Choosing the Right Clothing

Choosing the proper clothing for a mountain bike ride can often prove to be frustrating. It sounds easy enough, yet, many people find that dressing for a mountain bike ride is extremely difficult, especially when the weather is misbehaving. One minute you may be riding through gale-force winds, meanwhile the valley and single track below remains warm, calm and humid. And just when you thought the ride is wonderfully dry, there lurks a mud stew behind the next corner. Choosing the right clothing can mean the difference between having a great day in the woods, or a day of misery and discomfort.

Riders, who have learned the hard way, know it is always better to be slightly chilled immediately prior to a ride. The temptation for some is to rush back to the car for more clothing. This isn't wise because it usually results in over-stuffed backpacks or clothing tied around your body once the ride is underway and you start perspiring. The early minutes of a ride are often cool, especially in the spring and fall, or in the early morning. Try to endure the minor chills at the start of a ride. This does not mean that one should try to induce pneumonia; rather, try to overcome the minor discomfort as your body adjusts to different temperatures. People will obviously be able to differentiate between cool and dangerously cold weather. Once the body starts to work, it is not long before you have more heat than you need. Dress lighter, rather than heavier, and always dress in layers. Layering draws sweat away from the body and bars against outside elements. You may also want to carry a thin wind/rain-shell in a waist-pouch if you are worried about the cold.

Try to stay away from cotton-based clothing as it usually tends to trap moisture. Look for synthetic-based fabrics such as polyesters that are able to breathe. Clothing made of Neoprene, Gore-tex or Cool-Max provide excellent insulation, but can be costly. Dressing in layers with items you already own may work just as well as name brand outfits.

Proper fitting cycling shorts are important. Most shorts come with a chamois or an antibacterial pad to help prevent skin irritation and infection. In cooler weather, you may want a thin pair of tights overtop of your shorts. Should this prove to be too warm, tights are easy enough to tuck into your jersey pouch.

Other clothing items to consider are jerseys, gloves and shoes. Although they are not essential, jerseys can be helpful for their carrying capacity and as a layering item. Padded gloves provide excellent grip and impact absorption. Choose shoes with a stiff sole and consider purchasing waterproof models. Some manufacturers have also produced a mountain bike specific shoe.

Although helmets are not clothing, they are of equal importance. Many jurisdictions now require a helmet by law. Helmets will not only protect your head during a fall, but also prevent abrasions from low branches. Make sure your helmet fits snugly and doesn't roll in any direction excessively. The helmet should be CSA, CPSI, ASTM or Snell approved and follow the instructions on how to fit it properly.

Finally, purchase a good set of sunglasses because you are likely to encounter the sharp edges of many trees and shrubs as well as harmful ultraviolet rays while riding through the back country. Glasses should be light, snug and cover a large area over and around the eye.