Mountain Biking Gear Must Haves

Mountain biking is an excellent sport for building power, endurance, and agility. Whether mountain biking is your only sport or part of a cross-training fitness routine, using the appropriate mountain bike gear, clothing and equipment will help make your next mountain bike ride faster, safer and more comfortable.

This shortlist of essential mountain bike gear will help make every ride a great ride. All gear is available at an outdoor retailer or specialty bike shop.


Mountain Bike

Man standing next to mountain bike on the edge of a cliff

Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

The first piece of equipment you'll need for any mountain bike training ride is a properly fitting and well-maintained mountain bike. Bikes are available for every type of rider and trail condition. You can choose a bike with full suspension or front suspension, disc brakes or V-brakes, different wheel sizes and frame materials.

If you're on the market for a new mountain bike, consult with a professional who can help match you with the best bike. If you are just getting started, visit a local bike shop that specializes in mountain biking to learn more and get a bike fitting. These features make for a better ride.

  • Brakes: When you're going high-speed and need the option to stop safely and with proper distance, choose a mountain bike with disc brakes, which offer more secure braking.
  • Frame size: The bike's top tube, seat tube, head tube, and more all need to be built to allow easy step-over and proper pedaling height.
  • Suspension: If you plan on taking on varying terrains and need your bike to help absorb some of the shock and impact of the ground, opt for a full suspension bike or one that features a suspension fork.
  • Wheels: Mountain bike wheels range in sizes from 26 to 29 inches, and depending the terrain you'll be handling and the speeds you want to hit, you'll want to choose the right wheel diameter for you. Larger wheels will be slower to accelerate, but provide improved traction. Smaller wheels are lighter and easier to maneuver.

If you have a bike already, be sure to properly maintain the bike and perform a pre-ride safety inspection before hitting the trail.



A bike helmet is the most important piece of mountain biking safety gear. No one should ride without a helmet.

A bike helmet significantly reduces the severity of head injuries, especially during low-speed crashes. Mountain bike helmets generally have a visor to help block the sun as you ride in and out of trees so you can focus on the trail and not be distracted by glare.

There are three styles of mountain bike helmets available, so choose the best one for you depending on the type of activity you're doing.

  • XC: Cross-country helmets provide good ventilation, are open-faced, and have a lightweight construction. These helmets are ideal for long rides.
  • Trail: The trail mountain biking helmet features 3/4 coverage and a visor to help protect from the sun and other weather elements. Trail helmets are great picks for mountain biking, as well as general road and trail cycling.
  • Full-face: Full-face helmets are essential for any rider doing downhill trails at high speeds and varying terrains. These helmets feature an adjustable visor and chin protection for ultimate safety.

Eye Protection

Eye protection for mountain biking helps keep trail dirt, dust, and debris out of your eyes as well as helping you see more clearly in both dark shadows and bright sunlight. If you don't have a full-face helmet, you'll want glasses or goggles to protect your eyes.

A variety of sunglasses are available for sports, but mountain bikers should choose a frame with an interchangeable lens system that comes with a variety of lenses for varying light conditions. 


Hydration Pack

It's not easy to take your hands off the handlebars and grab your water bottle when you are negotiating tight single track or climbing loose rocky trails.

Wearing a hydration pack when you ride gives you easy access to hands-free hydration. This is especially important for anyone exercising for more than two hours and with limited access to refills on the trail.


Mountain Bike Shoes

Beginners can wear any comfortable sports shoe and use the bike pedal or cages to power the bike. As you advance or begin riding more frequently, you'll want to make the switch to mountain biking-specific shoes. Cleated bike shoes work in combination with pedals and, essentially, lock the rider's feet to the bike.

There are a variety of cycling shoes to choose from, but all-mountain bike shoes provide good traction off the bike, durability, comfort, and a stiff sole for better pedaling efficiency.


Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals are best for most cross country trail riding. Cycling shoes and clipless pedal systems let you lock your shoes into the pedals for secure and efficient pedaling, and then unclip easily with a twist of the foot.

Mountain bikers generally use the SPD type of pedal/cleat system, but there are a variety of combinations. Be sure to buy shoes and pedals that work together.


Mountain Bike Gloves

Riding a mountain bike is much more demanding on the hands than road cycling. Besides absorbing a lot of trail shock, your hands take the punishment if you should fall on a rough trail.

Mountain bike gloves serve two purposes—they provide additional padding and finger coverage. Mountain bike handlebar grips are already padded, but additional cushion from your gloves is beneficial if you're doing long or downhill rides and need extra comfort and protection.

Mountain bikers tend to wear full finger gloves for the best coverage, protection, and grip on the brake levers.


Padded Bike Shorts

Padded and protective bike shorts offer major benefits if you ride any distance over rough terrain.

Mountain bike shorts provide an inner padded liner worn like underwear that increases comfort and reduces chafing. The outer layer looks like a baggy pair of shorts that are made of tough, abrasion-resistant fabric to hold up to the wear and tear of the trail.


Bicycle Repair Kit

A simple repair kit that is attached to your bike saddle will hold all the essentials in case you have mechanical trouble or a flat tire on the trail. Your repair kit should include the basics: a multi-tool for bicycles, an extra tube, tire levers, a patch kit, a mini-pump, and some cash.

You may also want to keep an identification card with a list of contact numbers in your seat bag, so someone will know who to call in case you have a serious injury or another emergency.


First Aid Kit

Not everyone rides with a first aid kit, but it's smart to pack a few first aid essentials. You never know when you or another rider may lose traction in loose rock or do an endo on the trail.

Abrasions are the most common injury mountain bikers deal with, so be prepared by keeping various sized bandages, tape, pain relievers, and antiseptic wipes handy. You might also choose to include eye drop solution, a small pocketknife, moleskin, energy gels and a whistle in your kit.


Other Gear You Might Need

To prevent injury and maximize protection and safety, you might also want to consider adding these handy items to your gear kit.

  • Backpack or hip pack: Use a small backpack or hip pack (fanny pack) to help you carry mountain biking essentials, hydration, or snacks.
  • Biking pads: Pads provide extra protection for your knees and shins.
  • Cold weather gear and accessories: If you're heading out for a trail ride in cooler temperatures, insulated gloves, a thermal jacket, and weather-resistant socks and pants are a must.
  • Mountain biking jersey: A specialized jersey for mountain biking will feature sweat-wicking fabric, additional coverage and protection against branches, and bonus pockets for carrying must-haves.
  • Water bottle and food: On ride longer than one hour, you'll want to bring water and foods to stay hydrated and to replenish lost calories. Choose easy-to-transport snacks like protein bars, nuts, or dried fruit.
2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Høye A. Bicycle helmets - To wear or not to wear? A meta-analyses of the effects of bicycle helmets on injuries. Accid Anal Prev. 2018;117:85-97. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2018.03.026

  2. Kronisch RL, Pfeiffer RP. Mountain biking injuries: An update. Sports Med. 2002;32(8):523-537. doi:10.2165/00007256-200232080-00004

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.