Mountain biking is a sport in which your success is dictated as much by the gear you’re using as it is by your particular level of two-wheeled expertise. After all, between riding protection, bike accessories, and repair essentials, there’s a laundry list of equipment that’s required of a well-rounded setup. And it’s not without good reason; mountain biking is a pretty risky endeavor as it is, so the last thing you want to do is compromise your time on the trails by showing up ill-prepared. You never know what could happen when you’re out in the woods, meaning it’s always best to dress with safety in mind and equip yourself with plenty of contingency carry. You’ll thank yourself later — take our word for it.
But how do you decide what mountain biking gear you actually need? What’s critical to keep with you, and what’s merely an optional add-on? If you find yourself asking such questions, know that you’re not alone. Mountain biking is an incredibly equipment-intensive activity, and the sheer amount of stuff that’s required can quickly get to be overwhelming when you’re not sure what’s what. To make matters worse, mountain bike gear doesn’t tend to come cheap, with bottle cages costing you as much as $40 and the bikes themselves often more than most used cars. (In other words, the sport’s biggest barrier to entry is typically its price tag.) Never fret, though — we’re well-steeped with mountain biking expertise, and we’ve gone through similar struggles ourselves. Keeping this in mind, we’ve rounded up 15 of the best pieces of mountain bike gear that we feel are sure to improve your singletrack shredding.
Camelbak Podium Dirt Series
It goes without saying, but you’ll want water at some point out on your ride. While you could — admittedly — carry it in just about any old bottle, this option from Camelbak makes for a marked upgrade. With an optimized cage fit, a dirt-proof cover, and a leak-proof lockout, it gives you just about everything you could want in a bike-friendly hydration solution. Just be sure to test your frame’s clearance before buying a bottle that’s too big to fit.
3M Clear Paint Surface Protection Vinyl Film
If you care about the appearance of your frame paint, you’re going to want something a little extra to protect it from rocks and other debris. In our opinion, it’s best to cut it yourself, as it allows for both increased coverage and a more precise fit. And here’s the thing: even though this tape provides some 6mm of chip protection, it’s all but invisible once it’s installed on your bike.
Supacaz Fly Cage
Any time you’re bringing a bottle with you on a ride, you’ll need a convenient way in which to carry it. This cage from Supacaz comes with a pair of LockTight wings that hold your hydration tight until you’re ready for a swig. Made using a lightweight polycarbonate material, it comes in eight bright different colors that make matching your bike a breeze.
Dakine Cross-X Gloves
Gloves are an essential part of every mountain biker’s kit, cushioning your arms against tiresome trail chatter and protecting your palms in the event of an unexpected fall. We like Dakine’s Cross-X gloves in particular because they feature a snug-yet-accommodating fit and some TPU reinforcement through the knuckles. What’s more, they come with a comfortable silicone grip that provides an added layer of vibration dampening.
Dynaplug Racer Pro Plug Kit
These days, most mountain bikers are using some kind of tubeless sealant setup. If you run into a puncture while out on the trail, a set of plugs will get your tires back up to shape in no time. For those who are looking to streamline their trailside repair system, Dynaplug’s Racer Pro kit provides an ideal solution. Housing four pre-loaded plugs in its slim billet aluminum body, it comes in at just 4.25″ and a scant 26g in weight.
Topeak Mini PT30 Multi-Tool
You can never be too prepared in your contingency carry, and this Topeak multi-tool is perfectly equipped for self-sufficiency. Boasting some 30-plus different functions — including everything from a serrated knife to a disc spacer — the PT30 provides riders with the ultimate all-in-one trailside repair service. As if its superior capability wasn’t enough, though, Topeak has also given it handy features like a lock for safety, an ergonomic design for extra leverage, and a storage department for stashing small essentials.
Dakine Slayer Pro Knee Pad
While almost all knee pads come with some sort of compromise — flexible but not effective, protective but not comfortable — this pair from Dakine proves an exception to the rule. For even despite their thin, accommodating construction, they’re basically bombproof thanks to their tough AriaprenePro fabric. Padded with some plush DK Impact foam, they’re made only better by their ergonomic, pre-curved straps and their odor-fighting Polygiene anti-bacterial treatment.
