Mountain biking is such a fun way to get outside and explore, plus its great exercise! I’ve been biking regularly for about a year, and I now have a few rules that I live by. One of those rules is to make sure I dress appropriately and wear the correct gear. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone out for a ride and realized that I forgot something and that one thing totally changed my ride and made me uncomfortable. It took me a couple of months to finally determine what to wear mountain biking, and I finally have my outfits locked down.
Here is my Essential Checklist for What to Wear Mountain Biking!
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From head to toe, this is my essential list of what to wear mountain biking, with a few optional items at the end:
A sweatband to wear around your forehead makes a big difference in the heat! Sweat dripping down your forehead and into your eyes is a big distraction when you are trying to climb a hill. Use something thin and comfortable, you don’t want it too tight or it might cause a headache.
What I use: Pearl iZUMi Transfer Lite Headband
Eye protection is absolutely necessary. You need to protect your eyes from dust, dirt, rocks, sticks, and anything else that could fly in your face. The larger the glasses the better so they cover more of your eyes.
I purchased the Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 sunglasses and later found out that they don’t cover enough of my eyes and dirt still gets in them when I ride certain trails. I still use them on trails that are not too dusty; otherwise, I use clear safety glasses from Home Depot or goggles for more extreme downhill trails. If you are in a really dusty or fast-paced downhill section, it might be a good idea to wear goggles, especially if you are following someone else since their bike will kick up a lot of dirt.
For downhill riding: 100% MX Goggles
A helmet is absolutely necessary, no matter what. If you will be riding downhill or technical trails I recommend a full face helmet. The helmet I use actually has a removable chin section, so you don’t always have to wear it as a full face helmet if you don’t want to. I love everything about this helmet, and I highly recommend it! The removable section straps to my Osprey Hydration Pack perfectly too!
What I use: Bell Super 3R MIPS Helmet in Matte Emerald Joy
MTB Jersey/Moisture Wicking T-Shirt
You are definitely going to be sweating during your ride, especially if you are going to wear a backpack (and you should be). Make sure you wear a shirt that is made out of the appropriate material! It doesn’t feel good to have a sweaty back, but if you wear a moisture wicking shirt you won’t even notice.
What I use:
I never go on a ride without my backpack. You never know what you might need, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Read more: 9 Things to Pack for a Mountain Bike Ride
I use the Osprey Raven, which I love! This backpack is the perfect fit for mountain biking for several reasons. It holds plenty of water (I always have extra on my rides), it has a specific space for your tool set which actually rolls out for easy access, a special pocket for your keys, phone, and sunglasses, and a special attachment which holds your helmet! I am telling you, this thing really has everything.
What I use: Osprey Women’s Raven 10 Hydration Pack
Full Fingered Gloves
The reason for needing full finger gloves instead of half finger is to better to protect your fingers of course! You might be riding through narrow trails and branches could hit you, or worse, you could have an accident and you want to make sure your fingers don’t get too scraped up.
What I use: Fox Women’s Ripley Gloves
MTB Shorts or Cycling Tights w/Chamois
Another thing that I recommend you wear on every single ride. The chamois is basically a cushion for your butt, so make sure your shorts or tights come with this part. When I first started biking I didn’t realize the importance of these, but I quickly learned that they are a must. I once went to a 2-hour bike clinic without them and my butt hurt the next day even though I wasn’t really riding. The extra cushion really does wonders.
If you don’t like to wear “baggy” shorts you can also try cycling pants or tights. These are form fitting and they also keep you a little warmer!
What I use:
Elbow and Knee Pads
This is another must on every ride, you need to have protection! You never know when you might fall, and it could even happen on the easiest trail. Find a set that is comfortable for you so you are willing to wear them on every ride.
There have been a few times that I thought I didn’t need mine, either because I was familiar with the trail or I just thought it was too hot out. I clearly remember that I was not confident on those rides because I didn’t feel protected. It’s just better to be safe.
What I use:
Tall Trail Socks
Tall socks are not essential but definitely preferred. If you wear short socks, first of all, your legs are more exposed to dirt, sticks, rocks, and whatever else you run into on the trail. Second, tall socks help protect your ankles from rubbing on your shoes.
I actually wear short and tall socks, but every time I wear my short socks the back of my ankle rubs against my shoe, which is really annoying! Tall socks are much better.
What I use: Fox Trail Socks
When I first started riding I would wear my regular tennis shoes. This might be fine in the beginning, but sooner or later if you are riding more technical trails it is better to have shoes specifically designed for mountain biking. You want shoes that have excellent grip so your feet do not slide off the pedals.
Some people choose to use clips, which require special pedals and shoes. Basically, your shoes attach to your pedals, which I have not tried before so I cannot comment on this experience. I choose to ride with standard flat pedals and shoes because I don’t like the thought of having a fall and my feet being attached to my pedals.
What I use: Five Ten Women’s Shoes
A few optional items…
Facemask/Headwear for dust
If you are planning to ride downhill, or on a really dusty trail, you can bring something to cover your face. Otherwise, you are going to breathe in a lot of dirt! I usually only wear mine when I am riding a fast-paced downhill trail, especially if I am following someone.
What I use: BUFF Multifunctional Headwear
If you are biking on a sunny day, sun sleeves will help protect your arms from getting a sunburn, plus you will avoid awful tan lines. They are lightweight and comfortable, and you probably won’t even notice they are on. Just make sure you get the right size so they don’t slide down your arms.
What I use: Pearl iZUMi Sun Sleeves
Arm & Leg Warmers
If you are biking in a cold environment you might want to wear arm and/or leg warmers. I have only tried arm warmers, and they are really great for chilly weather!
What I use: Pearl iZUMi Arm Warmers
Comparing these two photos you can definitely tell which one is me as a beginner and which one is me finally knowing what to wear mountain biking! I hope this checklist gave you a good idea of the outfit that will fit you best, and I hope it inspired you to get out on the trails! Be safe and have fun!