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A topographic background with an image of two riders pedaling a ridgeline.  Text overlay reads: Trail Bike Guide. Your singletrack hub.

BikesApparelHelmetsShoesHip PacksTools & More Essentials
A blurry image of a rider looking over their shoulder, next to zoomed out image of riders on a singletrack.

Trail Biking Essentials

 

Top picks and expertise for classic mountain bike joyriding.

 

The best gear and apparel for this discipline put fun and flow at the forefront. If you’re new to the sport or looking for an all-rounder to pedal a variety of trails, you’re in the right place.

What We Look For In A Trail Mountain Bike

 

Suspension, geometry, wheels, and tires that blend climbing efficiency and downhill performance harmoniously are top of mind when choosing a trail bike.

Suspension: Mid-travel suspension will help manage climbing efficiency while still buffering our impact on the descent. 110–150mm of travel in the front and rear is ideal.

Geometry: Balance is key to a life well-rolled. Poised head tube angles are ready for high-speeds with comfortable reach numbers to turn on a dime.

Wheels: Similarly, balance is key with trail bike wheels. We look for a strength-to-weight ratio that pairs with our climbing and downhill goals.

Tires: An aggressive front tire for cornering action ahead of a fast-rolling rear tire with lower braking knob s is the system we like to stick with.

If you’re looking to buy your first bike, we recommend starting with a complete build like the bikes below. And if you’re looking to build your own custom ride,

reach out to a Gearhead® Expert to get your dream bike built.

Bike deets run deep, and they can easily get your head spinning. Since the best bike for you will depend on your individual measurements and preferences, we recommend reading our Mountain Bike Buying Guide for the fine-tuned details. 




Trail Bikes

A rider cruises down a singletrack as the sun sets behind them.

Well-balanced machines that manage the ups and downs of the ride.

 

Trail bike shapes and suspension are generally spec’d right in the middle (between enduro and cross-country designs) to optimize overall performance, but some models lean in one direction or the other.

Shop All Trail Bike
Two riders stand beside each other on a sunlit trail. A rider rolls around a the edge of a trail.

What We Look For In Trail Apparel

 

Lapping trail miles requires comfortable clothing that lets the air flow through as we find our own flow. Added qualities like lightweight, rip-resistant fabrics and bike-specific fits are what keep us spinning with lots of positive energy.

Our latest lineup of bike apparel was put through the wringer by Gearhead® Experts and our pro riders alike. Our Slickrock Short is the result of all their miles in the field: four-way stretch tech, adequate venting, 50+ UPF rating, and a PFC-free DWR treatment are just a few ways this short keeps us ready for every condition we find ourselves in. Plus, 85% recycled content within the fabric lowers our impact out there.

Best Men’s Trail Apparel 

A rider buckles their helmet next to an image of a person cleaning their glasses.

Backcountry Long-Sleeve MTB Jersey & Slickrock Bike Short

 

With the MTN Air Anorak to start us off warm and pack down small when things heat up—and the Long-Sleeve MTB Jersey beneath—we’re fully prepared for everything the weather throws at us. Four-way stretch fabric throughout our MTB Jersey is unrestricting yet breathable, while woven sleeves increase durability. Like our other bike-specific apparel, it has a droptail hem to keep you covered on the saddle, and a built-in glasses cleaner, too.

Similarly, we rolled out the Slickrock Short with tough, stretchy fabric that lives for bike miles. It’s lightweight, breathable, and treated to shed dirt, mud, and water. It’s vented at the thigh with zippered pockets to keep gear secure. And it’s available in 9 and 11in inseam options to match your own style and fit preference.

Complete Your Kit

Bike-specific designs that breathe and move in all the ways you do.

Best Women’s Trail Apparel 

A rider stands on a sunlit trail.

Backcountry Long-Sleeve MTB Jersey & Slickrock Short

 

The Long-Sleeve Jersey delivers a relaxed fit that doesn’t ride-up, it’s UPF 50+ rated, and its sleeves are fabricated with extra durability so we’re always protected. We designed our Slickrock Short to be comfortable at every turn, too. A high back rise and articulated hip stay in sync with our movement, and airy venting, water-shedding treatment, and adjustability options seal the deal. With 5, 7, and 9in inseam lengths, we can now say the perfect short does exist.

Pairing our top trail bike shirt and shorts with the MTN Air Jacket is an easy choice to stay ready for changing conditions. It keeps our temp regulated when we need it to, and when the ride heats up, the lightweight jacket packs down small to clear the way for fully focused pedaling.

Complete Your Kit

Inspired by the thrill. (Almost) as tough as you are.

What We Look For In Trail Helmets

 

We like to head out with lightweight coverage that carries plenty of vents to cool down when our pace progresses. Generally, all bike helmets are unisex. The best helmets fit as snug as a glove and have MIPS protection to maximize safety. Sleek, good-looking shapes with visor coverage crown-out the assortment we’ve selected below. 

Best Trail Bike Helmet 

A rider in a helmet and sunglasses overlooks a trail.

Fox Racing Speedframe MIPS Pro Helmet

 

Lightweight but strong, the Speedframe delivers that not-even-there feeling, keeping us focused on the path (and not the trees) ahead. MIPS tech dials in a perfect-form-fit and ups it’s protection efficacy, while the Speedframe’s vents allow plenty of air to flow through and keep us cool.

Runners Up

More top-tier ways to secure peace-of-mind.

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Top Picks From The Backcountry Bulletin

What We Look For In Trail Shoes

 

Your choice of footwear creates the foundation of your body-to-bike connection. We look for comfortable, durable, power-infused shoes that don’t hang us up when we clip in.

Best Men’s Trail Shoe

A rider in a helmet and sunglasses overlooks a trail.

Tallac Clip BOA Mountain Bike Shoe

 

Detailed with an easy-to-engage 2-bolt clip and fast-fitting BOA system, these shoes make hopping in and out of the saddle seamless. Rugged materials make up their overall outer construction, and the sole construction within drives plenty of power to maximize efficiency whether charging up or downhill. Plus, its sole is further perfected with added cushion for comfort on heavy landings.

Get The Tallac Shoe

Runners Up

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Best Women’s Trail Shoe

A rider walks toward their bike.

Freerider Pro Canvas Cycling Shoe

 

Constructed with a durable canvas upper, this flat-pedal shoe is versatile enough for all our favorite trails. Its toe box is impact-resistant so our feet don’t get banged-up in a jam, and its EVA midsole helps absorb shock and keep us feeling ready for every drop to come. Topped off by a sole that maintains traction in tricky sections, we feel confident that we won’t slip off the pedals or down hike-a-bike sections with the Freeriders at our feet.

Get The Freerider Shoe

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What We Look For In Hip Packs 

 

A fully stocked loadout means we can stay after it all day. The best on-trail packs balance our carry-ons without a loose, free-swinging fit. We look for minimal, weatherproof, sweat-wicking, aerodynamic designs that secure our gear without adding unnecessary bulk. Specific placements for additional water, tools, and electronics are also a plus.  

Best Hip Pack

Runners Up

More of our favorite ways to keep it all together.

More Trail Biking Gear Picks

On-Trail Tools

Prepare to roll past resistance.

Bike Transportation

Racks and more gear to get it there.

Customizations & Upgrades

Personalize your ride and drive up performance.

More Trail Biking Essentials