Mountain biking is one of the finest enjoyments to experience on two wheels. With an adrenaline rush at every turn during cross country riding or a dopamine rich smooth glide, passing nature’s trail riding paths, every pedal offers a new adventure and a weekend getaway.
This all sounds fun, but where to start? If you’re a beginner mountain biker, try to get comfortable with shorter rides on trails near you or tag along with your friends or other experienced mountain bikers.
Before beginning your new mountain bike adventure, you might be interested in all the essential mountain biking gear for beginners. It may sound boring to think about bike helmets or riding gloves but it is this mountain bike specific equipment that eventually makes your ride more fun, safe and gives you a sense of belonging in the wider MTBer community.
After getting your hands on your first mountain bike, you might be all set to go, right? Not really. The trail offers plentiful surprises and you need to be prepared for any situation. There are a few must-have items that most riders consider essentials but over the course of years, I have tried and tested the best beginner mountain bike gear that checks all the boxes, isn’t heavy on the pockets and includes items that you can find in your garage instead of going to a bike shop.
Without much ado, here’s the list of the absolute essential mountain biking gear:
Primary Mountain Biking Gear For Beginners
Terrain, weather and personal preference is what you should base your choice of core gear on. Primary gear is just about anything without which the trails feel unwelcoming. This can be from clothing to pedals, depending on what year or season you’re riding in. Many riders go for loose fitted mountain bike shorts with padded Lycra shorts underneath. Your local bike shop may offer many essential kits, but it ultimately boils down to what you feel comfortable wearing.
A bike helmet is an essential part of a mountain biker’s kit. Mountain biking itself is not dangerous, but without appropriate protective gear you are likely to bump your head on hanging branches and are prone to head injuries in case of a crash.
The different terrain means that road bike helmets simply do not cut it, and I have personally been using helmets that offer all-around protection.
Mountain bike helmets are specially designed to cater for the sun and rain from getting into the rider’s eye and vent cut-outs in the helmet keep the head cool during sunny days.
If you plan on keeping things serious, then I would recommend getting a helmet with a bug mesh and more importantly, MIPS lining. MIPS adds an additional layer between the shell and liner and allows the helmet to slide on sharp impacts, greatly reducing trauma.
Some of the best helmets on the market are by Troy Lee Designs.
Riding gloves are something that you might not immediately be a fan of. Most people prefer full fingered gloves, but it may take you some time to get used to them. They can restrict your movement at first, but they prove extremely beneficial on your ride.
A small crash is inevitable for an MTBer and your hands will probably be the first thing to touch the ground. A good pair of full finger gloves can protect your hands from undergrowth and branches hitting your hands while the padding provides more cushioning and comfort. At the same time, they can provide better grip and you can avoid painful blisters, something I encounter whenever I don’t wear my Giro Proof Winter gloves.
You can always carry a water bottle to stay hydrated and hydration packs may not be a priority but if you are like me and lose all track of time on long rides, then having something more than a cage for your water bottle can be the most important thing to keep on a ride.
If you have a hydration pack lying around somewhere, this is the time to dust it off! The more variety and functionality you get out of a hydration pack, the more it costs.
A popular choice for most riders is a hip pack with sufficient storage space for their snacks, energy bars, a repair kit, multi tool and water. It rests low near the hip so it doesn’t throw you off balance on trail bumps or sharp turns while riding.
When getting a hydration pack from any bike shop, avoid the unisex bags. I would recommend something that caters more towards male or female ergonomics.
You can start riding with just about anything. However, if you want to plan on doing it regularly then some grippy mountain bike shoes are a must have. Beginner mountain bikers are not familiar with clipless pedals, but not to worry! A pair of flat pedal mountain bike shoes that provide a tight grip on bike pedals will cover your ride.
Ride Concepts Hellion Elite are the right shoes for me. I have used them for over four months and the flatter sole provides more friction and a blend of rubber provides flexibility in the midsole without having to claw to feel the pedals.
They prove their worth on rough terrain and leave no room for slippage when standing on the pedals despite the descents. Pedal strokes are perfect and the foot remains firm and protected in the shoe.
Now that the basic mountain biking gear for beginners is out of the way, we can dive deeper into the finer accessories for mountain biking.
Some items are an absolute necessity when going on longer rides for hours and hours. What you carry with you needs to be minimal and sufficient for your planned trail, keeping your weight to a minimum.
Things can get unpredictable and you should be prepared for the worst, especially if your bike pedals snap off or you find your broken chain rattling on the wheels.
I have put together a list of must-have mountain bike accessories after numerous rounds to my local bike shop.
If you’re looking to start mountain biking the right way, I would recommend a pair of sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes. While different bikes are available for various trails, you don’t really need different sunglasses for the many types of weather.
A good pair with interchangeable lens options, allows you to switch lenses depending on the weather.
Sunglasses stop debris coming off of your front wheel, enter your eyes, and can help you swiftly come out of tree shades into sunlight without much effect on your eyes.
