Mountain Bike Clothing:
What You Need for Performance and Comfort

The first few times I went mountain bike riding, I didn't wear mountain bike clothing, other than a helmet. I thought I would be fine riding in cargo shorts and a t-shirt and didn't want to spend the extra money buying a whole new set of gear. I thought to myself, "Who needs those fancy cycling jerseys, socks, shoes, gloves, and shorts? Besides, those lycra shorts are not always the most flattering."

It didn't take long for me to realize, after some painful chafing and sweating, that there are reasons people wear mountain bike clothing. As soon as I started to sweat, the cotton t-shirt clung to my skin and stayed damp during the whole ride, the cargo shorts bunched up in the wrong places and were uncomfortable, and I got blisters on my feet from my feet moving around in my shoes while I was riding.


I have learned that clothing that is made specifically for biking not only helps with increasing the overall comfort of my ride and therefore allows me ride longer, but it helps reduce unnecessary injuries, blisters, and chafing.

Mountain bike clothing is designed to fit snugly so it doesn't move around while you are in the biking position and pedaling.

Another important function of mountain bike apparel is the ability to wick or transfer moisture from your skin to the outside where it can dry quickly. The reason my cotton t-shirt clung to my skin and did not dry is because cotton does not have good wicking properties. When I wear a cycling jersey, it wicks the sweat away from my body so I can stay comfortable and dry during my ride.

The following are important mountain bike clothing items to consider along with tips and information about what to look for in each type of clothing:

Mountain Bike Shorts
Mountain Bike Jersey
Bike Socks
Mountain Bike Shoes
Bike Gloves
Mountain Bike Helmet
Cycling Glasses
Cold Weather Biking Clothes

Mountain Bike Shorts

Mountain bike shorts are one of the most important types of mountain bike clothing because they help reduce discomfort from the bike saddle, wick away sweat to keep you cooler, and decrease wind resistance.


Cycling shorts vary in quality and features. Some riders prefer the tight-fitting lycra shorts that most of us think of when we envision biking shorts.

If you want something a little more fashionable and less revealing, there are other also baggy cycling shorts that have padded liners. Biking shorts also have different types and amounts of padding depending upon what type of protection that is needed.

For more about choosing cycling shorts, please visit our Shorts page.

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Mountain Bike Jersey

Cycling shirts or jerseys are another important type of mountain bike clothing. As with other mountain bike apparel, jerseys come in a variety of options.


A good mountain biking jersey should increase comfort by drawing moisture from the skin to the outside of the fabric, where it can dry quickly.

Try to choose a mountain bike jersey that is a polyester blend or wool because these types of materials wick moisture well. Cotton or synthetic cycling shirts may feel comfortable when you try them on in the store, but once you start to sweat on the trail, they will be uncomfortable because the material causes the moisture to be against your skin.

For more about mountain bike jerseys, please visit our Jersey page.

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Bike Socks

I never realized how important bike socks were until after riding several hours in regular socks. I ended up with a lot of chafing and a blister from the sock bunching up inside my shoe.

The nice thing about bike socks is the way they don't stretch and move around like regular socks. They also have the capacity to hold in heat or wick away sweat, which helps keep your feet a comfortable temperature. I have found that I don't have to spend a lot of money on a bike sock, as long as it is a wicking material. As with other mountain bike clothing, there are many options available when choosing bike socks.

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Mountain Bike Shoes


Mountain bike shoes are another type of mountain bike apparel that come in a variety of options. If your mountain bike has clipless pedals, which means your shoe clips into the pedal, there are specific shoes that have a cleat that fits into the type of pedal you have.

Many mountain bike shoes have velcro straps so you don't have to worry about laces getting caught on stuff. Some also have a ratcheting adjustment on the strap that is closest to the ankle to provide the best possible fit.

If you don't have clipless pedals, you can also buy shoes that are designed to grip onto your pedals and improve pedaling efficiency.

For more about mountain bike shoes, please visit our page on Mountain Bike Shoes.

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Bike Gloves


Mountain bike gloves are a very important addition to your mountain bike clothing collection because they protect your hands and keep them comfortable.

Mountain bike gloves have padding for the parts of your hands that have the most contact with the handlebars so they provide a cushion to prevent blisters. They also protect your hands from wind, sun, and cold.

I have several pairs of cycling gloves with varying thicknesses and finger lengths that I use depending on the weather or season in which I am riding. Choose the type of glove that will provide you the most comfort and protection for your type of mountain bike riding.

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Mountain Bike Helmet

Wearing a mountain bike helmet every time I ride has protected me from serious injury many times. It is rare to see a mountain biker riding without a helmet.


It is important to choose a helmet that fits snugly and is comfortable. Mountain bike helmets are adjustable and most have pads that can be placed inside them to help ensure a snug and comfortable fit. The helmet should fit snugly enough so that when you shake your head, it doesn't move around. Make sure that the helmet is level on your head and not tilting back to expose your forehead.

Learn more about helmet fitting and adjustment before hitting the trail.

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Cycling Glasses


Cycling glasses help protect your eyes from the sun and wind. They also protect your eyes from overhanging tree branches, bugs, and any debris that may fly up from the trail. Some cycling glasses have interchangeable lenses and others have lenses that change according to the amount of sunlight.

Learn more about different types of cycling glasses so you can make an informed decision about which type is best for you.

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Cold Weather Mountain Bike Clothing

I have found that it is always a good idea to have a variety of mountain bike clothes on hand to be prepared for changing weather conditions.

If you ride in cooler weather, cycling tights are a good option. I ride in the mountains, where the weather can change abruptly, so I always carry a pair of cycling leg warmers and arm warmers in my hydration pack. They are very lightweight and can be put on or removed quickly if the weather changes.

I also have a mountain bike jacket that is lightweight, waterproof, and breathable. This way, I am prepared for a variety of conditions. Click here for tips on how to choose a cycling jacket.

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› Mountain Bike Clothing

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