Mountain biking is an adventure for both beginners and experienced riders. Knowing what to wear and having the right gear is key to a safe and enjoyable ride on the trails. From helmets to gloves each piece of equipment plays a big role in your protection, comfort and performance.

Whether you’re descending rocky trails, climbing challenging hills or cruising through scenic roads, being dressed in mountain bike specific clothes makes all the difference. As you gain experience and tailor your gear to your preference and riding style you’ll find the perfect balance of comfort and functionality.

So get out there, hit the trails and let the mountain biking magic happen. Enjoy the adventure and may each ride bring you to the top of your game. Stay safe, ride on and get outdoors!

Wrapping Up

Thanks for reading this guide on what to wear and what gear to get for mountain biking. We covered the essentials, explained why and answered the frequently asked questions.

Remember the right gear can make all the difference in your biking experience, give you the safety and comfort to tackle the toughest trails. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, keep learning and adapt your gear to your changing needs and you’ll take your mountain biking to the next level.

Now go out there, put on that helmet and enjoy the mountain biking fun. Happy riding!

FAQ

What to wear when I go Mountain Biking?

When mountain biking you should wear clothing that is comfortable, protective and functional. This means a mountain biking helmet, jersey, shorts, gloves, socks and specific mountain biking shoes. Depending on the weather and trail conditions you may also need extra gear like a jacket, eyewear, knee pads and more.

What do I wear for casual Mountain Biking?

For casual mountain biking wear comfortable athletic wear such as moisture-wicking t-shirts, sports shorts or baggy shorts and sneakers with good grip. While the gear is more relaxed for casual rides always prioritize safety and wear a helmet.

Can I wear Jeans Mountain Biking?

You can technically wear jeans mountain biking but it’s not recommended as they are not flexible and can be uncomfortable during a ride. Mountain biking specific shorts or pants made of stretchy, breathable and moisture-wicking fabric is a much better option as they provide more movement and comfort.

Why do Mountain Bikers wear Baggy Shorts?

Mountain bikers wear baggy shorts for more comfort and maneuverability on the trail. Baggy shorts provide freedom of movement, air circulation and have enough room for knee pads. They are a popular choice for riders who prioritize comfort and a more relaxed fit.

Shorts or Pants Mountain Biking?

The choice between shorts and pants for mountain biking depends on your preference and the riding conditions. Shorts for warm weather for breathability and freedom of movement, pants for colder or rougher terrain.

Should I wear a Backpack Mountain Biking?

Wearing a backpack while mountain biking is a good idea to carry the essentials like water, snacks, first aid kit, tools and extra clothes. So you can stay hydrated and prepared during your ride. Consider a hydration pack for easy access to water during the ride.

What shoes do Mountain Bikers wear?

Mountain bikers wear specific mountain biking shoes that have good grip, support and protection. These shoes have a stiff sole to efficiently transfer power to the pedals, lugged outsoles for grip and often have a cleat interface for use with clipless pedals.

Why do Mountain Bikers wear tight clothes?

Mountain bikers wear tight fitting clothes to reduce wind resistance and improve aerodynamics which can give you more speed and performance. Also tight clothes prevent excess fabric from catching on the bike or obstacles and reduce the risk of accidents.

Do I sit on a Mountain Bike?

Yes, you sit on a mountain bike while riding. The saddle is where you sit, it’s a comfortable position for pedaling and stability. But in mountain biking you sit and stand depending on the terrain and riding conditions.

Is Mountain Biking bad for your body?

Mountain biking can be physically demanding and hard on the body especially on the muscles, joints and cardiovascular system. The uneven terrain, steep climbs, descents and technical features require strength, endurance, balance and agility. Proper training, conditioning and warm up exercises can help reduce the impact on the body.

Will Mountain Biking get me in shape?

Yes, mountain biking is a great way to get in shape. It’s a full body workout that engages your legs, core and upper body. Regular mountain biking can improve cardiovascular health, muscle strength, endurance and weight management.

What’s the best age for Mountain Biking?

There’s no specific age that’s the best for mountain biking; it’s a sport for all ages. Mountain biking can be adapted to any fitness level and ability so it’s suitable for young riders and older enthusiasts. It’s a great activity for families to do together and a lifelong hobby for many. Always prioritize safety and choose the right trails and equipment based on age and skill level.

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