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 an activity that takes effort. That’s why we love it. On top of that, it is an activity that takes place in a broad spectrum of outdoor and sometimes extreme conditions, so it is important to be aware of what to wear before heading out on the trails. 

Having mountain biked for over 15 years, I have seen the landscape of mountain bike apparel change right in front of my eyes time and time again. In this article, I am going to answer a few common questions on what to wear mountain biking and list out 13 things you should consider wearing and or bringing 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 designed to be more durable than your average pair of shorts and t-shirt. The fabric is usually thicker and more resistant to tears, and the seams are reinforced to prevent them from coming apart at the first sniff of a tumble. 

Additionally, mountain bike clothing is designed so you are comfortable while holding a riding position that can sometimes last hours. This means that the clothes will not bunch up or pinch when you are in a crouched position on the bike.

What should I wear if I am just starting out?

If you have just taken the dive into the joys of Mountain Bike riding, first off, welcome to the community! Secondly, we must stress that it is important to wear clothing that is comfortable and will not restrict your movement. 

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

As you become more experienced, you can start to experiment with different styles of clothing.

Is it worth the investment?

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

This will keep you riding happier for 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

It’s critical to protect your head with the best mountain bike helmet you can afford. Head protection is beneficial in every form of cycling, but especially on a Mountain Bike. On single-track trails, you’ll be traveling at high speed with rocks and potential stopping points all over the place. Trees, sticks, roots, and stones are obstacles that add interest to mountain biking but also could lead to an accident at any moment.

Most Mountain Bike helmets have a detachable visor or peak, in contrast to road cycling helmets. The purpose of this is twofold: protection from the sun’s glare and rays, as well as projection from low-hanging branches and raindrops.

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

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

While full-face helmets provide excellent protection, they do suffer from poor ventilation owing to their additional coverage, so they’re 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 crucial for two reasons: to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays and to keep dirt, dust, and debris from getting into your eyes. This is especially important on days when there is 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 usually have a looser fit than road cycling jerseys to allow for greater freedom of movement. They also often have more pockets to store trail snacks, tools, and other essential items.

Although it may not be as crucial as choosing the perfect pair of Mountain Bike shorts, picking the right top is still important. Remember that you will get sweaty when biking – it’s a great workout after all! To help regulate your temperature, wicking merino wool and synthetic materials are often used in Mountain Bike jerseys. 

Second, accidents do occur, and clothing is protection. While a tanktop can keep you cool on the ascent, it provides little protection against the ground if you fall. To get the best outcomes, match your riding style with your apparel choices.

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 are typically made from a stretchy material that allows for a full range of motion as well as breathability. 

Some Mountain Bike shorts also have removable padding, which can be beneficial on 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. On the other hand, if you’ll be doing more downhill riding, you may want a longer pair of shorts that will offer more coverage and protection.

There are also different types of Mountain Bike shorts available, including baggy shorts, liner shorts, and bib shorts. Baggy shorts are the most popular type of Mountain Bike shorts as they are comfortable and offer a lot of storage options. Liner shorts are typically 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 riding you’ll be doing. Choose a pair that is suited to your needs and has the features that you want. 

If you ride in a hot climate without wearing knee pads, for example, search for shorter-waisted shorts with superior ventilation. On the other hand, if you wear knee pads, look for a longer inseam to reduce the space 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 have a built-in padded insert. This is beneficial as it can help to keep you comfortable on long rides. However, it is important to note that chamois liners can cause saddle sores if they are not properly cared for. Be sure to wash your chamois liner after each ride, and allow it to air dry completely before wearing it again.

On the other hand, some riders prefer Bib shorts. They offer more support and coverage than regular Mountain Bike shorts, and can be beneficial if you’ll be doing a lot of riding. However, bib shorts can be more difficult to put on and take off, so keep this in mind when making your decision.

5. Mountain Biking pads and other protection

fox enduro kneepads
Fox Enduro Kneepads

Many riders choose to wear knee pads when biking on trails in case of a fall, or for extra peace of mind. There are now more lightweight options available that don’t sacrifice comfort and still offer protection. For tougher terrain, there are also chunkier pads offered. Some mountain bikers who participate in racing or technical riding will also use additional body armor, such as elbow pads and back protectors.

6. Mountain Bike Gloves

fox flex air mountain bike gloves
Fox Defend Gloves

When riding, many Mountain Bikers wear full-fingered gloves. The palms of the best mountain bike gloves are textured to keep your hands planted on the bars no matter how rough the ride gets. For an additional layer of protection and comfort, some gloves will include padding in the palm, although many riders prefer a thin palm for better bar control and feel.

Mountain Bike gloves are meant to be both functional and protective since our hands are one of the first things to strike 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 continue to wear full-fingered gloves in the summer on account of their increased grip and protection for mountain biking, willing to endure the heat for these benefits.

