Mountain Biking

What to Wear Mountain Biking: Complete Guide to the Basics

You need prepare yourself for the trail with the right clothing & protective equipment. Here;s our guide on what to wear mountain biking.

Taking to the trails on your mountain bike is a great way to stay in shape, and it’s a whole lot of fun as well. Flying down the dirt path with the wind in your face, and the adrenaline pumping through your veins is a life experience everyone deserves to enjoy.

If you’re thinking about getting into mountain biking, then you’ll need to spend some time settling on the type of bike you need for your activity. There are thousands of models available from dozens of mountain bike brands. Downhill, trail riding, and even street riding on mountain bikes require specialist equipment designed with a purpose.

While choosing your bike is a challenging task, you’ll also have to prepare yourself for the trail with the right clothing and protective equipment. If you’re a newbie, then we’ll unpack everything you need to know about what to wear mountain biking in this article.

Read: Best Full Suspension Mountain Bikes

Shorts

Mountain biking shorts are similar to those used in street racing and riding as well. Mountain biking shorts feature stretchy materials that wick away moisture from your skin, keeping you dry in the saddle.

Avoid using regular shorts, especially those made from cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture, and the shorts will start to creep up towards your crotch as your ride in the saddle. The moisture also causes chafing on your inner thighs as well.

There are two types of mountain biking shorts – Shell shorts and those with padded liners. Padded liner shorts protect your bum and crotch from the strain of sitting in a saddle for long periods. Shell shorts feature a protective shell that also reduces pressure on your glutes and groin when riding endure races.

Some padded shorts come with removable liners or shells, allowing you to tune your wardrobe to your riding conditions.

Downhill riders don’t have to worry about choosing tight-fitting shorts. Riders are rarely in the saddle when traversing terrain on a downhill run. Instead, they stand on the pedals, letting their legs absorb the feedback from the bike.

Therefore, you can get away with any type of shorts, but we recommend you avoid cotton. Go for shorts made from materials like Gore-Tex. This material dries fast and wicks moisture away from your skin. You need lightweight shorts with plenty of pockets that come in handy, and Gore-Tex is one of the lightest clothing materials available.

Top Selling Mountain Biking Shorts

Bestseller No. 1
BERGRISAR Men's Cycling Shorts MTB Mountain Bike Bicycle Shorts Zipper Pockets 1806BG Army Green Size Large
  • 92% polyester+8% spandex.ultra-soft,light weight and durable.
  • Six pockets,includ 4 zipper pockets for safe storage.
  • Elastic waistband with magic tape for a comfortable fit.
  • Stretchly fabric for a comfortable fit,4-way-stretch matching fabric enhance the range of your motion.
  • Water resistant,anti-sweat,quick dry,breathable,keep you dry and cool when cycling in summer.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Cycorld Mens Mountain Biking Shorts Bike MTB Shorts Loose Fit Cycling Baggy Lightweight Pants with Zip Pockets Without Padded
  • 🚵‍♂【Durable & Baggy 】These mtb shorts are made of cationic yarn-dyed fabrics, more durable and reliable, helping you cycle more freely.
  • 🚵‍♂【Breathable & Comfortable】Our mens mountain bike shorts with high quailty fabric are incredibly breathable, keep you cool and get the best riding experience.
  • 🚵‍♂【Deep Pockets with YKK Zippers】Our bike shorts has 4 deep pockets that can easily hold your mobile phone, keys, wallets and other small items. YKK zipper used.
  • 🚵‍♂【Reflective strip & Adjustable Waist Length】There are reflective strips on both side of our cycling shorts, which help improve visibility and safety. To ensure the best & most secure fit, the waist of the shorts makes use of adjustable Velcro straps.
  • 🚵‍♂【Fit for All Types of Biking】Our MTB Cycling Shorts are non-restrictive, loose-fitting for all types of cycling environments, including mountainous areas, regular roads, downhill and even daily dress.

Jerseys

Mountain bike jerseys are similar to those you find for road racing. The jersey offers a tight fit, and typically features a zip-through design for easy changing. Synthetic materials like nylon or polyester blends are common, and some include spandex in fabric blends for added flexibility of the garment.

Most mountain biking jerseys from leading brands feature breathable, moisture-wicking material that keeps the sweat off of your skin. If you’re riding trails or endure races, then the tighter versions of cycling jerseys are the best choice. These jerseys also come with back pockets for storing your essential items while riding.

If you’re a downhill rider, then you’ll probably prefer a loose fit in your jersey, and there are plenty of top brands like Scott, offering loose-fit riding jerseys. MX jerseys are also a popular option for downhill riders as well.

If you’re going to ride on public land, then it’s advisable to get a long-sleeve jersey to protect you from scrapes with the local flora.

