What To Wear Mountain Biking: Ultimate Head To Toe Guide

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Just like any sport, mountain biking requires specialist clothing and equipment.

It can be tricky to decide what to wear mountain biking, especially if you’re not an experienced rider.

There are a few elements that will determine what to wear mountain biking, including the weather and the type of mountain biking you want to do.

You’ll find that there is a massive amount of mountain bike clothing and equipment to choose from. We’re here to help you out by giving you the rundown of what to wear mountain biking, and recommending a few of our favorite bits of gear! We’ll be covering:

  • Mountain Bike Helmets
  • Mountain Bike Jerseys
  • Mountain Bike Shorts
  • Gloves For Mountain Biking
  • Mountain Bike Jackets
  • Mountain Bike Shoes
  • Mountain Bike Backpacks
  • Mountain Bike Protection

Let’s dive in!

What To Wear Mountain Biking: Ultimate Head To Toe Guide 1

Mountain Bike Helmets

No matter your skill level or experience, you should always wear a mountain bike helmet.

Countless cyclists’ lives have been saved by mountain bike helmets. Additionally, many bike parks won’t even allow you to ride without some kind of mountain bike helmet.

There are several types of mountain bike helmets available to suit the various disciplines of the sport and personal preferences. New mountain bikers may be tempted to buy the cheapest helmet they can find, just to say they have one to get around the rules.

The problem with cheap mountain bike helmets is that they rarely give you appropriate coverage and protection. Safety should always be a mountain biker’s top priority, so our advice is to never scrimp on your mountain bike helmet.

Check out our complete guide to the Best Mountain Bike Helmets for an in-depth analysis of what to look for in a mountain bike helmet.

BikeTips Recommends: The Bell Super 3R

The Bell Super 3R is two helmet styles in one, as it has a removable chin bar. It’s an incredibly comfortable and lightweight mountain bike helmet with MIPS protection.

A mountain biker jumps through the forest.

Mountain Bike Jerseys

Throwing on an old cotton t-shirt for mountain biking will soon become uncomfortable and prevent you from performing at your best. It’s best to invest in a couple of good-quality mountain bike jerseys.

Mountain bike jerseys are cut to give you an unrestricted range of motion. This is enhanced by the range of technical materials the jerseys are made from.

The fabrics are stretchy, breathable, and wick moisture away from your body. The moisture-wicking properties help you to regulate your temperature.

Mountain bike jerseys often have vents located on the back and under the armpits so warm air can escape, keeping you cool when you’re pedaling hard.

BikeTips Recommends: The Fox Flexair Jersey

The Fox Flexair jersey is super lightweight and breathable. It has an athletic fit and four-way stretch construction. This means it keeps you cool and dry on even the longest, hottest days out on the bike.

A cyclist drops into a misty valley.

Mountain Bike Shorts

Mountain bike shorts benefit you in the same way as wearing a jersey. They are made to ensure you are comfortable and can move without restriction.

Mountain bike shorts are made from durable but comfortable materials. The materials and design reduce the constant friction you experience when on the saddle.

Some mountain bike shorts have stretchy panels that enhance comfort and movement while riding.

When it comes to what to wear mountain biking in poor weather conditions, you may want to buy some waterproof mountain bike shorts. These shorts will make a surprising difference to your comfort.

You’ll benefit from wearing padded liners under your shorts. These are tight shorts that provide cushioning between you and your saddle. They make a massive difference to your comfort and help to prevent saddle sores.

Bike Tips Recommends: Endura Hummvee II

The Endura Hummvee II mountain bike shorts are incredibly comfortable and durable. They are also excellent value for money while looking great.

A cyclist takes a banked corner on a dirt track through a forest.

Gloves For Mountain Biking

When people talk about what to wear mountain biking, they have different opinions about gloves. Some people feel vulnerable without gloves for a couple of reasons.

Your hands can get sweaty or wet, which reduces the amount of grip you have on your handlebars. Therefore riding without gloves can be disconcerting, especially on rough terrain.

Additionally, gloves give your hands an element of protection in crashes, as they protect your hands when you fall on gravel.

Your mountain bike gloves shouldn’t be too thick or too thin for your handlebar grips and your hands. This is so you can get the optimum grip in all circumstances. Also, make sure your mountain bike gloves are the right size, as poorly fitting ones can be abrasive, causing blisters.

BikeTips Recommends: Troy Lee Designs Camo Air Glove

The TLD Camo Air gloves are ideal for mountain biking in warm temperatures, thanks to their all-over mesh ventilation. They provide excellent grip and have silicone on the fingers for total control over your brakes.

A mountain biker rides around a banked corner on a gravel track through a rainy wheat field.

Mountain Bike Jackets

There’ll be times when you need to wear a jacket for mountain biking, but there are many choices based on the weather conditions you’re happy to ride in and your budget.

For example, you can buy anything from a super cheap waterproof jacket to an expensive, breathable Gore-Tex one, with lots of insulation for snowy rides.

You need to make a choice for your mountain bike jacket. If you’re a casual mountain biker and you’re unlikely to be taking on any extreme weather, a cheap waterproof jacket might make sense as you could regret forking out for something more expensive that’s permanently covered in mud!