7. Mountain Bike Socks

Mountain Bike socks are designed to provide comfort and protection while riding. They are typically made from a moisture-wicking material that helps to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Mountain Bike socks also often have additional padding in key areas, such as the toes and heels, to reduce the risk of blisters, a small detail that becomes a lifesaver in the right circumstances!

When choosing Mountain Bike socks, it’s important to pick a pair that will fit well with your shoes. Socks are typically available in two different heights: crew socks and ankle socks. 

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

It’s also important to choose a Mountain Bike sock that is made from a breathable material. This will help to keep your feet cool and dry while riding. 

Look for socks that are made from merino wool or synthetic materials. Avoid cotton socks as they tend to hold onto moisture and can cause your feet to overheat in warmer climates. Waterproof socks are also available but are typically only worn in cold, wet conditions, as they breathe less and tend to be too warm on 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 rub or cause discomfort 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 provide a good grip on the pedals while still being comfortable enough to walk in, in case you need to hike a bike. They often have a lugged sole and a recessed cleat to make walking easier. Mountain Bike shoes are also typically more robust than road cycling shoes to protect your feet from rocks and roots on the trail.

When choosing shoes, it’s important to pick a pair that will work with the type of pedals you have. 

The two most common types of mountain bike pedals are platform clipless pedals, 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 difficult 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 can be less efficient for pedaling.

Mountain Bike shoes come in a variety of styles, including lace-up shoes, velcro shoes, and BOA closure shoes.Each have their own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose the type of shoe that will work best for you. 

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

No matter what style or type of Mountain Bike shoe you choose, take the time to ensure they are comfortable and fit well. Ill-fitting shoes will rub and cause damage to the skin of 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 can be a year-round activity, but in many parts of the world, the weather doesn’t always cooperate. 

When the temperature drops, it’s important to have a good Mountain Bike jacket to keep you warm and dry. Mountain Bike jackets are typically made from a waterproof and breathable material, such as Gore-Tex or eVent, that will keep you dry in wet conditions. Many jackets also feature a Gore-Windstopper liner that helps to block the wind and keep you warm on colder days.

Mountain Bike jackets come in a variety of different styles, from lightweight rain jackets to insulated parkas. Choose the style of jacket that best suits your needs and the conditions you’ll be riding in. If you’re planning on riding in cold weather, look for a jacket with a thermal liner or insulation. For wetter conditions, choose a waterproof jacket with taped seams.

Mountain biking jackets come in three distinct styles.

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

Waterproof jackets are usually made from a hard-shell material, meaning they’re thick and heavy. They might not be comfortable or fashionable, but they definitely get the job done when it comes to repelling water. 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. These jackets won’t be as thick or protective as waterproof jackets, but they’re lighter and more breathable, making them appealing for 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 that work to keep water away from your skin. For improved warmth, some pants come with a thermal liner.

Mountain Biking waterproof pants also come in different styles, from lightweight rain pants to insulated parkas. As always, choose wisely while keeping the prevailing conditions of your riding location in mind.

11. Dressing for Different Seasons

Summer wear

What to Wear Mountain Biking in the Summer?

In the summer, or in warmer temperatures, finding a good balance between being cool and being safe while Mountain Biking can be difficult. 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 while you aren’t wearing them – this helps you stay cool on the climb while still protected on the descents.

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

Winter wear

Even if the temperature drops, you don’t have to stop riding. When you’re properly prepared, Mountain Biking in the winter may be just as enjoyable 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 help keep you dry and warm. 

Mountain Bike pants are also a key piece of clothing during the winter, keeping you warmer and more protected from water and mud. The most difficult aspect about keeping warm when Mountain Biking in the cold are 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 volume backpack for most MTB journeys. 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 that it has spine protection technology.

If you love to mountain bike but hate the idea of lugging around a backpack, an MTB hip pack is perfect for you. These packs are smaller and don’t hold as much stuff, but they have the advantage of not making your back sweaty.

Some backpacks and hip packs have an integrated hydration system, but you may also add one to your existing bag. This is the greatest method to stay hydrated on the trail since—who wants to stop every ten 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 can be a critical safety measure. If you’re exploring new trails or pushing your limits on familiar routes, a GPS device can help ensure that you stay on track and don’t get lost. In case of an emergency, it can also help rescuers locate you more quickly and accurately.

Additionally, 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 improve. You can also use the data from your GPS device to analyze your rides and identify areas 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 against others on the same trails. This can be a great way to stay motivated and engaged in the sport, as well as to connect with other riders who share your passion.

Do You Need to Wear Mountain Biking Gloves?

Gloves are a critical part of your mountain biking attire. While they may seem like an optional accessory, they provide several important benefits. Mountain biking gloves offer protection for your hands in case of a fall or accident, reducing the risk of cuts, abrasions, and blisters. They also offer additional grip and control on the handlebars, especially in wet or muddy conditions. Moreover, gloves can help absorb shock and vibrations from the trail, making for a more comfortable ride, particularly on longer outings.

