Downhill mountain biking is indeed fun to do because of the adrenaline rush you will feel. Then again, the fact that it is much more challenging is what makes it more dangerous than other mountain bike rides.
Wearing the same gear that you often wear when you are biking cross country simply won’t cut it in downhill biking because, as mentioned, the circumstances are much more different and quite dangerous in downhill biking.
As such, if you want to try your hand at downhill mountain biking, you need to make sure that you pack up some essential gear that is there to protect you and minimize the chances of you getting injured. Luckily, I have a full list of the essential gear that you need to wear when you are mountain biking downhill.
A full-face helmet
Arguably the most important gear that you need to wear when you are mountain biking is a helmet. For downhill mountain biking a simple open-face helmet won’t offer you the protection needed.
In most cases, your open-face helmet should already be more than enough. But this isn’t the case when you are downhill biking because biking downhill is much more dangerous than biking on a smooth and flat surface.
This demands that you need to wear a full-face helmet that is there to protect not only your head but also your face, especially considering that the chances of you landing face-first in a crash is very high in downhill mountain biking.
A full-face mountain bike helmet is designed to make sure it cushions your head in crashes to protect you from concussions.
The importance of wearing eyewear can never be overstated when it comes to mountain biking because you need to keep your eyes protected from debris and insects.
If you’ve ever seen how many insects and debris are on your windshield while you are driving, the same can happen to your eyes while you are riding a bike.
Keep in mind that mountain biking is third only to basketball and softball when it comes to the chances of injuring your eyes. So, with that, the best way for you to make sure your eyes are protected is by wearing eyewear while biking.
When it comes to downhill mountain biking, it is no longer just simply an issue of keeping your eyes protected from debris, insects, or anything similar. Instead, it is also an issue of protecting your eyes from crashes.
Mountain bike goggles also shield your eyes and your face from anything that can easily injure them when you end up crashing face-first on jagged rocks or tree branches.
On top of protecting your face and eyes when you are riding downhill, mountain bike goggles also have lenses that are made to make sure that your eyes are protected from the sun, they are capable of filtering out harmful rays.
Conventional mountain biking on smoother and more forgiving trails and roads doesn’t usually demand that you wear something to protect your body. But always remember that downhill mountain biking is a lot more difficult and less forgiving when it comes to possible accidents and injuries that may happen along the way.
In relation to that, you don’t always see cross-country or trail mountain bikers wearing body armor, which basically serves as a way to protect a person’s body from any sort of harm or injury that jagged rocks and rough terrain can cause. Of course, let’s not forget how body armors are quite hot and are not the best choice for those who may want to keep themselves cool while riding.
But, when it comes to downhill mountain biking, protecting your body is much more important than comfort. As such, it has become essential that you wear mountain biking armor that should serve to protect your torso from any possible injuries that a crash or accident can cause.
While there are some mountain biking armors that are actually quite solid and heavy to the point that they look like your conventional armor, there are a few body armors that are actually quite flexible because they are simply regular mountain biking clothes that are padded in the right areas to cushion you in case you fall or crash. This allows you to stay as light and as flexible as possible all while minimizing feeling too hot or warm while riding.
It might be true that wearing armor can be quite restrictive and uncomfortable while pedaling. But always keep in mind that the most important aspect of downhill mountain biking is your safety. So, by wearing armor, you’ll be able to maximize your safety and minimize the chances of injuries.
Knee and elbow pads
In relation to the armor that you need to wear to keep your sensitive body parts protected from injuries when you do end up falling off your bike while downhill riding, it is also essential that you keep your joints protected. And that’s why knee and elbow pads are vital to your safety when you are biking downhill.
Unlike armor, knee and elbow pads are usually recommended among all kinds of different riders regardless of whether they are riding downhill or cross country. That’s because your knees and elbows are just as exposed and as prone to injuries as your head is. This is something you may have noticed as a child when you end up scraping your knees and elbows when you were still learning how to ride a bike.
Falling off a bike when you are riding downhill will not only leave you with scratched or scraped knees and elbows, this can lead to something a lot more serious, you probably won’t be able to easily get back up and pedal again if you don’t keep your knees and elbows protected.
As such, it is important to wear knee and elbow pads when you are mountain biking downhill because of how one knee or elbow injury can make a world of difference. Hitting your knees and elbows hard without anything to cushion them can land you in the hospital or possibly end your mountain biking career.
In most cases, it is quite acceptable for you to wear regular shoes when you are mountain biking. This is because the purposes of shoes are to make sure your feet are protected and that you are able to grip the pedals well enough. This is why sneakers and hiking shoes are usually acceptable when it comes to mountain biking.
But you have to consider the fact that downhill mountain biking is a lot more dangerous than regular trail biking. This means that regular sneakers or hiking shoes won’t be enough to give you the protection and performance you need. Therefore, mountain bike shoes are the best for when you are riding downhill.
Mountain bike shoes are made to be quite rigid and durable and they have soles that are harder and less flexible. While some people won’t find them comfortable, rigid mountain bike shoes allow you to transfer more pedaling power from your legs to the pedals. Meanwhile, the treads of mountain bike shoes offer the best grip on the pedals.
Of course, on top of that, mountain bike shoes are made to protect your feet from the impact of drops and jumps that are quite common in downhill rides.
Mountain bike gloves are also important when it comes to downhill riding. There are some people who don’t always wear gloves on regular mountain bike rides such as cross country or trails but these gloves become more important on downhill rides.
There are two main reasons why you need to wear mountain bike gloves. The first is that these gloves are there to improve your grip on your handles when you are biking. You need to make sure that you grip your bike’s handles well enough while you are riding downhill or else you will be risking the possibility of losing control over your bike.
Meanwhile, the second reason is to protect your hands from any possible injuries that can happen to your hands in case you do fall off your bike.
When it comes to falls when riding downhill, you are more likely to fall forward instead of sideward. So, when you are about to fall on your face, the most common response of most people is to try to cushion the fall with their hands. And by wearing gloves, you will be able to protect your hands from injuries that jagged rocks or tree branches can cause.
MTB shorts & jersey
Finally, we have your mountain bike shorts and jersey, which are the least important things you need when you are riding downhill but are still very much essential when you want to make sure that you perform at the top of your game while you are riding.
Unlike the other gear on this list, your mountain bike shorts and jersey are not always made to protect you (unless they come padded). Instead, they help you perform better. And when you perform better when you are riding, the less likely it is for you to end up falling and crashing.
Mountain bike shorts are a lot more flexible than your regular shorts. These shorts are usually skintight so that you will feel like you aren’t wearing anything. And the fact that they are close to your skin allows the shorts to wick away excess moisture and sweat from your body.
Meanwhile, mountain bike jerseys are usually made to be a bit lose compared to your usual road jerseys. However, they are still quite close-fitting so that they can efficiently wick away sweat.
I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.