What to Wear Mountain Biking? (10 Must-Haves)

Sure, itʼs not against the law for you to wear whatever you want during your mountain bike ride. However, dressing the part not only helps you look professional, but also helps you in other important areas. 

Mountain bike clothing helps you take your biking performance up a notch, makes your road cycling more comfortable, and ensures that you stay well-protected throughout your mountain biking trip.  

Of course, there are other variables for you to consider too when determining what to wear mountain biking. For instance, youʼll need to factor in where you intend to ride, the weather conditions there, the comfort and protection required for such a mountain biking journey, the demands of the ride, and your personal style. 

Ultimately, it all boils down to your choice of what you feel comfortable in.  

Below is a list of some important mountain biking gear, clothing, and protective mountain biking pads that I believe you should try, irrespective of your riding style or level. 

Now, you won’t have to get tongue-tied when someone asks you what to wear mountain biking at the bike park. 

What to Wear Mountain Biking

Mountain bike helmets

I canʼt stress enough the paramount importance of protecting your head during rides. After all, your head is your most important tool; without it, youʼre not much use.

And riding in the mountains isnʼt as smooth sailing as riding on paved roads. The chances of crashing, slipping, and bumping into obstacles increase exponentially when you ride in the mountains. 

Therefore, you need to wear a helmet at all times during your mountain biking rides. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, right?

Thankfully, the mountain bike helmets on offer today arenʼt as rigid and uncomfortable as they used to be. They are of lighter weight too. 

A modern mountain bike helmet has an integrated peak, keeping heavy rainfall and the harsh rays of the sun out of the riderʼs eyes. The integrated peak also saves mountain bikers from low-hanging branches. 

Through close inspection, youʼll also find that a mountain bike helmet sits lower around the sides of the head and the back to offer excellent coverage. And, if all-round protection is what you’re after, you can always go for a full-face helmet with a neck brace.

Riding shorts

Mountain biking shorts are also available in a wide range of varieties, as per the demands of the ride. For instance, cross-country riders prefer Lycra mountain biking shorts for their breathability, while mountain bikers usually opt for baggy shorts when they hit the bike parks.

There are many experienced riders who also swear by the benefits of padded liner shorts. Letʼs be honest here—who could say no to extra padding when negotiating rough terrain?  

If you’re keen on keeping your rear end comfortable till the end of your tough riding journey, you should consider padded liner shorts with a chamois pad as an under layer to your mountain bike shorts; most cross country riders and trail riders prefer padded shorts. 

When selecting baggy mountain bike shorts, you should ideally select a knee-length pair constructed of stretchy, robust, tear-resistant fabric. Plus, you should see to it that the shorts you wear mountain biking have enough room to accommodate your knee pads.

Mountain biking jerseys

Letʼs talk a bit about mountain bike jerseys and discuss their benefits. In most cases, a mountain bike jersey will come in a loose-fit cut. 

They are available for purchase in either a short-sleeve, three-quarter, or long-sleeve design.

A short-sleeve mountain bike jersey, as you may have deduced, keeps you cool in the heat of the summer, making it perfect for summer riding. Meanwhile, long-sleeves offer more protection during rides, keeping you safe from the sun and the thorns and branches of wild trees. 

That’s not to say that a long-sleeve jersey canʼt be worn in the summer. After all, they do come with mesh panels and moisture-wicking properties (nylon, polyester, merino wool) to keep you cool when it’s hot.

If youʼre into cross-country riding, youʼll excel in a Lycra bike jersey that features rear pockets for storing tools, snacks, and spare tubes. A Lycra bike jersey is also breathable and capable of wicking away moisture and drying up quickly.

Goggles or glasses

Mountain bike-specific goggles and glasses are extremely effective at protecting your eyes from the sun. Plus, when you wear goggles, they act as a barrier between your eyes and the debris kicked up by your front wheel.

When splurging on a pair of bike glasses, I’d recommend you go for ones with multiple lens options. Such a pair will enable you to swap the lenses out according to the demands of the conditions. 

For instance, a clear lens works best in dull and dark conditions, whereas tinted lenses are designed specifically to reduce glare and increase contrast.

If youʼre into trail riding, you should go for bike glasses. If youʼre into downhill riding, a pair of bike goggles will suit you better as itʼll offer you more protection on long, windy, technical descents.

Protective gear (knee pads)

Itʼs in your best interest to keep yourself as safe as possible during mountain biking rides on dangerous terrain. After all, youʼre just one bad move away from crashing, slipping, and bumping into obstacles.

Your knees, just like your head, are susceptible to severe damage during falls. Therefore, you need to keep your knees well-protected too. 

And, knee pads could cushion the blow. Thankfully, modern knee pads donʼt weigh a lot. They are lightweight enough not to affect your performance on rides. 

Of course, you can always go for chunkier knee pads for more technical terrain.

Other protective body wear such as back protectors and elbow pads can also come in handy during bike rides.

Waterproof trousers

If you are a thrill-seeker on two wheels who prefers riding mainly in cold and wet areas, youʼll need waterproof trousers to keep you clean, warm, and dry.

When purchasing a pair of waterproof trousers, go for ones constructed of hardshell fabric. You see, hardshell fabric offers you enough protection from the rain, without being too stuffy. 

