So there we were… staring at Jaime’s mountain bike. Her pedal snapped off the crank, and we were tool-less, gear-less, and totally out of luck. Fortunately, this only happened 1/2 mile from the house, but it really knocked some sense into us. We suddenly realized mountain biking is just like backcountry skiing. You need to gear up, and be prepared for the worst but shoot for the best. After our rookie realization, we reached out to our local bike shop to help create this list of the fifteen must have mountain bike accessories that are essential to ALWAYS bring on a ride.
Before You Hop On The Saddle
When it comes to must have mountain bike accessories, the first thing to consider is how long of a ride are you planning to go for. Depending on if it’s a one-hour sprint, four hour loop, or a twelve hour excursion, the amount of items you need to bring is going to change. For example, if it’s a quick one hour ride, you won’t need to worry about fueling as much. The goal is to keep the amount of items you bring as light as possible, but at the same time, be ready if problems arise.
Things You Need For Mountain Biking
Even if you have cat-like reflexes on a bike, always landing rubber side down, you NEED to rock a helmet. As soon as you go off road, there are too many variables to take into account and your brain is by far the most important asset you should protect. With that being said, in most situations you don’t need a full-face helmet unless you’re doing full-on downhill or aggressive enduro riding.
The biggest difference between a road noggin protector and a mountain bike one is the visor. Nearly every mountain bike helmet on the market comes with one. It serves two purposes. One is to provide a bit of shade against sun rays and help provide better vision. The second is to give your face some protection from low hanging branches and other debris. Although there isn’t an industry testing standard, the Swedish “brain protection” company MIPS is the pinnacle of trying to make that happen. Standing for Multiple Impact Protection System, more than a 100 brands use their liner inside of their models.
One of the major issues that happens out on the trail is getting a flat. From rocks, stumps, bumps, sticks, and twigs, there’s a good chance something will happen. Without a pump, you’ll be stuck in neutral! Picking up a small pump is easy, right? Wrong! There’s MULTIPLE sizes, so how do you choose? Similar to Goldilocks and the three bears, you need to find the one that’s perfect for you.
You can go with the smallest pump available, but if you do get a flat, you might be there for a LOOONNGG time trying to pump it up. But if you get the biggest one, you will pump up the tire quicker, but it’ll be a lot heavier to carry. For us, we picked the middle size one. It’s big enough to pump in air quickly but not too heavy to carry for the ride. No matter how long of a ride you go on, this is #1 on your must have mountain bike accessories unless you’re running a tubeless tire.
Spare Inner Tube
This is your first line of defense if you do flat-out. Inner tubes are as cheap as a cup of coffee so why even mess with a patch kit? Grab that tire, rip out the tube, throw a new one in, and you’re good to go! Even after going tubeless, we still carry one since we sometimes can be as much as ten or twenty miles from the nearest road if something does happen.
After a mini-pump and a spare inner tube, the next most important thing to bring is some water. The weather might be perfect, but as soon as you start pedaling, you’ll start to get thirsty. And the biggest energy drain is getting dehydrated. At a minimum, bring a bottle. Or better yet, get a backpack with water storage such as the Camelbak M.U.L.E. hydration pack. Water is a good idea, but for longer rides, you need to consider replacing electrolytes as well. You’ll work up a sweat which means you’ll lose vital salts and minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. This can easily be taken care of with an electrolyte drink.
For short quick rides, this isn’t something you need to worry about. It’s once you hit the time marker of being in the saddle for more than 60-90 minutes your body’s battery begins to run-down. Your internal store of quick burning carbs to fuel your cycling engine is running towards empty. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as eating a giant stack of pancakes in the morning, and you’re good. The only way to restore this is by replacing it with energy chews / bites during the ride. To learn more about how to do it properly, check out our article: Want To Up Your Game? Then You Might Want To Consider Food As Fuel.
If you haven’t noticed, there’s a theme when it comes to must have mountain bike accessories. Are you going for just a quick hour ride or something longer? Since we’re on the conservative side, we always bring a backpack. It’s a no brainer. You have everything you need all in one place without having to think. So, when you want to go out for a ride you’re ready to go. No muss. No fuss. As we stated in the water section above, our go-to backpack is the Camelbak M.U.L.E. hydration pack. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular since its inception in 1996. The design is simple, light, and has everything you need. The 9L of storage space is well divided so you can organize your gear easily, and the bladder carries over a 100 oz. We’ve heard from some that the water bladder is difficult to clean, but we’ve had no issues.
