Knowing what to wear mountain biking is not easy for a beginner. Showing up in a full Lycra road kit is a bad idea. With mountain biking its less about aero performance and more about maintaining control on loose surfaces at high speeds.
Mountain biking attire changes dramatically as skill level increases. A novice doesn’t know they need a Freerider Pro shoe to enhance their experience. Most beginner mountain bikers don’t know that Troy Lee Designs makes the most comfortable riding shorts. As your skills progress you will desire different things from your apparel.
What Should You Wear Your First Time Mountain Biking?
My first time mountain biking I wore gym clothes. It was an awful experience for several reasons. First, we received snacks incase we need energy on the trail. Mine fell out of my gym short pockets. I also had a sore bottom end. I was miserable and never wanted to touch a bike again.
If only I had I known at the time… Real mountain bike shorts have a zip up pocket. At the very least, the pocket is cut at an angle that prevents items from falling out while riding. There is also this magical thing called a chamois that you wear under your shorts to prevent saddle discomfort. Knowing what to wear mountain biking as a beginner is near impossible. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.
If you are here reading this article you have taken the first step to have an awesome experience on your mountain bike. Once you have the shorts and liner/chamois figured out you need a sweet jersey. Something that will wick moisture away and is a semi-loose fit.
Finally, you need to wear a stiff soled shoe. Riding a bike is simply transferring energy from your body to the bike’s drive train. Wearing a running shoe while mountain biking is a horrible idea. Your energy is wasted flexing it’s soft sole. With a cycling shoe, or a stiff soled hiking shoe, more of your energy is transferring to the pedals. This allows you to ride farther and faster.
Do You Wear A Backpack When Mountain Biking?
You may have seen mountain bikers wearing what looks like a backpack while climbing and descending. This is most likely a hydration pack. Its a backpack with a built in bladder and straw so you can carry water on your back. It allows mountain bikers to remain hydrated while riding through the wilderness.
There are many different types of hydration packs. Packs for runners will have different features than those for cyclists. Personally, I prefer the Osprey Raptor or the Osprey Synchro when I ride. My Synchro 20 has a frame with a mesh liner that suspends the hydration pack off my back. This allows me to stay both cool and hydrated.
What Should Be Carried When Mountain Biking?
Depending on where and when you ride, what you carry with you may change dramatically. I always recommend a good flat kit. In my mountain bike flat kit I carry a tire plug, CO2 cartridge kit, a spare tube, tire levers and a hand pump. Nothing ruins a great ride faster than a flat tire.
Riding in the dark requires a headlight. (Read: Serfas True 600 C Headlight Review) I always recommend two headlights when riding at night. One light goes on the bike to like the path you are going one. The second light mounts to your helmet. It lights the path you are looking at.
In addition to carrying a flat kit you will need to take some hydration with you. That means a water bottle or a hydration pack. Snacks are a good idea too. I pack some beef jerkey in my downtube and extra carbs in my pockets. Personally I love Clif Bloks for energy, but will also take Gu/Gel Packs on rides. Experience with different nutrition brands. Some products cause stomach problems for me.
Once nutrition, hydration and flats are taken care of you are be good to go, right? WRONG! The most important equipment on any mountain bike ride is your helmet. Virginia Tech University completed a comprehensive study on bike helmets. The ratings developed from that study are here: Virginia Tech Bike Helmet Ratings