How to Dress for Mountain Biking

Text by: Kelsey Begg

Garneau, Maloja, Norrona, POC, Scott, Sombrio. How to Dress for Mountain Biking

One of the highlights of the summer is getting out on your mountain bike and ripping down fresh, loamy trails. Whether the sun is shining or the rain is falling, any day out on your two wheels is an all-time day with shred-tastic conditions.

While style is more often something you associate with urban settings and well-dressed folks in line at the coffee shop, looking good on the trails also requires a certain style. Spandex and fitted kits are popular for road cyclists because they are more aerodynamic. Relaxed, airy cuts with casual fits are popular for mountain bikers. When you’re new to the sport, it can be hard to decide on the “correct” look for a day but lucky for you, we’ve got the tips to keep you looking like a pro before you’re even hitting your local mountain bike trails.

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Does the Forecast Call for a Jacket?

First thing’s first, when you’re dressing for a day of mountain biking, you want to ensure that you’re dressing appropriately for the weather. If the forecast calls for rain and the clouds are looking somber and sinister, layering up and sticking a raincoat in your backpack or hip bag is certainly a wise idea. If the sun is shining and there’s no sign of clouds for as far as the eye can see, a long sleeve or short sleeve jersey should be enough to do the trick. 

When choosing a jacket for a day of riding, you want to choose something that is not only breathable but also something that is equipped with articulated seams or a design that allows you to move freely. For those who wear a pack while cycling, opt for a jacket that fits well with the backpack. If the sleeves are tight and restricting, you need to choose a different jacket.

Your jacket choice may vary depending on the weather as well. For soggy, rainy days on the trails, a raincoat made of GORE-TEX® or equipped with a DWR coating is ideal. If you are simply layering for added warmth, a windbreaker to top of your layers can be a solid choice.

Pick Your Jersey

As mentioned before, unlike road cycling, mountain biking showcases more of a relaxed and casual look. The jerseys, whether sleeveless, short sleeve, long sleeve or 3/4 sleeve fit the same as your favourite casual tee in your wardrobe. The cuts are designed with mobility in mind so that you can ride comfortably without tight seams or hems restricting your movements. While aerodynamic fits are less crucial for mountain biking, the jerseys and shorts aren’t overly baggy. Keep in mind that if you choose a jersey that is oversized and baggy, it can be more prone to getting caught on branches rocks or other objects nearby the trail.

Pick Your Chamois & Shorts

If you’re headed for a long ride that involves multiple hours of climbing, do yourself a favour and wear a chamois. This is the padded shorts that you will see most road cyclists wearing. The padding enhances your comfort and can allow you to enjoy a longer ride without ending early due to a sore bum. While it is often forgotten for downhill mountain biking because you are very rarely sitting on your seat, for all mountain, cross country and enduro mountain biking, a chamois is essential. Some riding shorts will have a chamois built in, for those that don’t you can simply slip your riding shorts over your favourite road bib or pair them with a separate pair of inner shorts. Whichever you choose, the padding is essential and your bum will thank you.

Socks & Gloves

Socks and gloves are the finishing touches to any look on the trails although there are a few cyclists who choose to ride without gloves. For those like myself who need gloves to maintain a secure grip on the handlebar grips, a pair of gloves is necessary. I prefer gloves that can slip on without a velcro strap but either will be fine. 

Backpack, Tools & Accessories

Like any sport, there are the added accessories and tools that keep you prepared on the trial. From allen keys and pumps to protective glasses and wrist watches, you can pack all the bells and whistles you need into your trusty backpack. 

Protective eyewear is ideal for wet and muddy rides and can keep your eyes safe from flying chunks of dirt. On sunny rides in the desert where shade is nearly non-existent, a tinted pair of glasses would be ideal. If you’re riding in a covered forest, tinted lenses may be too dark so you’ll want to stick to clear lenses.

If you’re training for a competition or simply like to be in tune with your ride and fitness statistics, SUUNTO and Garmin are among a few of the watch brands which have cycling specific modes that are equipped with GPS. Other GPS systems can be purchased separately and mount to your handlebars. There are multiple options os you are sure to find exactly what you want to meet your needs.

Not everyone rides with a backpack and lately, the hip pack trend has taken on the mountain bike world. Many of the newer mountain bike models (especially enduro bikes) will have hidden compartments built into the bike frame. These stealthy compartments are just large enough to hold an Allen key, a tube and sometimes a pump too. If your bike isn’t equipped with this hidden compartment, a backpack or hip pack is just as great. 

When choosing a backpack for cycling, you want something that is large enough to carry the tools and snacks that you need to bring along and still be comfortable to wear. If your backpack is too high or to large that it is impeding your head movements or touching your helmet, you may want to go down a size.

Most packs will have a variety of internal pockets to keep everything organized. Another bonus of having a backpack is having a substantial supply of water. You can buy hydration bladders separately and they vary between 1L and 3L so if you’re headed for a long ride, you’ve got a good supply of water. If riding with a pack isn’t your cup of tea, some hip packs are equipped with water bottle holders or you can get a water bottle holder on the frame of your bike. Whichever you choose, it’s important to always bring water along for the ride.

Regarding tools, you should always have one pump, a tube, an Allen key and tire levers. This will keep you prepared for most trailside repairs should they occur. If you ride tubeless, you can replace your spare tube for a CO2 cartridge.

Now that you know how to dress for mountain biking, all that you are missing is your bike and the right helmet. If you aren’t sure which helmet is right for you, we’ve got a guide outlining the difference between mountain bike helmets and road cycling helmets so you can be sure you’ve picked the right style.

Last but not least, before every ride, you should do a quick bike check to ensure everything is working properly. If everything looks good, you’re all set to shred!

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