Mountain Biking Apparel: Everything You Need to Know

There are several factors that determine what you wear to go mountain biking. You should consider;  

  • Comfort  
  • Protection  
  • Weather conditions 
  • Personal style 

Typically, trail riders and riders that ride downhill opt for baggy, loose-fitting shorts with a pair of Lycra shorts underneath and a loose-fitting jersey. On the other hand, a cross-country rider is more likely to opt for full Lycra.  

Factors to Consider for Mountain Biking Apparel 

Below, we’ll take a look at a couple of the factors that should be considered when purchasing mountain biking apparel.  


If you are just getting started, the best clothing to wear when mountain biking is what you already have – but if you ride often, chances are you’ll want to get clothing that is designed for the demands of mountain biking. 

Of course, the ultimate decision of what to wear is up to you. Always wear what you are comfortable in. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t be able to enjoy your ride.  

Weather Conditions  

The weather conditions of the area you are planning to ride in have an effect on your choice of biker apparel. When the weather is warm and dry, you won’t need as much protection as you do when it’s cold and wet.  

You might also want to consider the demands of the trails. If you’re headed on a mountainous adventure, you’ll need more protective gear.  

Mountain Biking Apparel  

No matter when or where you plan to be mountain biking, you are going to need some biking-specific apparel. You can’t enjoy riding on a mountain trail in jeans and a t-shirt. 


Mountain Bike Helmet
Mountain Bike Helmet

One of the essential pieces of mountain biking apparel is a helmet.  

You are much more likely to slip, crash, or bump into a tree or rock than those who mostly ride on the road or those that use their bike to commute. Therefore, head protection is critical. 

Helmets that are specifically made for mountain biking have a peak, which is effective for deflecting low-hanging branches and keeping the sun and wind out of the rider’s face.  

Additionally, they sit lower on the back and sides of the head for better protection. 

A full-face helmet is typically worn by bikers who ride through bike parks, downhill/enduro racing, and general downhill riding. Some of these helmets have a neck brace attached so that your head doesn’t get thrown back in case of a crash. Of course, this is more likely to happen to those that do big drops/jumps.  

MIPS technology is becoming more common in helmets for mountain biking. There is a slip-plane inside the helmet that is designed to lower the rotational force on the brain, which may be experienced in certain crashes.  

Check out how to choose a bike helmet here.


Glasses/goggles are critical for ensuring that your eyes are protected from debris that happens to be thrown up by your front wheel or sun glare. Consider a pair of glasses with swap-out lens options. This way, you get multiple pairs of glasses for the price of one.  

Clear lenses are good for riding when it’s dark or there is very low light. On the other hand, tinted lenses increase contrast and reduce glare.  

Trail riders will usually wear glasses unless the weather is grim and muddy. If visibility is low, they will wear goggles because they provide sealed protection with a wide range of vision.  

Most of the time, goggles are paired with full-faced helmets, but they can also be worn with regular helmets. Since goggles are secure, most downhill riders wear them instead of glasses.  


Mountain biking jerseys are typically loose and come in three sleeve options: short, long, or three-quarter.  

Short sleeves keep you cool during the warmer months, but a long-sleeve jersey offers more protection for your arms. Some of the long-sleeve options have mesh panels, which improves airflow.   

Cross-country bikers usually wear Lycra jerseys, which are similar to those worn by bikers who mostly ride on the pavement. However, the cross-country jerseys have pockets that are great for holding tools, spare tubes, and snacks.  

Shorts, Liner Shorts, and Baggy Shorts 

Since mountain biking typically takes place on rough terrain, padded shorts are a great idea. Bib shorts with a chamois pad are great to wear alone or as an underlayer with a pair of baggy shorts over them. 

You can also find padded shorts that are made of lightweight mesh. These are made to be used as liners under baggy shorts.  

Typical baggy mountain bike shorts are knee-length and made from a stretchy material or a tear-resistant fabric with stretch panels to allow the shorts to move with the rider.  

Check out why you should have a set of MTB shorts.

Knee Pads and Other Protection 

Most mountain bike riders will at least wear knee pads, especially when riding on a trail with a greater likelihood of crashing.  

These days, you can find lightweight options that allow you to pedal comfortably and protect your knees in the event of a crash.  

For racing, riders will usually also wear other protection such as elbow pads and back protection.  

See out top picks for knee pads here.


Mountain Bike Gloves
Mountain Bike Gloves

Most mountain bikers prefer full-finger gloves, as they offer more protection than the fingerless variety.  