Option B – Frame Bag & Water Bottle
I know some folks out there don’t sweat a lot meaning a bottle of water is more than enough. Or maybe you just don’t like the idea of having a backpack on when navigating a trail. A lot of our friends solve this issue by storing their must have mountain bike accessories on the frame itself in a small pack such as the DaKine Gripper Bike Frame Bag. And for their bigger rides, they’ll throw on a waistpack. Some of them like the Osprey Seral series even come with a water bladder so that you can carry extra water along with a few more snacks.
The living might be easier in the summer, but weather can change quickly when you’re out pedaling. You don’t need a huge puffy but rather a windbreaker like the Patagonia Dirt Roamer. We can’t stress this enough. Keep it simple, ensure its bullet proof, and make it as light as possible. It’s there so that when a thunderstorm rolls in, you’ll be glad you did. And if you’re out riding in the fall or early spring, your best bet is to dress in layers so that if you do get hot or cold, you can adjust accordingly.
Multi-tool with pliers
A multi tool is THE standard backcountry tool you should always carry with you, sun or snow. From a pair of pliers to a knife, this is something you should carry any time you’re out in the wilderness. A Leatherman or Gerber tool are the standards most outdoorsy folk use as they fold up nicely and stay out of the way till you need it.
If you haven’t noticed, A LOT of the nuts and bolts on a bike aren’t the normal thing you can access via a screwdriver. Besides a standard multi-tool, there’s a good chance you’ll need some other tools that are specific to a bike. That’s where the bike multi-tool kit comes in. From hex keys to tire levers, it’s critical to have this if something unexpected happens out there.
Some mountain bike trails we’ve been on are brutal on the tires – baby heads, granite shards that could filet a fish, or tight rock garden that could pinch a copper penny. Patch kits are just a good idea as a backup to your spare inner tube(s). They’re small. Weigh next to nothing. And if you’ve already gone through the backup tube and you’re still 10 miles from your car, you’ll be glad you brought a patch kit with you. It might take a bit more work, but a patch kit can cover MULTIPLE flat tires if it happens out there. Better to be safe than sorry with a ride like that!
Rims on a mountain bike aren’t cheap. If you don’t have a tire lever to pop the tire off correctly, you could damage not just your ego but the rim itself. As the name dictates, this simple tool allows you to get the tire off. Many tires are almost impossible to get off without a set of tire levers. If you ever get a puncture, you could be properly stuck if you don’t have one handy. There’s a few different brands out there like Quick Stick or Pedro’s. Is one better than the other? It all depends on personal preference. Be sure to pick up at least a pair of these because they are known to break. And if they do, replace them before your next ride.
Similar to run-flat for a car, zip-ties are a great option to temporarily fix your bike until you can get somewhere to fully fix the problem. We’ve had seat droppers fail. Brake line attachments snap. And all sorts of other things break, and these little guys did the job every time.
If something snaps, just like our pedal, some good ‘ole duct tape could’ve helped keep that piece of the bike together. You don’t bring a mountain man’s sized roll on the trail either. Rather, bring a travel-sized version like SOL duct tape. Or, another way to solve the problem is by creating your own super thin, pocket-sized variation. For the steps on how to make your own custom duct-tape roll, check out this article.
Chain Tool / Master Link
The bike chain is an essential piece of gear on your bike. When riding over stumps, rocks, and sticks, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll bend the chain. You might be able to bend it back, but if you have a chain tool and a master link, you can pop off the problem link and put on the new one with no issue. Each “speed” (8, 9, 10 speed, etc.) has different thicknesses and lengths for their links. So, when buying a master link, be sure you pick up the right one.
First Aid Kit
Things happen especially on longer rides. While our good friend Noel is a great cyclist, after hours and hours of riding, he lost focus for a second and went over the handlebars on the famed Sierra Canyon Trail. Blood splurting everywhere and even a bone poking out! You can read about that experience in our article: I Fought The Mountain… And The Mountain Won. With that being said, the Hart Health Day Hike First Aid Kit we came with was invaluable. Another great thing to consider bringing is some extra sunscreen, especially if the trail you’re going on isn’t under a forest canopy.
