by Rod Bucton
Thursday, 10.46 pm, Port Macquarie, Mid North Coast New South Wales, Australia
So you have finally managed to get out for another mountain bike ride…
Gotten through the jobs around the house…mowed the lawn, washed the dog and the car.
Thrown your bike and gear in the car.
Met your mates at your local trail.
Ridden like never before.
But somethings just not right…yeah your bike has seen better days…but it has done you proud for so many years now…and every time you ride you have an absolute ball so would a new bike make it that much better? And that new upgrade is not going to be a cheap exercise.
But there is something else…you see the other guys on the trails with their fancy shirts and shorts and shoes…looking really cool
But it’s not you…or is it?
Is there more to the gear…more than the old t-shirt and board shorts and nikes that you roll out every ride day?
You bet there is
For me when I throw on my mountain biking gear its like my coat of armour, my ON switch…at the start line ready to fire!
When I forget something…I feel out of sync…just not there…and then it all falls apart from there…lines through the technical singletrack don’t flow…tough climbs are even tougher….you know those days.
So with this in mind I want to walk through the gear that you need when you ride your mountain bike.
Firstly, as I have already mentioned in a previous post the two most important things, other than your prized mountain bike –
When starting out mountain biking its fine to kick off with a pair of old shorts and t shirt and pair of joggers…anything really to get you on the trails. But once you are hooked, you soon realize the reason that clothing is one of the first things a new mountain biker will buy…and its not just for looks.
The materials used in mountain bike clothing are –
much stronger, much more durable,
wash up better ( especially after a wet muddy ride),
breathe better in our hot / dry / humid climates and
can live through a jab or scratch from low hanging branch or if (when) you eat dirt.
At the top of the list is a good pair of mountain biking shorts.
There is a swag of different shorts around, some which are just like your conventional hiking shorts through to quite heavy duty 3/4 length shorts. And then there are lycra-clad cycling nicks for the XC speed freaks.
The most important things to look for in good mountain biking shorts is comfort & (avoiding) chafing.
For someone starting out, getting used to saddle soreness is one thing…and that certainly will pass with more ride time. But chaffing is something else. For those that know its worse than those days at the beach as a kid with sand in every crack possible…thinking you can run and play…think again buddy.
Any good quality mountain biking short will have built in (or will have provision for) an inner short complete with padded chamois.
This sits underneath your bottom when your body makes contact with the saddle and it’s a slightly padded section which, as I said, gives you that little bit more comfort when you are riding in the saddle. Short, short distances are fine for just a pair of casual shorts. All shorts, running shorts that’s fine but I have a longer distances or rough conditions it’s always better to have a cycling shorts with that additional padding just as to absorb some bumps between the saddle and your body.
Depending on the manufacturer these can be a really good fit or can feel like you are riding on a pillow!!!
This can make or break a good pair of shorts – important to try before you buy here.
Some shorts also have a couple of pockets – good to hold a pair gloves, your phone, a multi tool, snacks… always very handy.
When it gets cooler you may also like to throw on a pair of 3/4 length cycling nicks or full length cycling nicks for additional warmth when it gets really cold.
Next is a jersey – again there are 000’s to choose from.
I would recommend a polyester material, short sleeve with a zip at the front and pockets on the back. These are a super comfortable, hard wearing, breathable fabric…. which is really important when that temperature rises on the trails. And the zip in the front means you can open up the front of the jersey for extra air on the front of your body and the pockets in the rear of the jersey is great also for carrying snacks, mobile, water bottle or spray jacket.
In winter, you could consider –
long sleeve cycling jersey, with all the features of a short sleeve,
a vest that may helps keep your temperature up or
removable sleeve that can be worn with a short sleeve jersey.
A long sleeve polypropylene top can be worn underneath your jersey.
These are absolutely fantastic to wear in the winter. They fit snugly to your body and are very warm. And you sweat or perspire, they don’t end up all wet and soggy and uncomfortable unlike normal t-shirts. Polypropylene tops keep their shape and wick the sweat away from your body. Very cool indeed.
