What you should definitely consider when mountain biking and what MTB equipment you definitely need, we explain in our ultimate guide for beginners.
Get out and enjoy nature. Take a ride with your friends through the forest. Get your blood pumping on the way up and feel the rush of adrenaline as you race downhill. Mountain biking is one of the greatest outdoor sports. It’s no wonder that sales figures have gone through the roof in recent years, and not just because more and more electric mountain bikes have been introduced to the market. But before you hop on your bike, you should gear yourself up with the right accessories, not only for greater safety and comfort but also for a lot more fun on the road. This guide covers the most important tips for putting together your set of perfect MTB equipment.
Sure, mountain biking is a lot of fun, but bruises are hard to avoid entirely. With the right protection, though, you can significantly reduce potential for injury. “Wearing a helmet has saved my life several times,” says Mike Kluge, who won three world championship titles during his professional career as a cyclist. So, without any ifs, ands or buts, wear an MTB helmet every time you ride your mountain bike. Your helmet should fit tightly without being uncomfortable. The side straps should be positioned right below the ears and the chin straps should be buckled so that only two fingers fit between your chin and the strap. Be sure to try the helmet on before you buy it. A number of lab tests carried out over the past few years have found that all of the bike helmets currently on the market meet the high safety standards for mountain bikers, making it all the more important that your helmet fits comfortably. After all, you’re going to be wearing it on every ride.
Protecting your eyes is as important as protecting your head. And not just from glare, but also from falls, insects, dust and small stones. When it comes to cycling glasses, there are a lot of options on the market, like frameless models and glasses with plastic frames. The latter usually fit a little tighter, which provides better wind protection but also restricts your field of vision. Glasses with photochromic lenses offer an all-round solution for every lighting condition. Glasses with lenses that you can switch out are usually a little less expensive. Mountain bikers usually spend a lot of time cycling in the woods, so you should be able to get by with lenses that provide slightly enhanced contrast. Dark or clear glasses are recommended for sunny summer days or night rides. Mike Kluge recommends not to using your shirt to wipe your glasses during a ride if you want to be able to use them for a while. “Accumulated dust on the lenses has the same effect as sandpaper,” he says. Instead, try cleaning your cycling glasses at home with a drop of dishwashing liquid and rinsing them with clean water. If you absolutely need to clean your glasses on the go, use a microfiber cloth or a plain wet wipe.
It’s more than just a matter of style – you should only use short finger cycling gloves on a road bike. Mountain bikers should definitely wear long finger gloves because they offer better protection, particularly on trails where you might encounter the occasional thorn branch. Because they are made from high-tech fibers, long finger gloves are comfortable to wear even on hot days. The MTB accessory market offers a wide variety of different models. Companies specializing in cycling gloves like Roeckl often add smart details, especially when it comes to ergonomics. Brands like Ergon have recently been placing their focus on comfort. Thanks to gel padding, numb and aching hands are a thing of the past, but only in combination with an ergonomic and perfectly adjusted grip.
The right MTB grips ensure that your hands form a straight line with your arms when biking and help you avoid bending at the wrist. “It’s also important that both brake levers are properly adjusted,” says former pro cyclist Mike Kluge. Brake levers are often installed too far out. “You should place your index finger in the hollow of the brake lever,” Mike Kluge recommends. That way you can make sure the other four fingers remain on the grips, which will give you full control of the bike, increase safety and make your ride more fun!
“How can you ride on that?” people often ask when they see an MTB saddle. But it’s essential that a mountain bike saddle isn’t as soft and comfortable as your sofa.
A thin layer of gel or foam padding is all you need because your sit bones adapt quickly to the additional pressure from cycling. But they won’t adapt to a saddle that just isn’t just right. That’s why pioneering brands like Specialized, Ergon and Sqlab offer different saddle widths. “You should definitely have your sit bones measured before you buy a saddle,” recommends world champion Mike Kluge. Saddle width, which is essential when it comes to riding well and staying comfortable, is measured based on the width of your sit bones. Uncomfortable pressure in the sensitive perineal area can only be minimized if your sit bones are bearing the brunt of the load. There are tons of models to choose from on the MTB equipment market. Just like with a helmet, as soon as you know your saddle width you need to try out different models. You also need to make sure you get the adjustment right. “The nose of the saddle should be aligned horizontally,” says Mike Kluge. If it is tilted downward, the rider’s hip will slide to the front of the saddle with too much pressure resting on the hands. On the other hand, if your saddle is angled up, it can cause numbness.