Yet another example of us pushing the limits because we were having too much fun. Although mountain biking is typically done when the sun is shining, if you’re heading out in the afternoon or for an extended full-day tour, having a headlamp is a good idea. Heaven forbid somebody gets hurt or it takes longer to fix the bike, you’ll be happy you brought one. Once that sun goes down, it can get difficult to see what you’re doing without it.
Additional Items To Consider
Besides the items we’ve highlighted above, there are a few others you should at least consider. On those days you’re getting a bit more aggressive or riding alone, make sure to carry ID and maybe even a whistle on a lanyard. Terrible to think about but anything can happen. If you were to fall into a ravine and break your leg, the sound of a whistle will carry further and last A LOT longer than your voice. Also, if you live in or planning to ride in an area that has bears, packing bear spray isn’t a bad idea either.
This list of must have mountain bike accessories may sound long, but we can actually fit everything listed in our pack or on the bike itself. Leave the floor pump and entire roll of duct tape at home. Instead, pick things that don’t take up a lot of space and serve multiple functions. Tire levers come in packs, we only carry one. Our windbreaker is incredibly light and squishes down to the size of a nalgene bottle. The extra tube is wrapped on the bike frame with a cheap velcro strap along with our bike pump. We carry food inside of our shorts. Even the bear spray we carry is clipped on the outside of the pack so that we don’t waste space. Put a little thought on how you want to organize the gear, and you’ll be grateful you did.
Do You Need ALL Of These Items?
We designed this list in a way to make sure you have the must have mountain bike accessories for ANY kind of ride from a short jaunt to a full day expedition. Just like any outdoor adventure, when planning your next trail riding adventure, think about the following:
- How close are you to the nearest road?
- Can someone come and get you if something bad happens?
- Is there cell service?
- Proximity to civilization/wilderness aspect?
Depending on how you respond to the questions above, you’ll be able to answer which must have mountain bike accessories to leave home or bring for the ride. It’s always fun to head out into the wilderness, but be responsible. Keep the rubber side down and happy riding! If you want to learn more about how to start mountain biking, get tips on gear to buy, or just explore adventures you can have from the shores of Tahoe to the mighty Grand Tetons of Wyoming, click below:
Additional Accessories To Pick Up
Outside of what to carry on your ride, there are a couple of must have mountain bike accessories that can help up your game or at least make it more enjoyable.
Mountain Bike Shoes
You may think a shoe is a shoe … is a shoe, but I personally found that isn’t the case. A pair that are designed for the sport are game changing. They lock you into the pedal even in the muddiest conditions. Just a few years ago, the only ones on the market for flat pedals were the FIVE TEN’s. All other models were geared towards clipless pedals. Now, there is a whole assortment of flat pedal shoes to pick from.
Along with what you rock on your feet, another item that you can easily upgrade (and affordably) are your flat pedals. The standard pedals mountain bikes come with are just that — standard. As soon as we bought our OneUp Components pedals, it was love at first bike. We felt locked into them along with our Ride Concept shoes. The list of pedals on the market is a bit overwhelming, so to help you in the process of finding ones you’ll like, we’ve created this guide: Good Vibes And The Best MTB Flat Pedals To Get You Anywhere.
As you start ratcheting up the mileage on your bike, one of the things you may start to notice is that your sit bones become tender or even painful. If your bike feels uncomfortable then another option to make you bum happier is to pick up a pair of chamois. Unless you’ve been in the biking scene, it’s the “dirty” secret on how to make mountain biking more enjoyable. Pronounced “shammy”, it’s underwear that has built in padding to make that long ride more enjoyable. Let’s just say your cheeks will thank you.
Mountain Bike Shorts
You don’t NEED to get mountain bike shorts but certain features that are in them will help you when you’re out on trail rides. For starters, look for ones that are made of a tough material like lycra and longer than normal. Many times that singletrack has overgrown branches, tree stumps, or you may even skid out on some gravel. Having that extra bit of protection is worth it when you crash (and you will crash at some point). At the same time, you want them to be breathable for those climbs because you’ll be working up a sweat. Last but not least, many already come with chamois so you get two for the price of one.