Mountain Biking: Essential Accessories

Mountain biking is a sport that involves riding a bike on off-road trails that present all nature of challenges.  Depending on an individual rider’s preference, a mountain bike ride can be anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.  Naturally, what classifies as “essential mountain biking accessories” depends on how long a rider intends to be riding for and the nature of the terrain involved.

For all mountain bike rides, the following accessories are the fundamental essentials and must be on hand at all times:

1. Mountain Bike

For obvious reasons, this is the most important item you will need for your ride.  Before heading out, make sure that your bike is appropriate for the trail you intend to ride.  Also check to see that your bike has been properly maintained to reduce the likelihood of running into problems while on the trail.  Adjust the bike settings to your person, for instance, seat height and position.

2. Helmet

This is the number one essential accessory that you must have on all rides.  Never ride without a helmet because the risk of serious head injuries, especially when riding off road, is very high.  Generally, the more challenging the terrain, the higher the chances of experiencing a crash or a fall off the bike.  During such events, you definitely do not want to be without a helmet.

There are different types of helmet for different riders.  Some helmets are specially made for off-road terrain, while others are specifically only for recreational biking.  Make sure you get the appropriate helmet with the appropriate fit for you head.

3. Gloves

Regardless of the weather, gloves will help to protect your hands during a ride.  It can offer a better grip on the handlebars when your hands are sweaty, reduce blisters and save your hands from scrapes and cuts if you happen to crash (an occurrence that can be quite often the less experienced you are and the more difficult the route).

4. Mountain Bike Clothes

Specially tailored mountain bike clothes will offer you a great deal more comfort than riding in normal clothes.  For instance, mountain bike clothes are often made from wicking materials that remove moisture from the skin and transfers it to the surface where it can be evaporated more quickly.  This helps to keep the rider cooler, drier and more comfortable.  Mountain bike clothes are also seamless which will prevent chaffing on your skin. 

Riding on rough terrain can be brutal to the behind and mountain bike shorts are often padded with chamois to help minimise chaffing and other discomforts your rear end will endure. 

If you are biking in cold or wet weather, there are special outdoor clothes that will provide thermal protection and a waterproof outer covering to keep you dry.

Specialised mountain bike clothes also come with reflective material to make it easier to spot a rider in low light.

5. Shoes

The type of shoes you require depends on the type of bike you have and the type of riding that you do.  For instance, if you have a bike with clipless pedals then you need to get shoes with a special cleat that allows your shoes to attach to the bike pedals.  Otherwise, it is important to get a pair of shoes that are durable, comfortable.  Shoes with stiff soles are also better for riding a bike because it increases pedal efficiency.

6. Eyewear

Protective eyewear helps to protect your eyes from the elements and nature.  They keep debris and wind out of your eyes that might otherwise force you to take your eyes off the trail.  Darkened lenses can also protect your eyes from the glare of sunlight if it is very bright. 

7. Hydration Pack

Water is always a must have for any ride to prevent hydration.  Remember, you should never exercise for more than thirty minutes without re-hydrating.  Keep in mind that you lose about a litre of water per hour of exercise.  You can carry your water in bottles, but generally a hydration pack is more convenient to access and to carry while on the move.

8. Trail Repair Kit

If anything happens to your bike during the ride, for instance, a flat tyre, you will be stranded.  Always make sure you bring the following in your trail repair kit:

- Tyre pump: something like the Xefal HP X pump is good.  You can get away with a mini-pump on mountain bikes since they don't need such high pressure, but it may be a better idea to get something better.  If you’re lazy about pumping, a CO2 inflator offers convenience and speed.  It has an inflator body and a canister of compressed CO2, which, when hooked up to your tyre, will inflate it in about 2 seconds.

- Tyre levers: these are used to pry the tyre off the rim (if it is too tight to remove by hand) and are usually used to repair a puncture.  Plastic ones are recommended over metal ones because they won’t damage your rim. 

- Two inner tubes: these are to replace the rubber tubes inside the tyre in the event of puncture.  This is so you don’t have to patch your tubes on the trail.

- Patch kit: in the event that you have used both spare inner tubes and suffer another puncture, you’re going to need this.  There are two types of patch kits you can get – a traditional one with rubber patches and glue, or the glueless kind, like Park Super Patch. 

- Chain splitter: this is used to push out the pin in between the links in the bike chain.  It is required if you break the chain and need to replace the damaged links.

- Spare chain links: to replace the broken links in the bike chain.

- Duct tape or large zip ties: can be used as a temporary measure to secure parts that have broken off long enough to get you back to civilisation. 

- Folding Allen wrench and screwdriver set: these are for the bolts on your bike and for adjusting your derailleurs.  These days, most modern bike bolts have heads that will accept Allen keys.  Make sure you have a 3mm, 4mm, 5mm and 6mm keys – these should cover most bolts on your bike.  If you own an older bike, make sure you have the necessary tools to cover the nuts and bolts that you’ll need to adjust on your bike.

- Spoke adjuster: these are just mini wrenches that turn the spoke nipples on your mountain bike.  You can use it to straighten a slightly bent wheel after a hard impact.

- Shock pump: a high pressure (low volume) pump that is used to pump up an air sprung shock absorber.  Normal tyre pumps don’t work because they cannot reach the high pressures required.  Likewise, you cannot use a shock pump on the tyre because it will take you forever to get enough air into the tyre to get moving again.

9. First Aid Kit

Mountain biking is a harsh sport and injuries are common.  It is important to always have a first aid kit on hand to deal with potential injuries.  What you should have in your first aid kit:

- A pair of latex gloves: in the event you have to touch open wounds.

- Band Aids: for covering small cuts and scrapes.

- Four inch sterile gauze bandages: for larger cuts and bloody noses.

- One roll of cloth adhesive tape: for taping bandages, and minor splinting, e.g. broken fingers.

- Cotton roll sterile dressing: for holding bandages on the bigger lacerations and abrasions and to put direct pressure on wounds to stop the bleeding.

- One pair of blunt scissors: for cutting bandages, and removing clothing if needed.

- Saline tubes: for cleaning wounds.

- Tweezers: for removing splinters.

- Cold packs: for bumps and sprains.

- One tube of antiseptic ointment: for cleaning minor cuts.

- Cotton swabs to get particles out of the eye, ear and to apply ointment.

- Plastic Zip-Lock bags: cleaning up after wound management or for storing lost body parts, e.g. fingers, a tooth, etc.

- Disinfectant wipes: for cleaning hands.

- Benadryl: reduces swelling, e.g. bug bites and allergic reactions.

- Flashlight: for those night rides.

- Reflective rescue blanket: used for keep warm or cool in the event that you do get stranded.  Also makes it easier for rescuers to find you.

10. Mobile Phone

Mobile phone coverage is generally pretty good these days.  Even when you’re out in the bush, you can usually get sufficient coverage in the event that you need to call for help.

11. Food

If you’re going to be riding for a while, it’s good to pack some food along.  Energy bars (like Powerbars or Powergels) are great for keeping your pack light and giving you that extra burst of energy you might need during the ride.

Mountain biking is an endurance sport that requires careful planning before heading out onto the trail.  It is important that you bring along the minimum essentials listed above to help you manage any emergencies you might come across.

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