If the sight of riders bombing down trails has you dreaming of getting off-road, here’s help to get you rolling
There are infinite options when it comes to bikes – riders are always tweaking their bikes to suit their individual tastes and needs. Keep in mind that the essential thing is to just get a bike and ride. As long as you're having fun, you’ll learn what you need through experience.
Lightweight bikes, with either hardtail (rigid frame and front shocks) or dual suspension, designed for speed and high-performance. They are suited for racing off-road, speeding through singletrack, and / or covering long distances off-road.
A mix of cross-country lightweight performance and freeride strength, these midweight bikes are either hardtail or dual suspension for smooth rides over rugged cross-country terrain. Ideally suited for long distance rides in rugged cross-country terrain.
Heavier and sturdier than all-mountain, freeride bikes are either hardtail or dual suspension and are designed to cover distance and take the abuse of drops and stunts on the trails. They are good for riders who require a lot of suspension for going downhill but still need a bike they can pedal uphill.
The heaviest and sturdiest of mountain bikes, downhill bikes are dual-suspension machines designed to endure the punishment of fast downhill trails and all the obstacles in the way. Used for downhill racing or a day at the mountain bike park – these bikes are not uphill friendly.
Whether you go for the standard mountain-bike-style helmet with lots of vents, a multi-sport helmet, or a full-face jaw-protecting motorcycle-style helmet, for obvious safety reasons your helmet MUST fit properly. Read our article on Cycling Helmets to find out how to fit ’em.
There’s a good chance that you'll get a flat and it won’t be close to the trailhead. A small mini-pump is fine for mountain bike tires. Your tool kit should include a patch kit, tire levers, a multi-tool, and at least one spare tube. A chain tool is also good to have. You should also know how to do basic repairs.
To carry these necessities, a hydration pack with enough room for snacks or even your lunch and some tools is a good option. You can also use water bottles (you’ll need a water bottle cage) and carry food in your jersey or an under-seat pack.
Full-fingered or fingerless gloves with good padding will keep your hands from going numb and getting blisters, cuts, and scrapes. They're also good for nose wiping!
Always carry at least the basics for treating scrapes and cuts. If you intend on going into the backcountry, consider taking a Wilderness First Aid Course.
If you have a cellphone or any other device that can call help in emergencies, it’s a smart thing to bring along. Keep in mind, however, that your cellphone may not work out on the trails.
You can get arm and leg pads to protect your elbows, arms, knees, and legs in case of wipeout. If you are intending to go freeriding or downhilling, full-body armour is available.
You can choose to ride clipped in or with flat pedals. Flat pedals allow you to get away from your pedals in a crash. Clipless pedals give you more pedaling power during uphill climbs and help you keep your feet on the pedals. To learn more, read Clipless Bike Pedals.
Clothes made especially for mountain biking are built to withstand abuse and wipeouts – they are made with abrasion-resistant fabric and have a more relaxed fit to accommodate armour. You can get mountain biking jerseys, pants, shorts, skirts, and jackets.
If you’re planning on trail riding at night, you’ll need a 10- to 20-watt high-powered rechargeable light system. Read about Cycling Lights and Visibility.
If you intend on letting your mountain bike out of your sight, especially when you’re riding in the city, you’ll need a lock. If you’ve invested a lot of money into your bike, buy a premium u-lock and back it up with an insurance policy.
Consider using a combination of cable and u-lock – it’s pretty easy for thieves to pull off an unlocked wheel and wheels are expensive to replace. Read our article for tips on Locking Your Bike.
Shatter-proof glasses are great for keeping flying debris and overhanging foliage out of your eyes.
If you're new to mountain biking, go to your local store and check out local guidebooks and maps. Talk to the staff – many are pretty experienced riders and will be happy give you info. They might also know about local mountain biking groups.
Some first-timer tips:
Respect others on the trails
Respect the trails