Shimano PD-M540 SPD Pedals
Clipless pedals offer a significant advantage over their platform counterparts, as they add some upwards pull to your downwards stroke. When in doubt, Shimano’s PD-M540s are never a bad call, because they’re cheap, reliable, and capable of withstanding tons of abuse. Compatible with all SPD-style cleats, they feature a two-sided design that makes entry and exit a breeze — even in super swampy conditions.
Patagonia Dirt Roamer Shorts
If you’re looking for an excellent pair of all-purpose shorts, you can’t go wrong with the Dirt Roamer from Patagonia. Made from a lightweight, hard-wearing polyester blend, they come with a curved waistband and a contoured fit to maximize on-the-bike comfort. Though they don’t offer a built-in liner themselves, they do feature some integrated loops for
snapping in a pair of compatible Patagonia briefs.
Swift Industries Vireo Hip Pack
Seattle-based Swift Industries is run by a passionate group of cyclists specializing in all things excursionist biking baggage. Their Vireo, for instance, is a tough, compact waist pack that’s heaped with everyday utility. Combining a spacious interior zip with a pair of extendable front straps, it even features a USA-Made VX21 fabric and an indestructible Dyneema inner lining. We’d especially recommend the Vireo if you’re one to ride with layers, though no matter what it’s a pack that’ll serve you well.
100% S3 Sunglasses
It’s always in your best interest to rock some protection when you’re riding, as passing trees, flying bugs, and other hazards all put eyes at risk. This set of shades from 100% gives you tons of face coverage whilst still being plenty lightweight. Additionally, they come with durable, scratch-resistant lenses; a lightweight TR90 frame; and some grippy rubber nose and temple tips to keep them firmly in place. It’s no wonder, then, that these are the choice sunglasses of cycling pros like Peter Sagan.
Five Ten Hellcat Pro Mountain Bike Shoes
Five Ten’s flat pedal shoes are easily some of the best in the game, and these clipless-compatible Hellcat Pros are certainly no exception. In addition to a set of abrasion-resistant weldings, the upper also features up to 50% recycled material. Put another way, this is one shoe that’s as tough as it is sustainable. Riding on a grippy Stealth Marathon rubber outsole, the Hellcat Pro will keep your feet firmly planted no matter the conditions.
Giro Manifest Spherical Helmet
When you’re after a helmet that goes big on safety without breaking the bank, Giro’s Manifest is easily your best bet. Fitted with MIPS rotational protection and Spherical shell technology, it redirects impact energy by rotating the exterior construction independently from the interior liner. What’s more, Giro engineered the Manifest specifically for hot-weather riding, giving it some 19 vents, sweat-wicking padding, and a Roc Loc Trail Air Fit System.
Kitsbow Icon Shirt
Sure, Kitsbow’s riding apparel is undeniably an investment, but the added expense is more than worth it when you consider everything that you get. Crafted from Pendleton wool fabric and reinforced with Schoeller-shape shoulder and elbow patches, it’s tough against impacts and resistant to water to boot. Add to that a set of articulated shoulder vents and a comfortable motion-maximizing fit, and the result is a riding shirt that’s a true cut above the rest.
Ibis Ripmo V2
Ibis’ Ripmo offering is equally at capable as a singletrack sled or an all-mountain enduro machine. Relaxed and efficient, it’ll take you up and down mountains with ease thanks to its wide-ranging GX drivetrain. We especially like it for its DW-link Fox suspension, as it’s a super plush setup that allows it to be agile, stable, and incredibly balanced in its handling overall. While there’s no getting past the Ripmo’s expensive $6,000-plus asking price, it’s a truly all-purpose bike that’ll last you for years to come.
The Best Mountain Bike Trails in America
Now that you have a handle on all gear that’s required, it’s time to turn your attention to places you can ride. Head on over to our guide to the best mountain bike trails in America, where you’ll find a superior selection of singletrack destinations.