Comfort, weather conditions, protection and to some extent personal style determine what to wear for mountain biking.
In general, trail riders and downhill riders tend to opt for baggy kit consisting of loose-fitting shorts with a pair of padded Lycra shorts underneath and a loose-fitting jersey, whereas more race-focused cross-country riders will often go full lightweight clothing-armor.
If you’re just starting out then the best kit is the kit you already have, but as you progress then chances are you’ll want clothing designed for the specific demands of mountain biking.
Ultimately, the choice is totally up to you, and you should wear whatever you feel comfortable in.
Where you ride and the time of year/season will have a significant impact on what you decide to wear. When the weather is warm and the trails (mostly) dry in the middle of summer, you’ll require less protection from the elements than the depths of winter.
You also need to factor in the demands of your ride. If you’re heading off for an all-mountain adventure in the Alps or Rockies, for example, you’ll need to bring more serious kit because you’ll need to make sure you’re prepared for mountain weather conditions.
However, whenever and wherever you’re riding, there are a number of essentials you’re likely to need.
When choosing the right mountain bike clothing, picking the right top is probably less important than your bottoms, but there are a couple of points to remember. First, mountain biking is a good workout, you’re going to get sweaty! Wicking merino wool and synthetic materials are the go-to for most mountain bike jerseys to help you regulate your temperature. Second, crashes happen, and clothing is protection. While a tank top may keep you cool on the climb, it doesn’t offer a lot of protection from the ground if you do fall. Balance your type of riding with your clothing choices for the best results.
As for jackets, unless it’s really cold, riding will keep you warm, so resist the temptation to layer up too warm - be bold, start cold! However, there are rides where a jacket is definitely necessary. We recommend waterproof jackets that have nice breathability and pit-zips to help you stay protected while regulating your temperature.