You could also consider a light cycling spray jacket. These are made out of a material that can keep up a bit of rain off or keep the wind off your body. And when you start to heat up too much they have a zip on the front to allow more ventilation through to your body.
When you are riding, it doesn’t take long to heat up. You can simply take it off, roll them up and tuck them into the pocket in the back of the jersey and continue with your ride.
Keep in mind though most cycling spray jackets are made of a very sort fabric and so can be easily damaged by a passing stick or branch on the trails.
You are really after something more durable…that still packs to a small size that’s easy to carry.
And generally the more waterproof a jacket is the less it breathes…so when you start to get hot and sweaty with a waterproof jacked on you may end up as wet inside the jacket as it is on the outside…
It is really important to dress for the ride, not just the conditions when you step out of your house or car and onto your bike…once you get riding it doesn’t take long to heat up and you find yourself turfing jackets and tops.
Next is a good quality pair of sock. Make sure they are firm snug fit, don’t fall down five minutes after you put them on and are not too thick…a bit of trial and error maybe required here.
Then there are shoes.
Shoes for mountain biking and pedals go hand in hand…
Since I began mountain biking about 20 years ago I have progressed from a pair of joggers on platform pedals with a toe clip or strap, to an “adventure” style mountain biking shoe with a “clipless” flat pedal to a specific mountain biking shoe with a “clipless” pedal.
The first needs no explanation and is really where most people start. It’s a great intro to riding off-road, with good foot position and being semi connected to your bike.
Important tip –
Even if you have a bit of road cycling experience and are used to clipless pedals and shoes, you may still want to start off-road with joggers and flat pedals with a toe strap. You have probably seen it before (or certainly heard about it) when someone starting out with clipless pedals doesn’t unclip from their pedals quick enough, looses balance and topples onto the ground.
This usually bruises your ego in front of your mates more so than your body. But when starting out mountain biking you may find there are a lot more unexpected starts and stops than on the road. So to be able to get a foot to the ground quickly is really important.
The second “adventure” style mountain biking shoe almost looks like leisure/walking shoe. However the main difference is in the sole – where it is generally stiffer the a standard shoe which helps transfer more of your the power from your leg to turn the pedals.
They can also be used without or with a cleat (metal attachment that screws to the sole of your shoe) and allows your shoe to clip into your “clipless” pedal. These can almost be worn as a casual shoe except for the stiff sole.
Then there are mountain biking shoes and clipless pedals.
These are specifically designed for mountain biking only. They generally have synthetic leather, super stiff sole – difficult to walk long distances but fantastic to ride with – velcro straps to do up, and are meant to be used with a screw in cleat and clipless pedals.
When I first considered clipless mountain biking shoes and pedals the guys at my local bike shop said it is “like turbo for your mountain bike”….and he was spot on. They do take a little getting used to, but when you do you never look back.
And finally – eye protection.
Over the years I have tested dozens of different plastic lens glasses for mountain biking – clear, dark sunglasses, light sunglasses and no glasses at all.
But have found the best in the bush are a yellow lens pair of glasses.
They not only protect your eyes from dirt, dust, bushes, twigs, sticks, cobwebs, but also help even out the contrast between bright sunlight and shadow on the trails and so it makes it a lot easier to distinguish the different bumps and changes on the trail. And they are quite inexpensive and are worth every cent.
Hope this gives you a few more tips and helps you with your “Over Armour”.
Have a great day! I know I will.
So keep in touch and get out on the trails.
About The Author
Rod Bucton, mountain bike fanatic from Mid North Coast, New South Wales Australia…discover the shortcuts to mountain biking for beginners and while you’re at it follow Rod on Facebook or Instagram.
Like any sport, bicycling involves risk of injury and damage. By choosing to ride a bicycle, you assume the responsibility for that risk, so you need to know — and to practice — the rules of safe and responsible riding and of proper use and maintenance. Proper use and maintenance of your bicycle reduces risk of injury.