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What Mountain Bike Clothing Do You Really Need?

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If you are getting into mountain biking, you likely have already your new bike and you’re ready to go, right? Not exactly.  Choosing the right mountain bike that is best for you is just the first step.

One of the questions I heard quite often is what clothing do you need to get into mountain biking.  And not just what is good to have, but what is really needed.

A bike helmet and protective eye glasses are the mountain bike clothing you absolutely need. Beyond that is a good idea but not nearly as critical to avoid injury.

Today we are going to look at what clothing you need to along with your bike.  If you have to put it on, it’s in this list.


bike helmet

Your helmet is the single most important piece of gear you need to bring with you.  It is often the only thing between a little bump and being in the hospital.  All it takes is an obstacle and you can go over the handlebars head-first.  Choosing the right helmet that is certified to US safety standards is so important in fact that I wrote an article devoted just to it.  There are many helmets that don’t meet the cut so make sure you read that article so that you pick one that can truly make sure your head stays safe.

A good quality helmet can reduce head injuries by nearly 40%.  Save yourself injury and pick up a quality helmet like this one on Amazon for under $40.

If you have the means, I suggest looking at many of the bike helmets that are under $100.  I put together a post on the best bike helmets and why they are superior helmets worthy of wearing on your head.  These helmets feature advanced MIPS safety ratings that far exceed Federal Safety Standards and are pretty much the best you can buy….but they are all under $100.

Glasses / Goggles

protective biking glasses

You’ll want to have either a set of glasses or goggles.  I say or because really which you choose is partially personal preference and partially environment.

Myself, I much prefer a set of protective glasses like these ones for around $20 for most riding.  They are light and I have no issue with them fogging up.

Now, if there is mud or winter slush or anything like that, I step up to full goggles.

You definitely need a good set of protection for your eyes because you are going to get hit in the head with limbs constantly.  Rocks are going to get kicked up by your fellow riders.   You only have one set of eyes, protect them well!


bike jersey

Having a good quality jersey isn’t 100% necessary but highly recommended.  A normal shirt that is made of say cotton will get saturated as you sweat while biking.  A bike jersey has wicking qualities which means it will breathe, wick water away from your skin, and quickly dry.  It means that you won’t be saturated from sweat and it helps you cool down so you don’t overheat.

You can get a good wicking bike jersey on Amazon for as little as $20 so it’s very feasible to pick up a few of them.

Biker Shorts

Biker shorts were some of the best things invented for mountain bikers. Why?  Biker shorts or riding shorts have built-in pads on the rear to help cushion the impact from the seat from the rough terrain.

Amazon has a pair for under $40 that work well or your local bike shop should have plenty of them.

Knee and Elbow Pads

At least when starting out, I do recommend getting knee pads and elbow pads.  A good set of pads protect your elbows and knees from abrasion and impact.

It’s pretty easy to hit your elbow on a tree limb or possibly a tree trunk when you’re cutting down a tight singletrack path.  Many riders, myself included, only tend to use pads when it’s on more technically tricky terrain and not so much on more leisure riding.

Riding Gloves

A good set of riding gloves undoubtedly has to be on top of your list.  It was actually the second item I bought coming right after getting a good quality helmet.

It may not seem obvious at first when you’re biking in good weather but here is a list of the reasons why you absolutely need a good set of gloves.

  • Sticks and branches will inevitably hit your knuckles and gloves protect your hands from all kinds of scrapes
  • Gloves can help you from getting blisters from gripping the handlebars.  If I don’t wear my gloves, the next day I have at least 4 blisters on each hand.
  • Riding gloves help you grip the handlebars.  Biking gloves are non-slip.  When you’re riding and your hands get sweaty, it’s easy for your hands to slip which means you are going down in short order.

For all that you get, riding gloves are typically well under $20.  These ones work great.


While it’s not so obvious at first thought, picking the right socks really can make a difference.

Don’t get me wrong.  You can wear regular athletic socks and they will work perfectly fine.  Your feet may be a bit wet from sweating but they’ll work.

For a few bucks, you can step up to moisture-wicking socks.  The reason you want socks like this is for the same reason as the jersey.  You want to wick moisture away from your feet and keep your feet dry.  Not only in warm weather but even in the winter wicking socks are key.

So avoid sweaty feet and possible athlete’s foot and get a few pairs of these socks.


While you can wear many different sneakers fine when biking, a good pair of riding shoes can make a big difference.  A good pair of shoes will stick to the pedals like glue when you’re riding and keep your feet from slipping when you’re really into it.  Five Ten makes Freerider shoes that are frankly amazing and almost worth their weight in gold.  You can score them on Amazon right here.

Choosing the right type of shoe for you and your riding style is more important than it seems at first glance.  Your shoes will keep your feet planted on the pedals.  If you have ever had a shoe slip off a pedal and scrape your shin on the pedal you know exactly what I am talking about.

Other Gear You Should Get

There are actually lots of things like bar ends and such that you can get to help with your bike riding. Some things are good when you are new to the sport, some are a good idea once you get some more experience and you don’t have to actively think about the rules of the trails.

I have other posts that go into more detail on the other basic gear that you’ll need as a beginner in my post on the 12 essential beginner bike gear and remember to bring your mountain biking kit with you at all times so you are prepared for a flat or getting hurt while out on the trails.

About the Author

Tony K

Senior Technical Writer,

Tony K is a technical editor at He has a focus on downhill bike riding but still loves xc bikes too.

With more than ten years of mountain biking experience and more than 5 years testing mountain bikes, Tony has ridden and tested hundreds of different bikes and products, everything from XC to enduro bikes. Tony regularly competes in mountain bike races while seeing how long those compontents can hold up which gives me a lot of insight.

When he isn't shredding down a mountain or camping out, he is writing reviews for Mountain Bike Experience.

Rides: Surly Lowside, Canyon Exceed