Why It’s Important to Wear Mountain Biking Gloves

Mountain biking gloves offer crucial hand protection while on the trail. In the event of a fall or accident, your hands are often the first point of contact with the ground. Proper gloves can prevent cuts, bruises, and serious injuries, ensuring you can continue riding without disruption. Additionally, the enhanced grip they provide can significantly improve your control and maneuverability, especially in challenging terrains or adverse weather conditions. Investing in a good pair of mountain biking gloves is a smart move to enhance both safety and performance.

What Is the Best Overall Mountain Bike Glove?

Choosing the best mountain biking glove can vary based on individual preferences and riding styles. However, a highly regarded option is the “Fox Ranger Gel MTB Gloves.” These gloves offer a balance of protection, comfort, and grip. They feature gel padding in key areas for added comfort, while the silicone fingertip printing enhances grip on the brake levers and shifters. The lightweight, breathable design ensures a comfortable fit, making them suitable for long rides.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Wear When I Go Mountain Biking?

When going mountain biking, it’s essential to wear appropriate clothing that provides comfort, protection, and functionality. This typically includes a mountain biking helmet, jersey, shorts, gloves, socks, and specific mountain biking shoes. Depending on the weather and trail conditions, you may also need additional gear like a jacket, eyewear, knee pads, and more.

What Do You Wear for Casual Mountain Biking?

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

Is It OK to Wear Jeans Mountain Biking?

While you can technically wear jeans for mountain biking, it’s not recommended due to their limited flexibility and potential discomfort during a ride. Mountain biking-specific shorts or pants made of stretchy, breathable, and moisture-wicking fabric are a much better choice as they provide better movement and comfort.

Why Do Mountain Bikers Wear Baggy Shorts?

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

Do You Wear Shorts or Pants Mountain Biking?

The choice between shorts and pants for mountain biking depends on personal preference and the riding conditions. Shorts are preferred in warm weather for breathability and freedom of movement, while pants offer more protection and warmth in colder or rougher terrains.

Should I Wear a Backpack Mountain Biking?

Wearing a backpack while mountain biking is advisable to carry essential items like water, snacks, a first-aid kit, tools, and extra clothing. It allows you to stay hydrated and prepared during your ride. Consider a hydration pack for easy access to water during the ride.

What Kind of Shoes Do Mountain Bikers Wear?

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

Why Do Mountain Bikers Wear Tight Clothes?

Mountain bikers often wear tight-fitting clothes to reduce wind resistance and improve aerodynamics, which can enhance speed and performance. Additionally, tight clothes prevent excess fabric from catching on the bike or obstacles, reducing the risk of accidents.

Do You Sit on a Mountain Bike?

Yes, you sit on a mountain bike while riding. The saddle is where you sit, providing a comfortable position for pedaling and stability. However, in mountain biking, riders frequently shift between sitting and standing positions based on the terrain and riding conditions.

Is Mountain Biking Hard on Your Body?

Mountain biking can be physically demanding and hard on the body, especially on muscles, joints, and the 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 mitigate the strain on the body.

Will Mountain Biking Get Me in Shape?

Yes, mountain biking is an excellent way to improve your overall fitness. It’s a full-body workout that engages muscles in the legs, core, and upper body. Regular mountain biking can enhance cardiovascular health, muscle strength, endurance, and help with weight management.

What Is the Best Age for Mountain Biking?

There is no specific age that’s considered the best for mountain biking; it’s a sport enjoyed by people of all ages. Mountain biking can be adapted to suit various fitness levels and abilities, making it accessible for both young riders and older enthusiasts. It’s a great activity for families to enjoy together and a lifelong hobby for many individuals. Always prioritize safety and choose appropriate trails and equipment based on age and skill level.

Conclusion

Mountain biking is a thrilling and rewarding adventure that beckons both beginners and seasoned riders alike. Knowing what to wear and equipping yourself with the right gear is crucial for a safe and enjoyable journey on the trails. From helmets to gloves, each piece of equipment plays a vital role in ensuring your protection, comfort, and performance.

Whether you’re tackling rocky descents, conquering challenging climbs, or cruising through scenic paths, being properly outfitted in mountain bike-specific clothing makes all the difference. As you gain experience and tailor your gear to your preferences and riding style, you’ll find the perfect balance of comfort and functionality.

So, gear up, hit the trails, and let the exhilarating world of mountain biking unfold before you. Embrace the adventure, and may each ride bring you closer to the peak of your biking prowess. Stay safe, ride on, and enjoy the great outdoors!

Wrapping Up

Thank you for joining us on this exploration of essential mountain biking gear and what to wear on the trails. We’ve covered the must-have items, discussed their importance, and addressed common questions that riders often have.

Remember, the right gear can significantly enhance your biking experience, providing the safety and comfort you need to conquer the toughest trails. Whether you’re a novice or a veteran rider, continual learning and adapting your gear to your evolving needs will elevate your mountain biking adventures.

Now, it’s time to saddle up, put on that helmet, and embrace the joys and challenges of mountain biking. Let your journey through nature be an exhilarating and memorable one. Happy riding!

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