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What To Wear Mountain Biking


MTB Protection & Apparel Basics


In some instances—if it’s warm and you’re not going to be out too long—you can wear just about any old cotton shirt, tennis shoes, and gas station sunglasses on mountain bike rides. But this non-MTB-specific gear has its limits. The right clothing and protection will ensure a comfortable and safe ride. In this article, we’ll cover what to wear when mountain biking:

  • Jerseys
  • Shorts
  • Pants
  • Rain Jackets
  • Windbreakers
  • Gloves
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Helmets
  • Goggles & Sunglasses
  • Other MTB Protection
  • Informative Links & FAQ



A jersey made specifically for mountain biking is an essential piece of the MTB apparel equation. For longer rides when you could encounter variable conditions and when you need to make sure you keep your body temperature regulated, or if you want a little extra protection, here are some jersey attributes you should look for.

  • Jerseys are usually made from moisture-wicking, breathable materials such as polyester, nylon, or blends.
  • Some jerseys are designed to manage odor.
  • MTB jerseys generally have a relaxed and comfortable fit for a full range of movement, but they’re not so loose as to hang up on reaching branches.
  • Choose a short-sleeved or sleeveless jersey for hot summer rides. These lightweight, breathable shirts will keep you cool and comfortable.
  • Because long-sleeve jerseys provide more coverage, they protect you from the sun, wind, and cold. If you’re going to be rolling through tight terrain with hanging branches, long-sleeved jerseys could be preferable because they will protect you from scratches and scrapes.
  • Choose a brightly colored or reflective jersey to improve your visibility on the trail or if your ride starts and ends with a little road riding where cars could be present.


Shop Women's Mountain Bike Jerseys and Men's Mountain Bike Jerseys.

Mountain biker in shorts and t-shirt





MTB-specific shorts cover a wide assortment of styles, ranging from skin-tight lycra to baggy-style shorts that extend beyond the knee. Choosing the right shorts comes down to personal preference, and whether you value a minimalist short to enhance efficiency or want more coverage for on-trail protection. Some baggie shorts include a liner short with a padded chamois, and most lycra options have an integrated chamois.

  • Baggies are loose-fitting and long, providing a great deal of coverage and protection from the sun, wind, and branches. These shorts have a casual look and pockets for carrying essentials such as phones, energy bars, or tools. The longer length also ensures that there’s no gap between the bottom of the shorts and the top of the rider’s knee pads. Check out our Men’s Empire Shorts & Women’s Empire Shorts for your next pair of baggies.
  • Above-the-knee mountain bike shorts feature a shorter inseam and typically prioritize efficiency rather than coverage. They might have fewer pockets, but they are perfect for high-mileage rides where freedom of movement is key! Check out our Men’s Slickrock Shorts & Women’s Slickrock Shorts, now available in multiple inseam lengths.
  • Lycra shorts are form-fitting for riders who want to minimize wind resistance and improve their speed while riding. This style of shorts is commonly referred to as bib shorts, and are popular for cross-country racing. Check out our Men's Lycra Shorts & Women's Lycra Shorts.
  • If you anticipate mud, slime, and water rooster-tailing off your back wheel, grab a pair of waterproof shorts to keep your behind dry.


Shop Women's Mountain Bike Shorts & Men's Mountain Bike Shorts


Liner Shorts, Bibs & Chamois


The chamois itself is the padding that provides cushioning between you and your seat. Chamois reduce friction between you and your saddle to prevent soreness, absorb shock to limit discomfort, and wick away moisture to prevent chafing. The chamois pad can be found in many different forms of garments, listed below.

  • Liner shorts are very common for trail riding. They are essentially compression shorts that wick sweat, and include an integrated chamois for padding between your butt and the seat. Check out Men’s Liner Shorts & Women’s Liner Shorts.
  • Bib shorts are popular because they help keep the padded chamois in place over long rides, thanks to integrated bib straps. Bib shorts often feature drop-in rear pockets, which are handy for storing windbreakers and nutrition. Check out Men's Bib Shorts & Women's Bib Shorts.
  • Bib pants, tights, or knickers are essentially full-length bib shorts for enhanced coverage and warmth. These are rarely used for mountain biking and mostly come into play for cross-country riding and racing. Some have bib straps that go over the shoulders, while others are biking-specific tights with a chamois. Check out Men’s Bib Tights & Pants and Women’s Bib Tights & Pants.

