Mountain biking is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports right now, and for good reason! It’s a fun way to get outside, exercise, and have a ton of fun at the same time. What’s better is that mountain bikes have advanced quite a bit over the last 20 years to allow people to climb higher and descend faster than ever before!
The other great thing about mountain biking is that there are a ton of different ways to do it. Cross country, downhill, enduro, trail riding, and freeriding are the five main disciplines for mountain biking. Each discipline challenges riders in different ways. Cross country requires riders to be able to climb and descend over many miles while downhill is more about who can get to the bottom of a trail the fastest!
While there are many disciplines of mountain biking, one thing is for sure; mountain bikers love gear! Whether you’re getting prepped for your next enduro race or you’re looking to improve you kit for trail riding, these 11 tools will help you hydrate, navigate, and ride safely better than you are right now!
One of the most popular reasons that people get into mountain biking is that it’s a great way to get in shape. People gladly trade the stationary bike at the gym for a mountain bike when their reward for working hard up a trail is an exciting descent to the bottom! But how do you keep yourself hydrated through your ride? There aren’t water fountains on the trail! Well, thankfully there are several different ways to make sure that you can stay hydrated while you ride!
Hydration packs are the most popular ways that mountain bikers stay hydrated on the trail. They work by the user filling up an internal bag (known as a water bladder) and attaching a long hose that is threaded through the backpack. At the end of the hose, there is usually a bite valve that allows you to drink water when you need to by biting down gently on the valve to start the flow of water. The hose comes out close to where the user’s head is, making it easy to get a drink of water on the go!
You may have heard of them referred to as camel backs, but that is just one of many brands on the market. CamelBak is popular because they were one of the first successful companies to develop the idea of carrying a water bladder in a small backpack, but today there are tons of different options to choose from! Here are a few suggestions of some pretty amazing hydration packs:
One of the best things about CamelBak is that they make a simple and functional hydration pack. The small profile of the pack allows the user to have maximum mobility while riding while also delivering 50 oz. (1.5 liters) of water on demand.
These packs are great for going on quick rides lasting 2 hours or less. If you plan on going out on a longer ride, you definitely should consider bringing along a larger hydration pack! Mountain biking is a physically demanding activity, which means that it’s important to stay hydrated throughout your ride.
If you’re planning on going for a short ride, the CamelBak HydroBak Hydration Pak 50 oz. is a great option!
Need more room to bring along more water? How about more room to bring along more trail gear? If so, the Osprey Daylite Daypack might be the better buy for you! This hydration pack is great because it has 13 liters of volume inside the pack, making it ideal for carrying a 100 oz. (3 liter) water bladder as well as anything else that you want to bring along with you when you go for your next ride.
Osprey is a great brand, not only because they make awesome packs, but because they back up their packs with “The Almighty Guarantee.” This guarantee is the most comprehensive and generous warranty on the market. It basically says that if your pack gets damaged for any reason, Osprey will repair the damage for free. And if they can’t repair it, they’ll send you a new pack to replace the damaged one!
These hydration packs do not come with a water bladder, so you’ll need to purchase one that will work with this pack. Thankfully, as long as you buy a water bladder that will fit inside this pack, it really doesn’t matter what brand you buy. Pick a water bladder that is easy to clean and use in your pack.
A great water bladder to use with the Osprey Daylite Daypack is this water bladder. Here are a few reasons for why this water bladder is awesome:
- It has a platypus style opening for easy filling and cleaning. A lot of water bladders come with screw on opening, which can be a pain to get closed just right and can lead to water leaking all inside of your pack. Platypus style openings are easy to close as you just slide the hard plastic retention device along the top of the water bladder and it’s sealed!
- It’s reversible and dishwasher safe. In addition to being easier to fill and close, this style of water bladder is easy to clean. All you need to do is turn it inside out and set it on the top rack of your dishwasher to clean it out between rides!
- It comes with a magnetic clip for the bite valve. This makes managing your bite valve super easy, because all you need to do is pull it away from the clip that attaches to your backpack and you’ve got access to your water. This solves the problem of guessing where your bite valve is when riding and also having to thread it under the sternum strap of the pack, which can sometimes lead to the bite valve getting compressed as you move. Bite valves that get compressed open up and let water out, which is fine when you’re drinking water, but not so fine when you’re riding up the trail!
If you want to save a bit of money, but you still want to bring along a pack that can carry 100 oz. of water, this might be the pack for you! The Teton Sports Oasis 1200 Hydration Pack does everything that the CamelBak and Osprey packs do, but for less. What’s better is that it gives you the option of whether you want to buy it in a 2 liter or 3-liter water bladder size. In addition to that, it comes with the water bladder, which means that like the CamelBak, you can get on the trail as soon as your pack arrives!
The one thing to keep in mind with this pack is that the lower price point means that the materials used to make this pack aren’t as strong as the CamelBak or Osprey packs. This means that this pack likely won’t last as long as the name brand packs. If you’re just starting out or you’re on a budget, this is a great option. If you’re looking to upgrade your hydration system, this might not be the best option for you.
Water bottle cage
One of the simplest ways that people stay hydrated on the trail is by using the classic water bottle cage to hold their water bottle while riding. The next time you go check out your bike, look at the bottom tube of the frame to see if your bike has the two holes where a water bottle cage can be mounted. Most mountain bikes today come with those holes standard.
