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SJMTB Gear Guide for beginners

Welcome to the first installment of the SJMTB Beginners Guide to Mountain Biking.

We would first like to congratulate you on making the jump and joining our group. Mountain Biking is one of the best forms of exercise you can do to keep fit and healthy, and it's a whole lot more fun than sweating in a crowded gym.

So you bought yourself a mountain bike, now what? What sort of things do you need to really get out and ride? Which pieces of gear are essential and which are just filler? Do I really need that hydration pack filled with 3-liters of water and my entire tool chest packed into it? These are some of the questions we hope to address in this first installment. Along with what to bring with you on the trails we'll point you in the direction of some other important beginner information, such as our ride rating system and beginner trail recommendations.

Mountain biking is a great sport, that is relatively easy and inexpensive to enjoy. Now of course when you walk into a local bike shop (LBS) and see all the eye candy that costs as much as a decent used car it can be a little intimidating. Just because someone makes a bike that costs five thousand dollars, doesn't mean that you need that kind of bike to get started out on the trails. Many of us started with entry level bikes that cost less than a tenth of those super bikes you see. All you really need is a bike that is going to handle the rigors of trail riding without falling apart on you. If you've got that you're ready to roll... literally.

Beginner Gear:

So what else do you need to go along with that bike?

The first thing would a good helmet. You don't need to go out and buy the most expensive helmet made by Specialized or Giro, but remember that you don't have a $10 head either. A higher end helmet is not only going to protect you more, but it will likely fit better and be considerably lighter weight. For your first helmet aim to spend somewhere in the $50 range. This will give you a helmet that has some adjustment to the fit as well as good ventilation and decent weight. All of the major brands carry helmets in this price range and will be easy to find at your local bike spot. If you plan to ride very aggressive trails, with rocks and drops then it's a good idea to spend a little more and get an actual “trail” helmet. The big difference between an entry level helmet and real trail helmet is the amount of coverage it gives the back of your head. Many of the downhill and free-ride companies have recently been getting into the trail bike protection segment, giving the consumer many different choices in this type of protection.

Good Entry Level Helmet Choices:

Giro's sport line (from $35.00)
Bell's recreational line (from $35.00)

Don't get too caught up on your first helmet. Find something that fits well, is well ventilated, and not too heavy. As you progress through the sport you can decide whether you need a different helmet.

Water Vessel:
There are two trains of thought with this one. You could obviously just use the water bottle and a cage mounted to your bike. It's easy, cheap, and you can use sport drinks without worrying about ruining your expensive hydration pack. Water bottles and cages come in many different sizes and shapes, so make sure you choose a combination that works on your bike. This becomes more of an issue if you ride a dual suspension bike. Your other option is to use a hydration pack, such as a Camelbak. A hydration pack will range in capacity from 30oz all the way up to 100oz+ allowing you to carry much more water, for longer rides. Both of these methods have their benefits and drawbacks so it's important to choose the option that fits your needs best. Remember, just because you can carry 100oz (that's 3liters) doesn't mean you need to or should.

Benefits of bottle/cage setup:

  • Light weight
  • Easy to clean
  • Simple
  • Bottles are cheap
  • Multiple cages for different types of hydration

Disadvantages of bottle/cage setup:

  • Limited fluid capacity
  • Bottles can rattle out of cage
  • Drinking while in motion can be difficult
  • Adds weight to the bike

Benefits of hydration pack:

  • High capacity for those epic journeys
  • Extra storage for gear
  • Easy to drink while in motion
  • Weight is on you not the bike

Disadvantages of hydration pack:

  • Can be heavy when fully loaded
  • Tendency to carry more than you really need
  • Can be very expensive

Whichever you choose, just remember that it's important to stay hydrated out on a ride. If you feel like you're thirsty, then chances are you're already getting dehydrated. So try and drink a little bit every fifteen to twenty minutes. This way you keep well hydrated without feeling bloated or full from drinking too much too fast.

Recommended Additional Gear:
Now that you've got your head protected and a way to carry water, what else do you need? There are a few things that most avid mountain bikers would recommend to someone just starting out. They make your rides a little more enjoyable and protect you in the case of the unexpected.

Gloves: Choose a pair that have a snug fit with out bunching up when you grip the bars. There are many different styles to choose from to pick the ones that provide the amount of protection you want and comfort you need.

Bike shorts with Chamois: Sure you can ride your bike without the added comfort of true bike shorts and a chamois, but do you really want to? One of the biggest complaints new riders have is how much their butt hurts. So do yourself a favor and get some shorts.

Hydration pack or saddle bag: One way or another you're going to need someway of carrying your spare parts and tools when on a ride so choose an option that fits both your budget and style well.

Spare Tubes: Make sure to get the right sized ones for your tires with the correct valve type. You can usually buy them in packs of 5 to save a little and then you can be someone's hero when you have extras.

Patch kit: Changing a tube is the easiest way to fix a flat, but sometimes you don't have that option, especially if you're on your second or third flat of the day.
Tire Levers: Get a good set that have metal with a nylon outside. They'll last longer and won't snap when you need them most.

Tire Pump: Don't skimp out here. A good pump may set you back as much as $50.00 but it will be all worth it when you need that little guy on the trail.

Good multi-tool: Now you don't need some fancy folding tool that turns into a camp stove and can cook you a three course meal. You need something that has all the standard Allen keys (2.5mm-8mm) a chain breaker, and some screw driver keys.

ID and Medical Information: You hope to never need your ID or medical info. on a ride, but if you ride in the trails anything can happen. ID makes it easy for someone that's trying to help out a down rider get important information to authorities for assistance.

Cash: You never know when you're going to need something out on the trail or riding to the trail. Having a small amount of cash in small bills is just a little bit of insurance in case a situation comes up in which you need something you forgot.

First Aid: You won't need a first aid kit right? Well maybe not, but your riding partner will. If everyone rides with a little first-aid kit with them then everyone can help a downed rider. If the only person carrying aid is hurt and can't be moved then the first aid is no use in their hydration pack. Carry your own and be someone's hero.

That covers the basics of what you'll need. As you ride you'll learn other things to keep with you. Just remember that riding is supposed to be fun, so don't stress too much about having everything with you. As long as you've got the basics you should be covered. Besides there's always someone in the group that packs enough for everyone.

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
SJMTB Rating System April 11, 2015 8:02 AM David
Release of Liability August 27, 2012 10:56 PM former member
SJMTB Gear Guide for beginners October 30, 2011 6:34 AM David
Rider Expectations August 31, 2011 5:54 AM David
About West Coast Mountain Bikers February 13, 2012 8:22 PM David

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