Shop Men's Liners, Tights, Bibs & Knickers. Shop Women's Liners, Tights, Bibs & Knickers.

Slickrock pants action shot





If you desire more protection than shorts can give you, invest in a pair of mountain biking pants. Most MTB-specific pants will have well-placed pockets for riding, and pair well with liner shorts and bib shorts if you still want a padded chamois.


  • Riders often choose pants for riding in cooler conditions.
  • Pants are also popular for bike park, enduro, and gravity riding because they offer enhanced coverage.
  • Expecting puddles, stream crossings, or mud? Waterproof MTB pants could be the best option for you. These pants are excellent for spring or fall riding. Check out the Men’s Slickrock Bike Pants & Women’s Slickrock Bike Pants.


Shop Women's Mountain Bike Pants & Men's Mountain Bike Pants.

MTB rider wearing rain jacket



Rain Jackets


Everyone gets caught in the rain at some point, and a good rain jacket makes a huge difference when that time comes. While we don’t condone riding on muddy trails, some environments are conducive to riding in active precipitation. MTB-specific rain jackets host a slew of features that make them ideal for those of us who are bike-minded.

  • Most mountain biking rain jackets have a helmet-compatible hood big enough to fit over your helmet without inhibiting peripheral vision.
  • MTB rain jackets are made from waterproof and breathable materials to keep you dry even with high-output riding.
  • Mountain biking rain jackets typically have secure fitting cuffs that utilize elastic or hook and loop straps to keep your sleeves from interfering with your handlebars.
  • Some jackets have a long tail to keep your butt dry from tire spray.
  • Most jackets are made from durable fabric to resist branches or abrasion caused by the occasional tumble.
  • The best MTB-specific rain jackets pack into their own pocket so that they can easily be stored in a hip pack or backpack, or even strapped to a frame. Check out the Men’s Runoff 2.5L Rain Jacket & Women’s Runoff 2.5L Rain Jacket.


Shop Women's Rain Jackets & Men's Rain Jackets

MTB rider wearing MTN Air Jacket




Our Gearheads all agree that windbreakers are an indispensable piece of gear, and we take them on 99% of rides. MTB-specific windbreakers will improve your riding experience in a few notable ways.

  • Wind-resistant fabric protects you from chilly air. This can be particularly helpful when you’ve got an evening descent after a big climb. Your sweat and the evening air can be a cold combo.
  • Because windbreakers breathe while also blocking wind, they help regulate body temperature, so you stay comfortable throughout the ride.
  • Most windbreakers are super light and packable, so they can disappear into your saddle bag, bib shorts pocket, or even into frame storage on certain bikes. This is another reason to never leave them at home. The best windbreakers zip into their own pocket for storage, check out the Men's MTN Air Jacket & Women's MTN Air Jacket for the perfect self-stowing windbreaker.


Shop Women's Windbreakers & Men's Windbreakers.

Backcountry MTB gloves




Gloves give you a better grip on the handlebars and protect your hands. To choose an ideal pair of gloves for you, keep these features in mind.

  • Mountain biking gloves are padded to absorb shock and reduce vibrations, preventing blisters and hand fatigue.
  • Enduro gloves are often highly armored on the back of the hand for added protection.
  • Gloves use a material that facilitates good purchase on the handlebars even in wet conditions.
  • Some riders prefer the protection and warmth of full-finger gloves, while others prefer the breathability of half-finger gloves.


Shop Mountain Bike Gloves.


Mountain Bike Shoes


Mountain bike shoes protect your feet, stay connected to the pedal, and aid in power transfer. To choose the right pair for your bike and riding style, keep these things in mind.