If you prefer fit and durability over hardcore protection from the rain, you can even consider water-resistant bike trousers made from softshell fabric.

It is also crucial for you to check the fit of the bike trousers. The general rule of thumb implies that you should go for trousers that donʼt restrict pedaling and get in your way. 

Trousers with Velcro tabs on the ankles can help you get your desired fit.

Mountain bike gloves

I donʼt understand why mountain bike gloves are often overlooked by most mountain bikers, experts, and beginner riders alike. As far as Iʼm concerned, mountain bike-specific biking gloves are as important as safety headgear. 

Biking gloves not only protect your hands from undergrowth and terrible crashes, but they also offer comfort because of the additional cushioning. The extra cushioning also helps with extra traction on the handlebars. 

Plus, realize this—only when your hands are in pristine condition will you be able to negotiate past rocks and various obstacles.

As a mountain biker, I think it would be best if you choose full-finger gloves over fingerless ones. Full-finger mountain biking gloves not only offer overall protection, but also provide insulation and wind-proofing during colder times.

Youʼll also need to look at the placement of the grippers on the gloves and ensure that theyʼve been positioned strategically to help you through the shifters and brake levers.

Biking socks

Long biking socks offer more than meets the eye. Sure enough, they’ve got some fantastic visual appeal, but they are also functional. 

You see, long biking socks shield your shins and calves from cuts and scratches. Like everything else, mountain bike-specific socks are also available in wide varieties. 

Riders who often ride in tricky cold and wet conditions on their local trails should purchase waterproof socks. Such socks will keep their feet warm and dry, even when it rains cats and dogs. 

Of course, lightweight socks that have unmatched breathability exist too, keeping your feet cool, no matter how hot it gets outside.

Mountain bike shoes

Itʼs also quite advantageous for a rider to wear proper riding shoes on mountain bikes. With a good pair, riders will feel secure during rides over rough ground. 

Additionally, theyʼll be able to pedal through ridiculously tough, uphill technical climbs more efficiently.

Mountain bikers can choose their mountain bike shoes from two options: flat pedal shoes and clipless pedals. Flat shoes have a rough surface and also have “pins” that tend to project outward. 

The pins are directed that way to ensure the shoes have proper grip. And, as far as appearance goes, flat pedals look like your average trainers or skate shoes. 

In most cases, flat pedals have a lace-up fastening, with an elasticated band to ensure the laces donʼt get stuck in the way and ruin your rhythm.  

Clipless shoes also offer numerous benefits. These mountain bike-specific shoes clip right into your pedals and ensure that you remain attached to your pedals, thereby allowing you to make the most efficient use of them. 

It is simple, with clipless shoes, you can use your complete pedal stroke, including the upstroke.

Granted that these shoes will take some time getting used to, but once you’re up to speed, no other shoes will feel right. With these shoes, you are guaranteed to get more control over your bike as your feet stay in an optimal position throughout your rides.  

And, to keep your shoes in pristine condition, you can consider shoe covers. 

Biking jacket

Biking doesnʼt have to stop because of inclement weather when you have the right biking gear. With a biking jacket, you can brave through even the harshest of weather conditions.

With mountain biking, there are commonly three different types of jackets you can choose from: a lightweight shell, a hybrid jacket, and a fully waterproof jacket.

Lightweight jackets on offer on the market are mostly water- and wind-resistant. However, the biggest selling point of this type of jacket is its breathability and portability. 

This jacket can be easily packed into its own pocket when not in use, without having you feel like youʼre carrying an extra load.

If youʼre looking for extra protection for winter riding, you should opt for hybrid jackets instead. This jacket, as far as function goes, falls right between a lightweight jacket and a fully waterproof one. 

It offers more water repellency than a lightweight jacket and is much warmer too, without losing too much on breathability. High-quality hybrids are usually constructed of softshell or padded fabric. 

On the downside, they arenʼt as easily packable as lightweight jackets. When shortlisting hybrids, make sure you go for one with vents.

And finally, there are waterproof jackets. These jackets have been designed for a sole purpose—to keep the water out. 

Usually constructed of proper hardshell, waterproof jackets tend to have a much looser fit than the aforementioned jackets. As a result, you can wear a few layers underneath them for extra body armour and warmth.

Waterproof jackets also commonly come equipped with a few pockets for stowing essentials. And, the good ones always have vents to keep your internal temperature down. 

Sure enough, they can set you back a bomb, but they will serve you well throughout the year.

Conclusion

As I mentioned before, it isnʼt compulsory to wear all the bike gear mentioned above when you ride your mountain bike, although most riders agree that it helps protect you.

When determining what to wear mountain biking, factor in the bike parks you intend to visit, the weather conditions, the comfort and protection required for such a journey, the demands of the ride, and your personal preference.

With the right gear, your riding experience (both short rides and long rides) will be much better, smoother, easier, and safer. Plus, wearing padded shorts alleviates the next-day pain riders usually get after a long day on the bike!

Ultimately, protection of your body should be your priority when deciding what to wear mountain biking no matter what, especially in the mountains where bushes, branches, and other obstacles can ruin your experience.