After you’ve been cycling for a number of years through busy cities, around scenic countryside and along river trails, you’re probably starting to find that you’re quite adept at the skill. Most people can ride a bike, but to really push it and feel the true benefit of the workout, your fitness levels need to impressive, and you’ll need a lot of strength to handle some of the tougher terrain. If you’re ready to start embracing bigger challenges, you might want to improve your skills and have more fun by trying out mountain biking.
Mountain biking is no doubt difficult to learn and master. It means you’ll be tackling some extremely rugged terrain and facing obstacles such as trees, mud tracks and possibly the odd jump. Needless to say, it’s also a little more dangerous than the more simple style of riding you can enjoy with your family. But as long as you take safety seriously and don’t try to advance to the most difficult trails too quickly, mountain biking will prove to be a rewarding and entertaining hobby, and you’ll increase your fitness levels even further by pushing your body and talents to the limit.
To make sure mountain biking is as safe and comfortable as possible, you’ll need cycling clothing that’s been designed especially for this particular biking discipline. Below, you’ll find a guide to some of the most essential clothing that will improve your riding skill and prepare you for a great biking adventure.
Cycling shoes are designed to be more efficient and comfortable than other types of sport shoe. They feature a dent-like cleat on the soul that clips on to the pedal so that you can achieve a more fluid pedal stroke that requires a little less strength than normal shoes. This means you can bike faster and for longer.
In addition, the soul is less flexible and thinner than other types of shoe in order to be lightweight and make it easy to push the peddles down. There’s also a range of buckles and straps that prevent your feet from slipping and keep your ride comfortable.
Mountain bike shoes are a little different to standard bike shoes mainly so they can provide sufficient resistance to more demanding terrain and a range of weather conditions. They’re usually made from materials such as synthetic leather that keep mud and rain from entering your shoes, and the soul is thicker with attached lugs and grips so you’ll be able to dismount your bike in the most testing conditions without ruining your shoes or hurting your feet.
A few things to consider before making a purchase:
- Fastening system: Velcro, ratchet or BOA
- Winter or summer riding: you’ll need fully-waterproof shoes for winter riding but might consider a more lightweight option for summer riding
- Sole flexibility: the most expensive shoes often use carbon-fibre souls to promote efficient power transfer.
- Your budget: needless to say, you’ll need to work out a budget and find the shoes most suitable for you that lie within your price range.
Mountain Bike Shorts
Standard bike shorts for road or use with easy terrain tend to be made of spandex, and they’re usually very tight fitting to promote freedom of movement in your legs and muscles. They provide a sufficient level of wind block while allowing your skin to breathe, and they’re usually waterproof to protect you against the elements.
As mountain biking tends to be a little more testing in terms of obstacles and terrain, you might want to look at slightly baggier shorts so that you can still comfortably wear knee pads.
If cross-country biking at high speeds is your thing, you might still be better off wearing the skin tight bike shorts that make you the most streamlined and aerodynamic. You could also carry a spare pair of baggier shorts for when you want to take a break.
When it comes to downhill biking, you’ll likely experience a few tumbles that mean you’ll require durability and enough space to securely fasten knee pads. This is where the baggier style is a better option, and you’ll want to make sure they’re long enough to cover your knees and most of your legs to keep you comfortable when mud and dirt is flying up at you.
Mountain bike gloves need to be tough and durable, as they’re designed to take some of the pressure that your hands would otherwise have to deal with. They should give you decent grip when tackling tough terrain, as well as absorb some of the shock placed on your handlebars as you as you ride over testing trails.
If you’re a cross-country rider, you might find fingerless mitts to provide the most comfort, but downhill trekkers should buy hard-wearing, full hand gloves that provide the most protection.
A few things to consider before making a purchase:
- The weather conditions your gloves need to protect you against
- Your specific type of mountain biking
- The size
- Level of padding
While other items of clothing are all designed with safety in mind to a certain extent, they’re mainly concerned with providing you with comfort and the ability to optimise your performance. If you’re going to take on the challenge of mountain biking over rough terrain, you’ll need to wear a bike helmet and ideally, knee and elbow pads as well.
There’s a wide range of products available, and it’s best to decide on a budget before heading to the shops. You’ll need to purchase the correct size, decide on the level of padding and whether you want to sacrifice safety for lighter weight equipment, and you’ll need to make sure they’re durable as to stand the test of time.
Mountain biking is a great way to fine-tune your skills and improve your fitness, not to mention it’s a lot of fun. As long as you buy the necessary gear and take safety seriously, it’s a rewarding hobby that you’ll never get bored of.