Adrenaline pumping, wind in your face, cheeks hurting from smiling. These are common things you may experience while riding a mountain bike down your favorite local trail.
But what things can you bring on your trail ride that will make the experience even better? There are a few mountain bike essentials we like to bring with us on every trail ride. Read on to find out!
The MOST important thing. Seriously, never ride a bike without one.
Helmets can and will literally save your life, and the technology has come a long way in recent years. They used to protect solely from skull fractures, but companies have progressed to allow for protection from concussions as well. MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) technology is a great example that is widely used among cycling brands and protects from rotational motion (your brain moving within your skull when you crash).
Helmet fit is also imperative, and heads come in all shapes and sizes. We recommend trying some on to see which one sits the most comfortably on your head. A good way to tell if a helmet fits you well is the forehead skin test. When the helmet is tightened down on your head, it should pull the skin on your forehead up without moving or slipping from its position on your head, and without causing any head pain.
You need your hands to hold onto your bike and to brake, so you want to make sure they’re comfortable!
Is it hot out? Find yourself a pair of gloves that are made of thin fabric and breathe well. Wearing them will keep your sweaty palms from slipping off the handlebar grips.
Is it a cold day? Wear some gloves that are made of a thicker material to keep your hands warm. Cold wind on your hands, while you’re riding down, can cause them to go numb quickly. This can make bike handling and braking difficult, and be painful!
It’s also important to find gloves that fit you well. Too much extra fabric in the palm can lead to rubbing and blisters. If they’re too small, you may lose some range of motion in your fingers and hands and be uncomfortable. Again, we recommend trying a few pairs on to find the ones right for you. Check out Dakine and Troy Lee.
Whether you prefer a hip pack, a backpack, or just a plain old bottle cage, find a way to carry water! Dehydration creeps up quickly when you’re pedaling hard on a hot day. Drinking plenty of water will help keep muscle cramps at bay and you’ll feel better overall.
Pro tip: Add electrolyte supplements to your water if you know you’ll be riding for a while. Nuun and Skratch are some of our favorites and they’ll help replace the sodium, potassium, etc. you lost while sweating.
If you’re going for a shorter ride, you’re probably fine to head out without a snack. But if you know you’ll be riding for a while (especially if it’s hot), remember to bring some blocks, bars, etc. to keep your energy up. The ‘bonk’ (feeling tired, grumpy, like you can’t possibly pedal another foot farther) can creep up quick if you don’t eat enough!
Pro tip: Eat even when you’re not hungry. This will keep your blood sugar up so you can avoid the hunger crash that leads to bonking. We LOVE Clif Bar Shot Blocks and the little maple syrup packets from Untapped to keep us going on long days.
You got a flat tire! Your brake lever is loose! Your seat is uncomfortably low!
If any of these happen to you, you’ll want a small collection of tools to help. A pair of bike tire levers, a spare tube, a pump, and a bike multitool will go a long way for when trailside fixes are necessary. Check out what Park Tool and Crank Brothers have to offer.
But what will you keep all your snacks and tools in? A pack! There are a few options out there:
A backpack. Traditional backpacks offer more room to carry all your mountain bike essentials, and some bike-specific models include a back protector for added injury protection. However, full backpacks can get heavy. If the fit isn’t right, it can put pressure onto your lower back which isn’t ideal for longer rides.
A fanny (hip or lumbar) pack. Hip packs have grown in popularity throughout the last few years. You can’t carry as much in them compared to a traditional backpack, but a few models have fanny pack-specific water bladders and/or external water bottle holders so you can take more water with you than what you can carry in your bottle cage. They also don’t put as much pressure on your shoulders and lower back which some folks prefer to reduce lower back pain.
Feel like you don’t need a pack at all to carry your things? Several companies make straps that allow you to strap your tools, tube, etc. directly to your frame.
But what else is essential for a good mountain bike ride?
Leave No Trace
As with every outdoor activity, we need to do our best to practice Leave No Trace. This can be done in several ways from a mountain bike perspective:
- Check the trail conditions before you head out. In Vermont, it’s a safe bet not to ride after a lot of rain to prevent trail erosion (read: don’t ride during mud season basically ever).
- Don’t trail braid, i.e. take shortcuts on the trail. It may be tempting to slip through the woods when you can see the next switchback right there, but cutting corners like that is harmful to the ecosystems trails are built on and trail sustainability.
- Don’t litter! Pick up your trash!
- If you bring your dog and he/she poops, pick it up.
Overall, be respectful. Oftentimes trails are on private land whose owners are kind enough to allow the public to recreate on it. If we all do our part to keep the trails clean and happy, we can continue to maintain good relationships with private landowners and municipalities who enable us to ride.
Pro tip: If you want to learn more about mountain bike advocacy, visit the Vermont Mountain Bike Association website and read about all their associated chapters. We have been a VMBA sponsor for years and are grateful for their work.
Each rider will bring their own version of these essentials, so shop around for what you like the best! Have additional questions? Give us a call at 888 547 4327 and one of our skilled bike mechanics or sales staff will be happy to chat with you. See you on the trail!