There are tons of great water bottle cages on the market. A highly rated one on Amazon is this universal water bottle cage. What makes this water bottle cage a good buy is that it attaches to any bike that has the cage holes on the bottom tube of the frame. It’s easy to install because it comes with the hardware needed to install the cage as well as a 24 oz. water bottle that perfectly fits inside the cage.
Water bottle cages offer simplicity. You don’t need to take much else when you go out on a short ride than a small water bottle. It keeps weight off of your back, which can be beneficial to riders who are looking to peddle faster up hill and maintain better balance going downhill.
A drawback of the water bottle cage is that you need to either be really good at balancing while you ride to get a drink on the go, or you need to completely stop to access your water. This makes staying hydrated throughout your ride a bit harder to do compared to the hydration pack option. The other drawback is that you won’t be able to take very much water with you. If you’re going on a shorter ride of less than an hour, that’s fine. But when you go on longer rides, this might be a problem. Plan accordingly to make sure you bring enough water!
A great hybrid between the hydration pack and the water bottle cage is the waist pack. The waist pack combines the higher water carrying capacity of a hydration back while helping position the weight of your pack lower on your hips, which will help with maintaining balance on descents.
There are tons of waist packs on the market. Both Osprey and CamelBak make their own versions of waist packs.
The Osprey Seral Lumbar Hydration Pack is a hybrid of a waist pack and a traditional hydration backpack. It comes with a 1.5-liter water bladder which has a magnetic retention device for the bite valve, making it easy to drink water while riding.
CamelBak makes a similar pack to Osprey with the CamelBak Repack LR 4. Like the Osprey pack, this one comes with a 50 oz. (1.5-liter) water bladder. At the time of writing this article, the CamelBak version of the waist pack is about 50% less expensive on Amazon compared to the Osprey version.
So if you need more water than a water bottle can provide, but less than what a hydration backpack can provide, either one of these waist packs can be a good option for you!
Navigation is a big deal on trail. There’s nothing more disheartening than getting to the top of a big climb, having huffed and puffed, telling yourself that there’s an epic descent waiting for you at the top of this monster climb, than to find out that you missed a turn and the descent you had planned on is nowhere near where you are!
Thankfully, there has been major improvements on navigation for mountain bikers. Smartphones and GPS have replaced trail maps and compasses as the go to method of finding where you are on a trail. The trick is having your phone in a spot that is easily accessible while on trail.
If you’re familiar with the area, you’ll likely only need to reference your phone for where you are every once in a while, so you likely won’t need to have your phone attached to your handlebars for navigation on demand.
But if you are riding in a new area, you might want to have your mountain biking trail app open so you can track exactly where you are on the trail, so you don’t miss a turn!
There are a ton of bike phone mounts on the market, but which is the best one for mountain bikers?
Part of the challenge of finding a suitable phone mount for mountain biking is that you need to find one that will keep your phone attached to your bike on the bumpiest of trails. Most phone holders depend on rubber straps to hold down the corners of your phone to the holder. This works great on smooth sections, but the vibrations of trail riding often times result in the phone jiggling loose.
This phone holder on Amazon is designed to take care of that problem! What makes this holder awesome is that it secures your phone to your bike with a hard plastic locking mechanism. It attaches to your bike through your handlebar stem, which frees up your handlebar for putting other accessories, like a bike bell or dropper post lever, on your bike.
By attaching to your bike with a hard plastic locking mechanism, you can rest assured that your phone will stay on your bike, no matter how gnarly the trail gets!
While mountain biking is a fun way to get outside, it also comes with a little more risk than hiking. You’re riding on two wheels on uneven surfaces, sometimes at high rates of speed. Crashes happen! In fact, there’s a saying in the mountain bike community that says “we’re all in between crashes” because it happens fairly often. So to make sure you’re protected, be sure to go prepared with the right safety gear!
The most important piece of gear that you can bring with you is your helmet. There are tons of helmets on the market to choose from, so how do you decide what you need in a helmet? When you’re shopping for a helmet, consider the following:
- Head coverage
Be sure to buy the correct size for your head. Helmets often come in sizes from small to large. Usually, helmets have a dial in the back that helps you adjust the helmet to snug it up to your head for precise fitting. You also want to buy a helmet that will cover your head properly. One of the most common places that people injure their heads is on the back of their heads. Be sure to buy a helmet that covers the back of your head for mountain biking. Ventilation is the last thing to consider after fit and head coverage. This just makes sure that your head stays cool throughout your ride.
Mountain bike gloves are great because they protect your hands from flying rocks or branches, and also help you grip your handlebar more securely. Gloves are pretty easy to buy on Amazon or really anywhere that sells mountain bike supplies. Buying gloves comes down to personal preference and style.
After helmets and gloves, knee pads are a pretty critical piece of safety gear to bring along with you. This is especially true for people that bike with clipless peddles. If you use clipless peddles, you really can’t get your feet off of the peddles in time to put your foot out to brace yourself, which means that often times the first part of you to hit the ground is your knee. Knee injuries are extremely painful and take a long time to heal, so do yourself a favor and invest in a good set of knee pads!
Mountain biking is such a fun sport to get into. There are a variety of bikes, riding styles, and trails that will suit just about anyone who wants to try it out! When you’re first getting started, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed with the amount of gear that there is on the market. But now that you have read this guide, you have a good idea of ideal products to help you stay hydrated, stay on trail, and stay safe when you go out for your next ride!