What to wear while mountain biking
There’s no law against wearing tight road shorts or loose hiking shorts when you’re riding off the pavement. However, you’ll enjoy your time on a mountain bike more if you have the right clothing and protective gear for what you’re riding, how you’re riding, and where you’re riding.
Protection is also key. Whether your riding style is cautious or daring, you need adequate coverage to protect you from the hazards of brush, branches, roots and rocks. This article includes some of the things you need to consider when deciding what to put in your mountain bike or ebiks gear locker.
Mountain biking shorts and pads
Like road cycling shorts, mountain bike shorts are elasticated for leg movement and have a padded crotch liner that reduces chafing and wicks away moisture. Padded liner shorts and softshell shorts can also be purchased separately.
Aerodynamics are rarely an issue for most styles of mountain biking, so your shorts can be loose fitting. However, if you race or ride cross-country bikes, you may prefer tighter and more aerodynamic shorts. Some fitness riders prefer fitted shorts as they provide muscle support.
Most mountain bike shorts are made with sturdy fabrics and ample pockets. As your need for abrasion protection increases, so should the weight of the fabric and the length of the shorts. For example, downhill riding shorts should be thicker and longer than shorts worn on other rides.
Liner: The integrated liner in mountain bike shorts may be slightly thinner than in road shorts because you sit straighter and the riding position is constantly changing between sitting and standing.
Most liners are removable, which gives you the option of buying cycling underwear – separate shorts with padded liners. (Please note that whichever option you choose, do not wear non-cycling underwear with the liner as you may suffer from abrasions.) Whether you choose an all-in-one liner or separate cycling briefs depends largely on personal preference.
Choosing Mountain Bike Shorts
Mountain Bike Cycling Jerseys
Generally speaking, mountain bike cycling jerseys are not too different from road cycling jerseys. They will be snug in order to wick away sweat effectively, but may be a little looser than road cycling jerseys. For a more gravity-focused style of riding, the fit can be looser. Longer sleeves provide extra coverage for bushes and branches.
If you plan to carry a rucksack, there is no need for back pockets. For baggage-free rides, pockets come in handy for keys, food, tyre repair kits, mobile phones and cash.
A ventilated front zip is great when you’re picking up the pace or climbing hard, so many trail riders look for this feature.
Mountain Bike Gloves
Gloves worn by mountain bike riders share two features with those worn by road bike riders: padding and finger coverage.
The padding in the gloves is optional as the grips on mountain bikes are padded. For rides that last a few hours or more, you may appreciate the higher level of comfort that padding provides. However, unlined gloves are lighter and cooler, allowing you to maintain a better bar feel – a plus when you’re doing steep, fast or technical descents.
And you’ll see far fewer fingerless gloves in the field. Sweaty hands can cause mild discomfort compared to bleeding knuckles, so full-finger gloves are almost always the smarter choice.
Mountain Biking Cold Weather Clothing
Cold weather gear can bring your riding season forward into spring and delay it until autumn. Rain/wind protection is a smart addition to your year-round pack. Add insulation and you’ll be ready to roll whenever the forecast calls for a “cold front”.
Tip: Before you start a long climb, undress until you feel cool. If you start out warm and cosy, you’ll probably feel overheated for most of the climb.
You will find fewer mountain bike-specific designs in jackets. The main difference from road jackets is the more durable fabrics. However, you do need a cycling-specific design as it offers better wind protection at the front and has been tailored to provide shoulder comfort and coverage when you lean forward in the saddle. It should also have a helmet-compatible hood.
For rigorous protection, a waterproof/breathable jacket is a must. For shorter rides and moderately overcast weather, some riders opt for a lightweight shell that is small enough to fit in a jersey pocket.
Cycling leggings and trousers
Most cycling leggings come with padding and can be used in place of liner shorts on colder days. Similar to a cycling jacket, you’ll need a pair of waterproof/breathable trousers if you plan to ride when the weather is wet.
For the upper body, you’ll get the perspiration and warmth you need from a long underwear top or a lightweight fleece jacket. Avoid cotton: wool, polypropylene and nylon all perform well.
Arm/leg warmers and hats
Arm and leg warmers, as well as hats or headbands, are versatile layering options because they can be easily put on and taken off as conditions change during the ride.
Mountain Bike Shoes
Pedal compatibility: your first consideration is compatibility with the type of pedal system you choose. You can also purchase shoes that now work with platform pedals and later accept cleats to work with clipless pedal systems.
Walkability: Another important consideration for mountain biking is the amount of time you expect to walk. A grippy rubber outsole with lugs makes it easier to walk on trails and climb obstacles, which you’ll do more often if you’re a new rider. You may also be able to go hiking if your bike is unrideable after an accident.
Pedalling Efficiency: Tough trail/cross-country shoes are designed for efficient pedalling, but can be more difficult to wear. These shoes are also usually better ventilated than softer street shoe style shoes.
WATERPROOF PROTECTION: In wet, cold conditions, choose shoes with a waterproof lining. Another option is to purchase a pair of shoe covers.
Mountain Bike Helmet
Your style of mountain biking is a major consideration when choosing a helmet. Disciplines that require more technical skills and steeper descents simply require more coverage.
Off-road riding: speed is important on the uphills and the downhills are usually not as steep. Therefore, look for a helmet with similar coverage to a road helmet and good ventilation.
Off-road riding: off-road riders usually encounter more technical terrain than trail riders. Therefore, look for something that offers more protection and coverage (longer sides and back) than an on- or off-road helmet.
All-Mountain/Enduro: This type of riding usually includes steep, technical and high-speed descents, so you’ll need more coverage than an off-road rider. A good feature to look for is the removable chin bar: you can ride without it most of the time, but you’ll need to snap it on when you’re ready to descend significantly.
Mountain bike pads and armour
The advice for pads is the same as for helmets: as you move into more extreme styles of riding, you need more padding and more coverage.
Off-road and cross-country riders may opt for lighter pads. More experienced riders may only carry knee pads, while newer riders may want to protect their elbows as well. To keep cool, more experienced riders sometimes don’t wear any padding until they are balanced at the top of a long downhill.
Mountain Bike Bags
Unless you’re competing in a race or doing a short ride, you’ll want a backpack that can carry all that great gear. This includes ten essentials as well as your bike repair kit. Most riders prefer a pack with a reservoir or one that can carry a reservoir.