Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking

Have you ever been riding on a remote trail and thought, “What if I get a flat?” “What would happen if my chain snapped right now?” I’ve been there, and it’s a scary thought. I’ve been known on more than one occasion to start obsessing over the “what-ifs” all the way back to my car. Knowing that I’m not alone, I’ve decided to help you compile a list of must-haves and maybe-haves for your rides so you don’t get stranded completely helpless.


Let’s break it down into categories: everyday gear, clothing (cycling & optional), and emergency gear.

Everyday Gear:
Hydration – your options are typically:

The traditional water bottle

The Hydration Pack (which I prefer because I can stuff all my gear in it, too)

Pump – you need something to keep your tires aired up, especially at the trailhead

I survived on a frame-mounted pump for a few years, but this gets tiring, but floor pumps are much better
-Sidenote: floor pumps WILL fall over, so buy one with the pressure dial on the base
-Some full-suspension frames or forks need a special air pump to tune their air spring

Rear-end creams to keep your rear end nice ‘n soft and not induce a skin infection

Cycling Clothing (Men’s or Women’s):
Cycling-specific shorts, bibs, or pants–not having these can be a real pain in the you-know-where
Cycling-specific jerseys–these are great because they can carry hydration, nutrition, and gear in the rear pockets for easy access while you’re riding
Long synthetic fiber or wool socks–longer socks are great to protect you from passing branches and they won’t sog down with sweat and induce blisters as long as they’re not cotton (hiking socks work great in cooler weather)
Cycling gloves–I prefer full-fingered gloves to protect from passing branches and keep the sweat off my brake levers (sweaty brake levers can mean not stopping–yikes!). Most of these gloves have rubber on the fingers for increased grip in wet or sweaty conditions.
Cycling helmet–I know some people think that this is optional, but I don’t. Even on “easy” trails, helmets can keep you from any head injury which can incapacitate you for life!
Eye Protection–When you’re moving fast on the trails, you can’t react fast enough to keep your eyes safe–branches come flying out of nowhere to scratch your cornea!  A lot of mountain bikers like using replaceable lens type glasses to adjust for different light conditions.

Optional clothing:
Cycling-specific shoes — there are lots of brands that offer “clipless” options or you can go the sticky-bottoms route for flat pedals with pins
Protective clothing like full-face helmets, neck braces, and body armor
Cold weather protective clothing like Arm Warmers, Leg Warmers, Face Masks, etc
Warm weather clothing to keep the sweat out of your eyes like the Halo Headband

Emergency Gear:
Frame-mounted pump or CO2 pump for trail-side tire pressure adjustments
Multi-tool for tightening any part that may loosen on your bike (yes, things come loose)
Extra tube
Tube patch kit
Tire Levers — not all levers are made equally: I suggest the Novara Tire Levers or Pedro’s Levers
Extra chain lengths — I prefer using SRAM Powerlinks because they’re easy to take on/off
Chain Tool (if your multi-tool doesn’t already have it built-in)
$5 (or larger) bill.  This can be wrapped around a ripped tube to be used as a patch kit in a pinch. It’s also great in case you run out of food or drink so you can hit up the local quick mart/gas station.

If you haven’t tried out mountain biking yet, check out a local trail and give it a go. And if you don’t know where your local trails are, or you want to discover a new one, try this link here.

Wait, why are you still reading this?? GET OUT THERE!