  • Mountain biking shoes for flat pedals will have a sticky rubber sole to grip the pins that stick out of flat pedals. The soles will be stiff enough to offer good power transfer, but soft enough to conform to the shape of the pedals.
  • Mountain biking shoes for clipless pedals also have a stiff sole for power transfer but are not necessarily flat-bottomed or grippy because they connect to the pedal via a small cleat under the ball of the foot.
  • Burlier MTB shoes have reinforced toe caps and ankle padding for protection.
  • Shoe closure is an important detail. Standard lace options will cut down on cost, but be sure to pick a shoe with lace covers or lace loops to prevent your laces from snagging in your bike’s drivetrain. BOA and Speedlace closure systems allow you to adjust the fit of your shoe quickly as you ride.


Shop Mountain Bike Shoes

Need Some Info About Pedals, Too?

Check Out Our Flats vs. Clips MTB Pedals video

Bike Socks


  • Taller socks protect your shins from whipping willows, pedal impacts, and the sun.
  • Of course, there’s nothing wrong with short socks—they’ll help you stay cool.
  • Most MTB socks are made from moisture-wicking materials such as polyester, nylon, merino wool, or some sort of blend. Socks with a higher merino content won't get that funky smell as quickly as synthetic socks.
  • Compression socks help maintain consistent blood flow as your heart rate rises and drops and your legs spin away.

Shop Bike Socks

Mountain Bike Helmets


While normally super fun, mountain biking can be dangerous and unpredictable. This is why it is important to wear the right protective equipment. A helmet is the most important piece of protective equipment that you should wear while mountain biking—and totally mandatory.

  • Your helmet protects your head from collisions or falls.
  • A helmet should fit well and meet safety standards.
  • The safest helmets use a rotational liner, like MIPS technology, to disperse impact throughout the helmet instead of into your skull.
  • Most riders use half shell helmets, which protect the top, back, and sides of the head from impacts. These helmets are light and well-ventilated, great for trail and cross-country riding.
  • Because enduro riders ride fast, often sending huge drops, they opt for full face helmets for even more protection.


Shop Mountain Bike Helmets.

Sunglasses & Goggles

Sunglasses and goggles protect your eyes more than just the sun. Dust and debris can be kicked up while riding, and you don’t want it inhibiting your vision. Eyewear can also protect your eyes from trailside branches. Our Gearheads love large sunglasses such as the Smith Wildcat because they have excellent coverage and breathe better than goggles, making them appropriate for both climbing and descending. Goggles are usually reserved for bike park and enduro riding because they fit securely and protect your eyes from dust especially well.

Shop Sunglasses & Goggles.

Other MTB Protection

While helmets and eyewear are necessary pieces of gear, other items may only be needed for downhill or enduro riding.

  • Knee and elbow pads protect your joints in case of a fall. With a hard shell on the outside and padding on the inside, they absorb impact to prevent injuries to vulnerable parts of the body.
  • For more aggressive mountain biking such as enduro and downhill riding, body armor may be needed. Chest protectors, back protectors, and armor suits are all types of body armor.






Informative Links



Q: Why do mountain bikers wear long sleeves?


A: Sleeves offer increased coverage for protection from the elements, including harmful UV rays from the sun. They also offer enhanced protection from trailside vegetation, and the occasional tumble.


Q: Do most mountain bikers wear padded shorts?


A: Yes, most mountain bikers wear bib shorts or liner shorts with an integrated chamois pad under their baggy shorts. Some cross-country riders wear bib shorts on their own, without another pair of shorts on top.


Q: Why are mountain biking shorts baggy?


A: Baggy shorts allow excellent mobility and provide space underneath for padded liner shorts with a chamois. Not all MTB shorts are baggy, but some baggy shorts are also long enough to ensure there’s no gap of exposed skin between the top of the knee pad and the bottom of the shorts.


Q: How should I dress warm for mountain biking?


A: Mountain bike pants are the best way to keep your legs warm because they offer increased coverage and also are made with wind and water-resistant materials. A mountain biking-specific windbreaker or rain jacket is the best way to keep your upper body warm, in combination with a mountain biking jersey that will wick sweat. Mountain biking gloves are also great for retaining body warmth without compromising breathability.


Q: Do you wear chamois under MTB shorts?


A: In most cases, yes. A chamois is the padded layer that’s built into liner shorts or bib shorts, both of which can be worn under MTB shorts. Cross-country riders often wear bib shorts without additional shorts on top to prioritize efficiency.

Mountain bikers weaving through slickrock