Mountain Bike Gear Essentials: What you need to get started

Find the mountain bike essentials you need to head out on the trails including clothes, tools, protective gear, and more.

Female mountain biker riding bike down rocky and sandy trail in California

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Like any sport, mountain biking requires some special gear and equipment to get started. The good news though, is you don’t need to spend a ton of money upfront if you’re just getting into the sport. A moisture-wicking t-shirt, some old sneakers, a decent helmet, and a bike are all you really need.

But if you know you’ll be spending a lot of time shredding singletrack and working on your skills, you might be looking for a more complete list of mountain bike gear to keep you safe and looking good out on the trails.

As someone who has ridden mountain bikes for years (and tried many different pieces of gear and products!), I’ve got you covered. Below is a list of the must-have mountain bike gear items for newer riders.

Of course, you can always add on to this list (mountain bikers tend to have a never-ending list of gear they either need or want and the distinction between the two is often quite blurred…) but these are the essentials.

Let’s go!

The Bike

Obviously, you need a mountain bike to go mountain biking, right? But what kind of bike do you need? Really anything that you can afford – whether it’s new or used. Any mountain bike is better than no mountain bike.

If you’re just starting out, don’t worry too much about specific bike components. You can upgrade later after you’ve decided that mountain biking is awesome and the only sport you ever want to do (which is the only logical decision that you’ll come to). 

If you’re looking for used bikes, PinkBike is the Craigslist of bikes and is a great place to start.

Here are two basic pointers to help you find your perfect first mountain bike:

  1. Make sure you chose the right size bike. This is really important. An ill-fitting bike is probably the worst mistake you can make when buying your first mountain bike. There are tons of resources online to help you choose your right size, so do the research beforehand.
  1. Opt for dual suspension (ie shocks in the front and in the rear) unless you’re really only going to be riding mellow, minimally technical trails. Dual suspension (aka full-suspension) will make your ride a lot smoother and allow you to ride a wider variety of trails as you progress in skills.

Protective Gear

I’m not going to lie, mountain biking can be a high-stakes sport. I’ve definitely had my fair share of bumps, cuts, bruises, and even stitches (thankfully no broken bones, yet…).

A helmet is the only absolutely necessary piece of protective gear (yes it is 100% necessary!), but there are other pieces of ‘body armor’ you can wear to keep your skin intact.

Here is a quick list of mountain bike gear to help prevent injuries. Below I also share a few of my current favorites as well as additional resources if you want to dive deeper.

  • A (good) helmet
  • Knee pads
  • Elbow pads
  • Sunglasses
  • Gloves
  • Body armor
  • Neck brace

My current favorite pieces of protective gear

Clothing & Footwear

When you’re first starting out, you don’t need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on mountain bike clothes and shoes. A quick-drying shirt, some athletic shorts, and a pair of sneakers will work fine – at first.

But as you start to fall in love with mountain biking (which you will!), you’ll probably want to look more the part.

Mountain bikers tend to fall into two camps when it comes to clothing choice:

  • The ones who wear baggy shorts and
  • The ones who wear spandex shorts

You’ll find out pretty quickly which crowd you want to stick with on the trails.

Anyway, here is a list of mountain bike clothing and footwear and a few blog posts to get you started on your mtb wardrobe:

  • Quick-drying jerseys (no cotton)
  • Mountain bike shorts (if you’re in the baggy crowd
  • Bike liners (aka chamois)
  • Tall(ish) socks
  • Sports bra for the ladies
  • Mountain bike shoes (flats or clipless)

My current favorite pieces of Clothing & Footwear

Tools & Accessories

The right tools and accessories are vital pieces of mountain bike gear. They can help you stay safe and also allow you to do your own bike repairs and maintenance.

This list can get long really fast (there are lots of bike tools out there and mountain bikers can always find a use for another accessory…) but I’m going to keep it short and list only the essential basics:

  • Multi-tool
  • Chain lube
  • Bike pump (preferably hand pump and floor pump)
  • Tire levers
  • Tubeless repair kit with plugs
  • Valve core tool
  • Hydration pack/hip pack

My current favorite Tools & Accessories

Final Thoughts

And that’s a wrap! Keep in mind that these are just the basic mountain bike gear items to help you get started. There are plenty more mountain bike tools, accessories, clothing, footwear, etc… to keep your head whirling for days.

But if you want to keep things simple (for now) focus on these basics to really get an idea of what styles of clothes you like, whether you’re going to ride flats or clipless pedals, how invested you want to get in bike repair and maintenance, etc… There’s a lot to consider, but I’m confident you’re on the right track.

Happy trails!


Are you new to mountain biking? Check out my other mountain biking 101 posts to help you feel confident on the trail:

What are your mountain bike gear essentials? Did I miss something that you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

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