So, you have been taking your bike off-road for a little while and you want to start getting involved in the more serious side of Mountain Biking. Well, we do like to push ourselves as our skills start to improve a bit more and it is about having as much fun as you can have on your Mountain Bike! Here at trendybikeclothing we consider what to wear mountain biking and have some tips to get you started.
Lycra vs Baggies
Chances are, you have been riding on the road or enjoying a spot of cross-country mountain biking, so you probably noticed a lot of the roadies have an abundance of lycra. While this is fine to wear, and always looks very tight it does not offer much protection to your skin when you start to take your mountain bike off the roads and onto the trails. With trees, bushes, and the occasional mud bath, you will appreciate having a good layer of clothing to protect you. You do get dedicated mountain bike clothing, that will be more durable and have moisture wicking capabilities. With your mtb clothing what do we wear? So, during the summer we tend to go for mtb shorts with a good breathable mountain bike jersey (Short or Long Sleeve), then in the winter months, we move to mountain bike trousers, and a loose fitting mtb jersey with long sleeves. With a packable mountain bike jacket just in case the weather does turn during your ride.
Another reason for baggie shorts and trousers is to accommodate some crash protection. We always wear knee pads and depending on the terrain we might use additional protection, including elbow pads, chest, and back guards. The slim pads, with thin foam or basic abrasive material, offer a little bit of protection to your skin without restricting your movement, but they do not offer any impact protection. The more substantial pads, with technology such as 'D30', offer shock-absorbing materials that protect you from impact, but they are often bulky and warm to wear.
It’s entirely up to you what you purchase first, but if you think you’re likely to start racing in enduro mountain bike races, knee-pads are a good idea, and are often mandatory race-wear anyway. Body armour is available, and many people feel more confident riding technical terrain in chest and back-protectors, but they can get hot and sticky, and are often overkill for anything outside of a bike park or a technical trail centre.
Sure, your road and cross-country helmet will work fine, but the Trail and Enduro oriented helmets will offer more coverage, often giving you more protection further down the back of the head. while knocks to the head are rare, riding on technical terrain can be unpredictable, and you’ll find that there is no common direction for falling off your bike, so the more coverage you have the better.
Mountain bike helmets often have visors to keep the sun out of your eyes too and, while I’m sure you’re used to wearing cool sunglasses to protect your eyes, technical off-road riding will likely move you from bright sunshine to dark woods, and everywhere in between, so clear lenses are the best for all-round, year-long riding, and the visor will keep your eyes sheltered.
Now, this is a personal thing. We are a bit biased here at trendybikeclothing and are big lovers of flat pedals. Even the professional riders are torn between clipless and flat pedal shoes. Basically, stick with what you are comfortable with for now. Riders from a cross-country or road cycling background tend to stick with clip-in pedals and, although some say you should learn skills in flat shoes, we think you should gain experience in whatever you are already confident in.
If you don’t have any off-road shoes at all, but you want to start in clip-less (SPD style) shoes, then try to find a shoe you like with a wide and flat sole, and combine it with a pedal that has a large profile or one that looks a lot like a flat pedal, as this offers good stability and balance when standing up on the bike, and trust us, you’ll be doing that a lot. We know plenty of riders still trail-riding in cross-country shoes. And if you want to ride with flat pedals, a good set of riding-specific flat shoes will offer much more grip to the pedals that trainers.
Wet and wild winters
If you are super keen, then you will probably still want to ride in the wet, and frankly, I don’t blame you, as mud is a fun way to learn skills with a soft landing! When it is wet, you can pop any waterproof jacket on, but a Gore-Tex (or similar breathable material) will prevent that boil-in-the-bag feeling. You may want to look out for stretchy waterproof fabrics for a good range of movement too, but they do not come cheap. Waterproof shorts are also a great idea.
In the Autumn and Spring, you’ll likely still be warm (or even too warm!) in shorts and a jacket, but the depths of winter may call for an added mid-layer winter jersey or merino wool jumper, and trousers can help keep your shins warm and dry too. The key is to use layers so that you can disrobe anything that gets too cosy and pop it in your backpack.
So, there you have it. Cross-country mountain bikers can simply slip on a pair of shorts and some knee-pads and be ready to go, but the full enduro look requires baggie clothes and wide-shoes, with slightly more protection from the helmet and a set of knee pads. Add a backpack to carry your extra layers and tools in (and to offer you a little crash protection to your back) and you are good to go. It may all seem like a genre fashion, but it is all function really. Get out there and have fun, and you will soon learn what works and what does not.