MTB Biking Essentials
By Trae Jaussi
The best part of mountain biking is the freedom to choose the distance, area, and difficulty of trail you want to ride. Depending on the distance and length of time you’ll be biking, you need to pack accordingly. Growing up as a Scout, our scout leaders would always tell us “Be Prepared!” Going biking is no different. You want to be prepared so you don’t end up in a bad situation such as having a flat tire, a part coming off your bike, running out of water etc.
Being prepared before you ride means that you maintain and take care of your bike and also bringing items in case something happens. Taking care of your bike gives you the peace of mind to have a good ride, but if something were to happen on the trail, you have the right gear to solve the problem and continue riding.
For mountain biking, I have categorized ride lengths by amount of time as described below:
Short ride: 30 minutes – 1.5 hours
Medium ride: 2-3 hours
Long ride: 3+ hours
For each category of riding, I will describe the various items I think every biker should have for that length of ride. You’ll want to think like a minimalist packer because the more weight and items you bring, the more weight you will feel when you are biking up the hill. There is definitely a balance between knowing what is essential and not overpacking.
Short ride (30 minutes - 1.5 hours)
Short rides are usually those that are not super long distances that someone can do before or after work. These rides you want to bring the bare necessities because even if you break a chain or have something go wrong, you can always walk back to your vehicle in a short amount of time or you can call for a ride to come pick you up near the trail. Some items you will need though are:
Water! Stay hydrated no matter the length! (awesome waterbottle)
Your cell phone, be able to send a text, make a call and take photos of your sweet ride.
Waist bag (fanny pack), to put your phone, keys, airpods, and chapstick. An alternate would be to put these items in a pocket or a bike jersey pocket. I prefer to have a waist bag so my items are secure.
Medium Ride (2-3 hours)
Medium rides are those that are longer in distance and take anywhere from 2-3 hours to complete. This means you are either climbing a significant amount of elevation, biking a lot of miles or a good combination of both. Since you will be further from your vehicle or someone to pick you up, on these rides you will want to be prepared to fix a majority of problems you may encounter on the trail. The most common problems mountain bikers encounter are flat tires, broken chains, and/or loose bolts/linkage. Some items you will need are:
A way to fix or repair your flat tire. Depending on your tire set up, tube or tubeless, will depend on what items you will need for a tire repair. Generally, if you have a tube set up you will use patches to repair the hole or rip. If you are tubeless then sealant will close the small holes, but for larger holes you’ll need a tire plug or extra tube. It is up to you what you decide to carry.
A Master link and multi-tool w/ chain breaker. When your chain breaks, be sure to have a chain breaker which come on a lot of bike multitools. This way you can break the chain and reassemble on your bike.
I have already mentioned this, but make sure you also have a multitool with basic Allen wrench sizes and screwdriver tips. That way if anything comes loose, you’ll be able to tighten the bolt or reinstall it.
Snacks! You’ll be burning more fuel the longer you ride, so bring granola bars, gel packs, candy, etc.
Long Ride (3 hours +)
On long rides, you plan on being gone for more than 3 hours and biking a lot of miles. For long rides, you will want to include all the things I previously mentioned to fix your bike for the various scenarios. items are:
Two large waters or even a camelbak full of water. Again, more miles = more water!
Snacks/normal food. If you are gone for 3+ hours, you’ll need fuel to keep your body moving otherwise you can experience the “run out of gas” feeling. Sandwiches, electrolyte packs, trail mix, etc, all work great.
Small backpack. Because you are bringing more items, a waist pack might be too small so bring a small backpack that can fit more items.
First aid kit, just in case someone gets injured.
There may be some rides where you never use some of the items you brought, but when something does happen, you’ll be grateful you brought those items. I have been on a 3+ hour ride where both my tires went flat, and my chain broke. Thankfully I was able to fix everything enough to get to the bottom of the trail and then take my bike to the shop to get repaired.
Ultimately being prepared and bringing the correct gear for any length of bike ride is up to the rider. I would recommend researching and asking other riders what they bring to ultimately help you make a decision on what items you’ll bring. Even if you take the best care of your bike, you never know what could happen on the trail.