Mountain biking gear guide

Buying the right kit for safe and healthy cycling

Mountain biking is a fun and enjoyable activity that has huge health and fitness benefits if you stick to a good cycle training routine. To feel the full benefits of this popular sport though, you’ll really need to buy the right gear first. Here’s the guide to the essential gear that will set you on the path towards mountain biking success.

Although lots of the gear that we outline here is as applicable to road biking as it is to mountain biking, there are plenty of specialist products available and cycle shops where you can get pretty much mountain bike gear only.

Mountain biking helmet

Nearly 80 per cent of cycle-related deaths result from head injuries, so riding without a helmet is not an option. You absolutely must wear one. As well as that startling fact, prices for a good helmet are between £25 and £35, so there really is no excuse. Here’s what you should look for when choosing your mountain biking helmet:

  • It has a peak to keep the sun or mud out of your eyes.
  • There is a main strap that fastens under your jaw.
  • It is adjustable, not too tight and feels comfortable.
  • It fits snugly on your head and doesn’t rattle around.
  • It’s lightweight, with plenty of vents.
  • It’s from a reputable manufacturer and retailer.
  • It has the appropriate safety approval sticker inside. In the UK look out for the CE logo inside the helmet.

Biking sunglasses

It’s always useful to have a pair of glasses on when you’re mountain biking, whether it’s the middle of summer or the depths of winter. There always seems to be something flying around that has your eyes as its target.

The best ones are those where you have interchangeable lenses. Normally you get a set of three; clear, tinted for the sun, and orange to improve light quality.

Water bottle for mountain biking

If you’re heading out for a long mountain bike ride it’s really important to take plenty of fluid with you. You can fix two water bottle holders on most bikes and it is well worth doing. You could put water in one and an energy drink in the other.

There are literally hundreds of products that you could include in your tool kit but we’ve made it easier for you by picking a selection for you. We’ve split them into two — one set that you should take with you on each ride and the other that you can leave at home.

Take these with you:

A set of screwdrivers (sounds like a lot but doesn’t need to be if you get a set of ‘all in ones’ as illustrated in the photograph)

Mountain bike tire levers — essential if you get a puncture.

Bike puncture repair kit — only a few pounds and if you forget it your day could be ruined!

Spare inner tube for your mountain bike

A tyre pump — smaller the better. Make sure it’s securely attached to the bike.   

wrench — just in case!

Set of
Allen keys — again you can get these in a small retractable tool just like the screwdrivers.


To stay at home you may need:

Chain tool — this could go with you if you’ve got room. Your chain won’t break that often but maybe worth taking. Definitely worth having access to one.

Spoke wrench — occasionally you will break a spoke so invest in one and be prepared. Make sure you get the one to fit your bike!

Grease — you’ll need this for ongoing maintenance.

Wrenches and pliers — most household tool kits will have all you need.   

There are plenty of other bits and pieces that you could need, but most people are happier taking their bike in to the local bike specialist than spending the time and money taking maintenance any further.

Clothing for mountain biking

Mountain biking is being taken over by the fashion world in a similar way to surfing. What you wear is considered by some to be as important as how you ride. As you would expect, there is a vast range of shorts, shirts and jackets available, both for riding and for posing around in afterwards.

Apart from fashion, the same principles of clothing apply as for to road biking:

  • Proper cycling shorts can take the pain out of riding, as they have built in padding that can make all the difference. A sore backside can ruin a long ride, but with decent specifically designed shorts life can seem much better!
  • A good t-shirt in summer or a fleece and rain jacket in winter are perfectly adequate, but you can, as you would expect, buy special cycling gear that is generally a tighter fit. It depends what level you’re aiming at whether you invest in this or not. It can be worth getting some shirts that ‘wick’, or draw the moisture away from the body as you sweat. The same goes for the fleece and jacket in winter. There are plenty on the market that are made from ‘breathable’ fabric.
  • Gloves are an essential part of your kit. Use fingerless, padded ones in summer and full length ones in winter. Your hands will not only get cold, but also sore from constant braking and vibrations without them.

Shoes for mountain biking

The shoes you need are quite different to road shoes. Based to an extent on fashion trends, they have hard soles and are considered an essential part of your kit by those into hardcore off-roading.

Most mountain bikes will have open pedals, so you’ll be able to wear training shoes or specially designed shoes, but some more expensive pedals will have clip in shoes. This means that you’ll need to buy special shoes to fit them. Make sure that you get these from a specialist as they should be fitted by someone who knows what they’re doing!

Bike accessories for cycling

There are hundreds of extras that you can fit to your bike to personalise it, from water bottles, to stickers, to mud guards. Each of the main brands has a huge selection available. Most retailers will stock only one or two of these key brands, like Trek.

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