However, the biggest problem with these cheaper jackets is that they’re not breathable. Therefore, you’ll get sweaty very quickly, making you uncomfortable while you’re riding and cold and wet inside once you stop.

If you’re planning on being a little more ambitious with your rides, you may want to find a mountain bike jacket that is mid-range. These are not too expensive and have features that will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable for longer.

Look for a mountain bike jacket with zipped ventilation, velcro cuffs, a helmet-compatible hood, sealed pockets, and good waterproof and breathability ratings.

BikeTips Recommends: Endura SingleTrack Cycling Jacket II 

The Endura Singletrack is a reasonably priced waterproof and breathable jacket. It is a lightweight jacket that can easily fit in your backpack and whipped out when the weather turns. This is a super comfortable jacket that looks great and on and off the bike.

Close-up shot of clipless pedals on a mountain bike.

Mountain Bike Shoes

Proper mountain bike shoes are not essential when you first start mountain biking. Most people start with a good pair of skate shoes or another type of sturdy, flat-soled shoe.

Flat shoes give you plenty of feel on the pedals while providing lots of grip. They are much better than hiking boots or shoes with thick soles, which can insulate you from the feedback you would normally get from the pedals.

Proper flat mountain bike shoes are a game-changer, though. They give you even more grip and comfort. They also absorb shock from riding techy trails, jumps, and drops.

Some mountain bikers like to wear clipless shoes. These attach to the bike’s pedals, which increases your connection with your bike, and makes pedaling more efficient.

The problem with clipless pedals is that they can take some getting used to. When you first use them, you can expect a few slow-speed falls. However, you’ll start to experience the benefits once you’ve got a few rides under your belt!

When you consider what footwear to wear mountain biking, it’s mainly down to your personal preference. If you’re new to mountain biking, you may want to start with flat shoes until you build the bike skills to ride clipless.

BikeTips Recommends: Five Ten Freerider 

Five Ten Freeriders are incredibly comfortable, and provide lots of grip on the pedals, thanks to Stealth Rubber technology. They also have an element of shock absorption for when you ride technical terrain. No wonder they’re a firm favorite with mountain bikers!

A cyclist stops to take in a rolling, hilly view on a sunny day.

Mountain Bike Backpacks

Mountain biking can throw up all kinds of situations, so it’s best to be prepared for every ride. The best way to do this is by wearing a mountain bike backpack.

Backpacks allow you to carry tools, spare inner tubes, extra clothing, snacks, and water. An old backpack you already have will work fine in most cases, but there’ll be a point when you start to see the benefits of a proper mountain bike backpack.

Good mountain bike backpacks are comfortable to wear while riding. Their straps prevent them from moving about too much, and often have built-in ventilation to keep your back cool.

Some backpacks have back protectors built into them too. These give you a little bit of extra confidence when riding.

Most mountain bike backpacks have provisions for a water bladder. Still, if you want something more lightweight with a lower profile, you may want to consider a hydration pack. These have space for water with some additional pockets for essentials.

Alternatively, you could ride with a hip-pack. These fit around your waist and have a surprising amount of space in them. They are also less restrictive than a backpack or hydration pack, making them very popular.

BikeTips Recommends: Evoc FR Enduro Blackline

The Evoc RF Enduro Blackline is a superb mountain bike backpack with enough room in it for everything you need for a day on the bike. It features a hydration pack, helmet carrier, back protector, and much more.

A mountain biker wearing padded leg protectors.

Mountain Bike Protection

There are several ways to protect yourself while mountain biking. How far you go will depend on your personal preference and what kind of mountain biking you do.

The most common types of mountain bike protection – besides a helmet – are knee and elbow pads. You can buy hard shell guards with lots of coverage for optimum protection. The downside of these guards is that they can be pretty bulky, restricting your movement.

On the other hand, you can wear lighter-weight pads that are more comfortable and allow freedom of movement. However, they offer less protection in a crash.

The same principle goes for body armor. Body armor can be pretty slim-fitting to be worn under your jersey, but it can also be bulky to protect you from big impacts. Heavy-duty body armor is best suited to downhill riding, where the crashes tend to be more serious.

Body armor isn’t essential, but riders who want to protect any pre-existing injuries often wear it, as well as those who require a confidence boost on techy trails.

If you are wondering what to wear mountain biking in terms of protection, a helmet is essential, and knee and elbow pads are enough for most people.

BikeTips Recommends: IXS Flow Evo+

The IXS Flow Evo+ knee pads are comfortable and provide an excellent level of protection. They are breathable, secure, and don’t restrict your range of motion, allowing you to perform at your best.

A mountain biker holds her bike aloft as she stares over a cloud-filled valley.

What To Wear Mountain Biking – Answered!

With that, you should have a complete picture of what to wear mountain biking!

However, you’ll need to adapt and make your own decisions based on where you ride and the typical weather conditions.

This may seem like a lot of stuff to buy, but you can gradually accumulate it over time. The absolute essentials to start with are a helmet, a jersey, and cycling shorts.

Found this article Helpful? Learn more from the BikeTips experts below!

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One of BikeTips' regular writers, Tom is a mountain biking expert living in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on two wheels or a snowboard! Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

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