What you take on a mountain biking trip depends on a few factors, such as the duration of your ride, the type of trail you'll be on, and anything you expect to encounter while biking. Here's a rundown of what you'll need for various riding conditions.
Helmet technology has come a long way from the Styrofoam shells you probably wore as a kid, and are now more protective and even more fashionable than ever. A good mountain biking helmet may be heavier and less aerodynamic than a road bike helmet, but you'll get the most protection possible. They typically include visors and rear-head coverage, so tree branches, rocks, and other unforgiving elements won’t make a dent.
Mountain Bike Shoes
Mountain bike shoes are less rigid than road bike shoes, allowing you to walk normally. The most common type of mountain bike pedal uses a two-hole cleat system. This requires a special type of shoe that mounts into the cleat. Choose a mountain bike shoe that provides the support, comfort, and breathability you’re looking for.
Gloves provide padding for greater comfort and allow for good grip, even if your hands get sweaty. Perhaps most important, they provide protection for your palms in case of a fall. Though fingerless bike gloves exist, many if not most mountain bikers go with full-fingered gloves for increased protection.
Mountain Bike Shorts
Bike shorts are padded in the seat area for greater comfort and are form fitting to reduce chafing. Some mountain bikers prefer two-layer shorts, with a form-fitting inner layer worn underneath a baggy outer layer.
Whether you're crossing Moab in the summer or splashing through Vermont during mud season, water will keep you going. Most bikes are equipped with one or two bike bottle cages. The bike bottle slips easily in and out of the cage as needed, but is still held securely as you bounce along. Another common and convenient way to transport water is in a water bladder and backpack, such as a CamelBak hydration system. A third option is to carry water bottles in a small backpack. Remember, though, that loose bottles will shift and bounce as you bump over roots and rocks.
Items for Fixing a Flat Tire
Nothing will bring your energy and fun down like a flat tire when you're miles from your car, especially if you didn’t take the gear you need to fix it. Fortunately, flat tires are no big deal for the properly prepared.
A number of different pump sizes are available, from 6 in. micro pumps to 12 in. full-size portables to CO2 pumps, which use a disposable cartridge to quickly refill your tire. A pump can either be mounted on your bike frame or carried in a small backpack.
Forget trying to patch a tire in the field if you can help it. It’s possible, but it’ll take a while. Take along a spare tube (or two if you’ll be out all day) that you can quickly swap in for the punctured one.
Made of plastic and sold in a set of three, these levers let you pry the tire off and put it back on without puncturing the new tube.
Repairs and Adjustments
Picture this: Your seat becomes loose after a severe bump. The derailleur isn’t performing properly. Or worse yet, your chain breaks. Never go on a long mountain biking trip without someone in your party packing the bike gear essential for quick repairs. You can toss these items into either your pack or the cargo section of your CamelBak, and even if you don't need them, they're worth packing in every time.
Instead of taking all the Allen wrenches, box wrenches, and Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers you need, it might be easier to choose a bike multitool. Topeak makes several good options. Just make sure it’s light and small enough for your purposes, and that it contains the tools you’ll need before setting out.
Universal Chain Tool and Spare Link
If the multitool doesn’t include a universal chain breaker, take one along separately. It’s absolutely necessary for removing broken chain pins. Also take a spare chain link or master link.
Having a squeaky chain a couple hours away from home base can be a little annoying. A small bottle of bike lube will fix that.
Bags and Packs
You can keep some of your spare tubes and tools in a seat bag, which securely attaches under your bike seat. For carrying additional items, wear a hydration pack that includes some storage compartments.
Pack high-energy food to keep your metabolism going. Energy bars and gel packets are perfect for this. Also consider fruits like blueberries and bananas, or a bag of trail mix. And there’s nothing like some chocolate to get you up a steep slope.
Protect your eyes from tree branches and spraying dirt by taking along a pair of sunglasses. They should wrap around your head and fit securely.
Other MacGyver-esque items include zip ties, a small bundle of duct tape, and a compact folding knife. You never know when you may need to cobble together a fix.
Mountain biking gives you a chance to ride fast and hard, but with it comes added safety hazards and the potential for mechanical malfunctions. But if you're prepared and head out onto the trail with the right equipment, you're all set for a good mountain rush.
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