I personally use goggles which are weather sealed because of the dusty trails I ride on.
However, you won’t be accompanying cross country racers anytime soon! So, regular inexpensive sunglasses will do the job.
Cell Phone or GPS
This may not be news, but all mountain trails may be similar but not identical. Many trail riders miss a turn or confuse the path with other trails and find themselves lost. It is always a plus to have a cell phone to call for help or GPS to quickly get back on the road.
You can listen to the birds and branches snapping under your rear tire, but if you want to double the joy that mountain biking is, rock some of your playlists in your ears. It is better to have wireless sweatproof earbuds as a trailing wire can be dangerously tangled in a branch.
Protective and Safety Gear
Mountain bikes may not be built for high speeds, but the rugged terrain and muddy patches are a cautionary warning for even the most experienced mountain biker. The suspension fork on bikes may absorb most bumps, but trail riding isn’t exactly the most gentle sport. You should always wear your mountain bike helmet even for the shortest rides.
If you will primarily be on lift serviced downhill trails it’s a smart decision to have extra protection.
I have listed down the absolute necessities to save money and trips to the ER.
Safety gear for mountain bikers has come a long way. You can easily get some lightweight knee pads to protect against abrasions. For more protection, you can wear elbow pads to not only boost your confidence but also reduce impact when accidentally hitting elbows on trees.
Protective Rain Jacket and Jerseys
I previously mentioned the effect of weather on the entire trail journey. If you live somewhere rainy then a rain jacket will make all the difference to you. For starters, you can avoid getting caked in mud and keep yourself dry.
A breathable full-sleeve jersey is essential for a comfortable ride. It provides protection against the sun and bugs on the trail. Moreover, it will keep you cool and not become a heavy sweat towel like other cotton shirts.
You can go the extra mile and get a merino wool top which is stretchy and unlike synthetics does not collect smells and other odors.
First Aid Kit
While I certainly hope to never use it, I always carry a small first aid kit with me. Getting hurt on the trail when riding mountain bikes can open a world of pain, if you’re far away from home. You should have a first aid kid that can deal with anything. Make sure to carry bandages, alcohol and antiseptic wipes in your small first aid kit.
Sun screen is something most beginner riders choose to overlook. You’ll be riding with your friends on bikes for hours and you’ll be exposed to the sun’s UV rays quite frequently. I would suggest you develop a habit of applying sunscreen whenever you hop on a bike to save yourself from these indirect burns and unwanted sun tans.
It is a nightmare to go over the handlebars of your bike or have the gears jam while moving downhill. For this reason, you should always take care of your bike and have it ready for the next trip. Some important things you can start from are listed below.
Bike Mounted Repair Kit
You can find many relatively cheap repair kits, but a bike mounted repair kit is worth the extra cash because you won’t need to carry it and add weight to your backpack. It has all the necessary tools including chain lube and cleaning supplies.
One thing you would have to purchase is a chain tool. This can easily fix a loose or broken chain and make new links. It’s simple to use and small enough to fit on the frame using magnets.
Not extremely important, but a multi-tool set is one of those things, when needed, you wish you had bought one. It can be used to align handlebars and adjust the seat height of bikes. On some mountain bikes, you can also use it to adjust the stiffness of the rear suspension or change gear ratios for better power transfer on full suspension bikes.
Getting stuck on trails is an absolute horror. Most of the time bikes can be fixed, but if you encounter a flat tire, you will need an extra tube (if you don’t use tubeless tires), and more importantly, a mini pump. An efficient mini pump can be a life saver. It can quickly fill air regardless of the wheel size.
The list covers the key features of the necessities, gives you a deeper knowledge of the essentials, and guides you towards a more prepared experience. You can never be too prepared for MTB. If you feel like there’s something you need from a completely different full suspension bike to an extra pair of padded shorts, keep it on you. You’re better off having an extra item than regretting not bringing something.
FAQs About Essential Gear
What should I bring for my first time mountain biking?
If you’re not looking to spend a lot and keep your trail riding experience short, you essentially need a good helmet, some grippy gloves and a hydration pack to keep you hydrated and store your energy snacks.
What gear do you need for mountain biking?
There is an essential checklist of mountain biking gear that you need starting from the essential clothing like jackets and jerseys to accessories like repair kits. It is always handy to carry some protective gear as well.
What should I wear for my first time mountain biking?
You can choose from a range of options including baggy shorts with padded undershorts for a comfortable ride and breathable jerseys. If you like riding on murky trails then a rain jacket along with some waterproof pants are some of the must haves.
Why do MTB riders wear baggy shorts?
Baggy shorts have enough gap to allow movement of the rider and place for knee pads. Mostly they are spacious and made of tear proof fabric that stretches as the rider pedals.
Why do MTB riders wear knee pads?
Knee pads help most riders protect against broken branches and undergrowth. It also gives them an added confidence boost to go on rough terrain and not worry about falls.