Some jerseys also feature an airflow zip on the front. When you open this zip, it allows for more airflow to move into your jersey, keeping you dry. This zip is a great feature for those riders that find themselves sweating hard when climbing hills

Top Selling Mountain Biking Jerseys

Bestseller No. 1
Downhill Cycling Jersey Men's Racing Jersey Long Sleeve MTB Cycling Clothing Mountain Bike Shirt, S-072, Medium
  • Fashionable cycling jersey, men's long sleeve racing shirt, made of polyester.
  • Particular graphic, thermal transfer technology.
  • Professional jersey for racing, downhill and normal cycling activity.
  • Multiple size option, check the detail of our size standard, it might not be the same as that of clothes in local store.
Bestseller No. 2
Wisdom Leaves Men's Downhill Jersey MTB Cycling Motocross Mountain Bike Shirt Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey Yellow
  • 100% Polyester Jersey Material.
  • Soft, comfortable, quick-drying fabric.
  • Classic design, focusing on wearing comfort. Very light and cool.
  • Suitable for cyclists - This cyclist’s jersey is suitable for all levels cyclists, which includes road biking or mountain biker.When you're sweaty the Jersey never adhere to your skin, It has a quick-dry feature which makes you feel more comfortable.

Gloves

There is a significant difference between street cycling gloves and mountain biking gloves. Mountain bike gloves have full finger lengths and additional padding around the palm of the glove. Some glovers might also come with plastic or carbon fiber shells on the gloves that protect your knuckles.

The additional padding in mountain bike gloves is ideal for longer rides over rough terrain. However, if you’re riding a downhill course, you can get away with less padding in your gloves, but you’ll also need to purchase gloves that have the protective shell features for knuckles, in case you take a tumble.

Read: Our Guide to The Best Mountain Biking Gloves

Downhill riders also prefer less padding in their gloves because it gives them a better connection to the bike, allowing them to feel what going on with their bike and the terrain as they ride.

Mountain Biking Footwear for Mountain Biking

As with running, your shoes are a critical component of your mountain biking gear. There are dozens of models available from leading brands in bikes and clothing. When selecting your ideal pair of shoes, consider the following.

Pedals

The first place to start when selecting your shoes is matching them with your pedal system. Some shoes feature cleats that clip into pedals, while others have a flat sole for use on standard mountain bike pedals.

There are also hybrid models where you can slip a cleat onto the sole of the shoe if you need it on your ride.

Pedaling

Cross-country riding shoes without cleats are efficient for pedaling, and they feature stiffer design and construction to provide support to the arch of your foot while pedaling. Choose a pair that offers good ventilation to your feet during use.

Functionality

Mountain biking isn’t always about being in the saddle. You might encounter muddy sections of the trail, requiring you to dismount from your bike and navigate your way around the trail hazard.

Therefore, cleated shoes are a terrible choice if you’re doing cross-country or enduro riding. The mud gets stuck in the cleats, making clipping the shoes into your pedals an issue. Cleated shoes also come in a fixed position for pedaling, and they are no comfortable for walking.

If you’re riding an extensive trail, then choose a lightweight shoe with a firm sole and plenty of treads to help you out of tricky situations.

Waterproofing

If you frequently ride in wet and cold conditions, look for shoes that offer you waterproofing. Getting your feet wet while riding leads to the formation of blisters. Shoe covers are also an option as well.

Top Selling Mountain Biking Shoes

Bestseller No. 1
Five Ten Men's Freerider Approach Shoes, Black/Khaki, 10.5 D US
  • Stealth s1 rubber outsole
  • Suede & mesh upper
  • One-piece molded cupsole
  • Classic dotty tread
SaleBestseller No. 2
Tommaso Vertice 100 Men’s All Mountain Vibram Sole Mountain Bike Shoes - 46 Black
  • FACTORY DIRECT VALUE: By offering our Tommaso products factory direct, we are able to offer a level of quality and value that the competition can’t touch. 100% Fit Guarantee, 100% Free Fit Returns, 2 Year Manufacturer’s Warranty.
  • OUR MOST CAPABLE MOUNTAIN SHOE: With amazing features like an ultra-rugged, grippy Vibram sole, and a hardened and reinforced toe box, the Vertice 100 is ready for whatever the trail throws at you. No matter the conditions or weather, you can count on the Vertice for amazing grip, stability, and quick drying breathability.
  • QUALITY & PRECISION FIT: Quick & Reliable closure system features 3 ergonomic Velcro straps for the perfect fit every time, adding comfort and security to all of your rides. Please use Size Chart to ensure correct fit. If unsure about your sizing, please match the CM sizing with the shoes you currently wear, as this will offer the best sizing options.
  • COMFORT & PERFORMANCE: Top of the line performance is great, but performance is nothing without comfort. We made the Vertice our most comfortable shoe ever by adding tons of extra padding for a fit that hugs your foot like a glove, while protecting against rocks and other trail hazards. We also added a fully adjustable top strap to allow for maximum customization to fit perfectly with every rider’s individual needs.
  • GROUNDBREAKING VERSATILITY: The Vertice offers a level of comfort and performance that is hard to find in cycling shoes. Easily add power to every pedal stroke with a hidden inner shank plate, which allows for optimum power transfer without sacrificing comfort. Whether you are riding tough lines in the mountains or commuting on a rainy day, these shoes will give you the performance and grip you need to get it done.