Professional cyclists like Mike Kluge swear by clipless pedals. “Smooth pedaling, secure attachment to the pedal and added power transfer during the pull phase of a pedal stroke,” says Mike Kluge, listing some of the advantages of clipless pedals. Not too long ago, most touring cyclists actually wore clipless pedals with clipless cycling shoes on the road. The shoes are usually very lightweight with a stiffer sole and dynamic design. More and more mountain bikers, however, are opting for flat pedals. Downhill riders and freeriders are not the only ones who appreciate having the freedom to put their foot down quickly when needed. Any MTB rider will benefit from the increased safety and security, particularly when it comes to more difficult trail rides. Another advantage of flat pedals is that your feet automatically find their natural position on the pedals. When you use clipless pedals, on the other hand, your feet are firmly fixed in place, which is why you need to make sure they are precisely adjusted in order to prevent knee problems. Flat pedals and matching comfortable and robust shoes, like those manufactured by cult brand Five Ten, are the better choice for beginners.
Cycling shorts are the most important piece of clothing for mountain bikers. A tight fit with high quality padding is essential and most men tend to choose bib shorts with straps. Many women, on the other hand, appreciate the benefits of strapless shorts. For long tours, we recommend using a high-quality anti-friction balm, like the one made by Linola, to prevent sore and painful skin. Cycling shorts are worn directly on the skin and, together with breathable undershirts, form the base layer of the cycling outfit. We recommend wearing several layers on top. Casual baggy pants and a loose-fitting jersey create the perfect look for touring riders, while more sports-minded bikers tend to prefer a tight-fitting racing style. Arm and leg warmers, wind-proof vests, rain jackets and long-sleeved jerseys provide additional comfort in all weather conditions from spring to fall.
Minimalists and lightweight enthusiasts often have bottle holders mounted to their bikes or ride with a small hip bag at most. But for everyone else, there’s really no better way than a bike pack. Packs with a volume of 15 to 20 liters are perfect for day tours. These will easily fit your mini pump, suspension pump, mini tool, spare tube, tire levers, phone, some change, energy bars, a rain jacket and a first-aid kit as well as your hydration pack for long tours on hot days. Former MTB pro Mike Kluge recommends a bike pack with an integrated protector for the back like the ones designed by bike pack specialists Deuter or Evoc. “These basically solve two problems at once – you always have everything with you and you’re perfectly protected in case of a fall.” Speaking of protection, mountain bikers who like to ride technically challenging trails and test their limits should also keep a pair of knee pads in their packs – and take them out when needed. Only mountain bikers who ride extreme terrain or in a bike park need full body protection.
Since the advent of smartphones, a number of manufacturers have introduced handlebar mounts, but we recommend keeping your phone in your pack when biking. It’s not just that GPS drains the battery, you also wouldn’t want your expensive new iPhone smashed in a fall. Dedicated GPS devices (like those made by Garmin) are the better choice for your handlebars. Fasten the holder of your GPS with a safety line or cable tie for additional protection, so you don’t lose it if you fall or when you’re riding a bumpy track. Devices like CEECOACH PLUS by peiker CEE provide an even more convenient communication option during a ride. Up to 16 bikers can use it to stay in contact – whether your group gets separated riding up or downhill, someone rides ahead to check the road or you need to get or give coaching before a particularly tricky part of the route. Every rider is connected via a secure network and, thanks to CEE intercom technology, there’s no need to rely on mobile networks or WiFi.
Even the best rides have to come to an end. “Invest five minutes of your time when you get back home,” advises former MTB pro Mike Kluge. Five minutes that really make a difference. Quickly spray off any damp dirt, remove coarse dirt from the chain and the shifting rollers, oil them and leave the oil to soak in overnight. This guarantees that your mountain bike will be ready for your next ride. Your bicycle shop stocks countless MTB maintenance products including brands like Tunap and Muc-Off. “If you regularly use these products on your bike, you’ll not only have more fun riding it, you’ll also maintain its value,” Mike Kluge says.
The MTB accessories market has become vast and complex with an overwhelming number of options. That’s why it’s a good idea try out bikes and bike accessories at one of the many events that offer testing options. Even more importantly, these events are places for like-minded cycling enthusiasts to meet and talk, ride together, hang out and have a good time. Isn’t that exactly what makes mountain biking one of the greatest outdoor sports in the first place?