Full-fingered gloves protect your hands in the event there is a lot of undergrowth that you are riding through or a crash. Some of them even have padding on the palm, which provides you with an additional layer of cushion.  

Enduro riders wear gloves that have extra protection on the back of their hands because of their greater likelihood to crash. There’s usually something on the palm of the gloves that will provide extra traction on the handlebars.  

Gloves should have thoughtfully placed grippers so that you are still in control of brakes and shifters. Additionally, full-fingered gloves provide you with windproofing and insulation when the colder weather comes in.  

Of course, there is a wide variety of gloves on the market, from the heavy, insulated options for cold weather to the lighter options for summer riding. You might want to consider getting a couple of pairs to keep your hands safe when you ride in any condition.  

See here for the best MTB gloves.


Socks are a necessity to protect your shins/calves from getting cuts and scratches from undergrowth or the pedals. They’re also a great way to showcase your own personal style.  

Waterproof socks are the best option for riders who typically ride in wet conditions because they keep your feet warm and fairly dry. If you’re riding in the summer and want to be cooler, you’ll want to have a pair of lightweight, breathable socks.  

If you’re using slimline shoes, you can put a waterproof shoe cover on over your shoes for additional protection against the elements.  


When you are mountain biking, contact points matter. The interface between your shoe and the pedal is very important. When riding on rough terrain, you need to be able to feel secure and pedal through tough climbs. 

When it comes to riding shoes, there are two kinds:  

  • Clipless pedals  
  • Flat pedals  

Clipless Pedals  

Most trail riders prefer to be clipped in, like a cyclist that rides on roads, with a device that connects the shoe to the pedal.  

Clipless shoes look similar to road cycling shoes but have a recessed cleat and chunky tread, which allows the rider to walk normally.  For enduro and downhill riders you can get shoes that look like skate shoes with a recessed cleat.

Flat Pedals  

Mountain Bike Flat Shoes
Mountain Bike Flat Shoes

On the other hand, some riders prefer “flat” shoes/pedals. The pedals have a textured surface and pins that project up to grip the shoes.  

Flat pedal shoes look more like trainers or skate shoes and are lace-up. They usually have an elastic band to tuck laces into. They also have a tread pattern on the sole that works with the pins on the pedal.  


If you have the right apparel, you can participate in mountain biking all year long. 

If the weather starts looking bad, a jacket can help keep you protected. However, since there are lots of different possible weather conditions, there are also lots of different possible jackets on the market.  

The main options for mountain biking jackets are:  

  • Lightweight shell 
  • Hybrid 
  • Waterproof  

Lightweight jackets are typically made of water-resistant material that provides some protection against wind and rain and are breathable. Lightweight jackets are typically easy to stow so that you can take them off when conditions are nice and get them back out if it looks like bad weather is looming.  

Hybrid jackets are the best of both worlds. They combine breathability with warmth and water repellency. They are typically made from padded fabric or softshell for added stretch/warmth. Hybrid jackets are not as easy to stow as lightweight jackets are, but you should still be able to get one into your pack.  

A waterproof jacket does just that – it keeps you from getting wet in the event of a rainstorm. Waterproof jackets designed for mountain biking have a looser fit than waterproof cycling jackets.  

Typically, there are pockets for stashing your snacks and essentials. Also, they have vents that will help you stay cool when you’re climbing a difficult hill.  

Waterproof Trousers 

If you live somewhere that has an inclement climate but still enjoy riding all year long, you need a pair of waterproof trousers. A good pair of riding trousers keeps you dry, and when the temperature drops, they also provide warmth.  

Waterproof trousers are usually made of hardshell fabric. They are a lot like trousers used for hiking and provide you with protection from the rain, but they are not breathable.  

Water-resistant trousers, on the other hand, are made from a softshell fabric. They fit much better and are more durable. They are treated with durable water repellant so that they shed rain. 

When it comes to trousers, you want them to fit tight enough that the material doesn’t flap around or get in the way, but also have enough room that you’re not restricted in any way.  

An articulated cut can help with the movement. Extras such as velcro tabs on the ankles provide a closer fit.   


When it comes to mountain biking apparel, the most important factor is that you are comfortable. If you’re just getting started with mountain biking, you might want to ride in what you have.  

However, if you do plan to start participating in mountain biking more often than just once in a while, then you’ll want to get yourself the proper mountain biking apparel.  

In this article, we have provided you with 10 of the necessities when it comes to mountain biking apparel. Consider purchasing at least some of it so that you’re protected.