Helmets for Mountain Biking

A helmet is a critical part of your mountain biking kit. If you come off your bike at speed, then your head requires top-quality protection from any knocks.

There are a bunch of different styles of helmets for mountain biking. The style you choose should cater for your biking needs.

  • Cross-Country – With this type of riding, look for a helmet that has a similar look and functionality as a road helmet.
  • Trails – The technical challenges of riding trails requires the rider to have a bit more protection than a standard helmet provides. Look for models that offer excellent coverage around the back and sides of your head.
  • Enduro – Enduro riding covers technical courses as well, with steeper descents. Therefore, look for a model that offers better protection for the sides of your face. A detachable chin bar is a fantastic option to increase your protection while riding.
  • Downhill – Downhill riding involves moving at high speeds down dangerous terrain. Therefore, look for a full-face helmet that looks similar to a motocross helmet. Most downhill helmets are lightweight and don’t affect the movement of your head or performance while riding.
Read: The 5 Best Mountain Bike Helmets Under $300

Eye Protection for Mountain Biking

Flying along the trails at high speed presents all types of hazards for the rider. Not only do you have to contend with the challenges of the terrain your riding, but you also need to be aware of other hazards, like debris or bugs floating in the air.

Having a bug fly into your eye while you’re doing 40-mph down a steep descent, is a nasty surprise that might cause you to fall. Wearing protective eyewear during your ride keeps the wind and debris out of your eyes, allowing you to focus on the trail in front of you.

Sunglasses that offer a snug fit around your eyes are the best option, and make sure you invest in a pair of polarized lenses to stop any glare.

Those downhill and enduro riders using full-face helmets require the use of MX goggles, available from leading brands like Scott and Dragon eyewear.

Armor for Mountain Biking

If you’re a casual rider hitting the trails, then you can get away without wearing any padding or armor on your ride. However, enduro and downhill bikers face a significant risk if they come off their bike at high speed over dangerous terrain.

Therefore, enduro and downhill riders must ensure that they are wearing the necessary protective armor to prevent severe injury from occurring during a fall.

Knee, elbow, and chest pads are essential to protect you, and you should consider buying pads with armored shells to protect your joints. Downhill riders should also consider investing in a pair of shin pads as well.

Packs for Mountain Biking

If you’re heading out on the trails for a relaxed ride, then take a pack along with you. A day pack will help you carry all your essential items.

Enduro and trail riders can also benefit from the use of a hydration pack as well. This pack holds fluids while you ride. There are a tube and mouthpiece that comes from the top of the pack. This set up allows the rider easy access to hydration without taking their hands off of the bar.

Essential Cold-Weather Clothing

If you live in a Northern region of the United States, then buying some cold-weather gear will extend your riding season. Since riding increases your body temperature as you get moving, you’ll need to layer your warm clothing, allowing you to strip it as you start to feel hot.

Jackets

When selecting a riding jacket, choose a lightweight model that offers waterproofing protection for riding in the rain.

You’ll need to choose a cycle-specific design to ensure you get a jacket that’s not too heavy. A heavy jacket makes your ride hard, and you’ll find you need to take it off after 10-minutes on the bike.

Focus on jackets that offer breathable, stretchy, and waterproof fabrics in its design and manufacture. If you’re going for a hooded jacket, make sure the hood is large enough to accommodate your helmet.

For those riders that live in less cold regions of the country, a featherweight shell jacket that packs down into your daypack is an excellent option.

Leggings and Pants

If you’re missioning pout to the trails on a cold day, try wearing bike tights underneath your shorts for added warmth during your ride.

Choose a brand that offers a fleece lining and breathable fabrics to keep your legs dry when you start to warm up and sweat. If you’re heading out in rainy weather, take along a rain suit that you can wear over your riding gear.

The Best Materials for Mountain Biking Clothes

As mentioned, you want to avoid wearing cotton on your rides, especially when its cold outside. When you sweat, the cotton absorbs the moisture, making shorts creep towards your crotch, and shirts start to hike up your back, especially if you’re wearing a pack.

Stick to clothing that features design and manufacturer with materials like spandex, nylon, wool, and polypropylene. These materials pull the moisture to the outside of the garment, keeping your skin dry.

A wet t-shirt on a summer ride isn’t much cause for alarm. However, if you’re riding in cold weather with a wet tee, it could result in the onset of hypothermia, presenting a real risk to your life. Stick to synthetic materials, and never worry about getting cold on your ride.

Wrapping Up – Stick to Your Budget

Mountain biking gear is expensive, especially when you start buying items from leading brands. It’s easy to get over-excited when browsing through equipment and clothing online. Before you know it, you’re spending a fortune on gear you don’t need.

Before you start your shopping excursion with your favorite online retailer, make sure you set a budget.

Jake

Jake is an explorer, he loves all types of outdoor pursuits such as hunting, fishing & hiking. Jake has been a full-time writer & blogger for many years now and he's here to share his passions with the BeActiveOutdoors readers. Contact Jake@beactiveoutdoors.com

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