It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. –Edmund Hillary
Mountain biking is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve ever bemoaned a hill, whether climbing up it or zooming down it, mountain biking is not for you. But if you live for the scenic vistas, wooded overlooks, and serenity of the outdoors; if the idea of dirt trails, fast corners, and rough rides fills you with delight, you were made for mountain biking. Mountain biking is what the name says it is, it’s biking mountain trail and exploring off road areas. But there’s more to the activity than just biking a mountain.
People go mountain biking to experience the fun of off roading, to explore areas never seen before, and to take in the wonders of nature while still getting in a great workout. Similar to hiking, mountain biking takes you to areas where human contact is to a minimum, and you can be largely alone with the majesty of nature. But don’t let that paint mountain biking as a calm activity, because for every slope you bike up, you get the joy of the descent, the speeding, turning rush of making it down the mountain, and the intense concentration that comes with every turn.
We know mountain biking is more than just a fun activity, it’s a way of life, and we’re here to help you make sure you’re equipped for that lifestyle every step of the way. That’s why we’ve taken the time to review countless pieces of mountain biking gear, so you can invest wisely and ride with confidence. After all, it can become overwhelming to find the right bike for your needs, and even harder if you’ve never gone mountain biking before. And that’s not even taking into consideration the essential pieces of gear you need before taking to the trails. That’s why we work hard to provide up-to-date reviews on some of the best products on the market, so you can spend less time preparing for your next trip, and more time enjoying the scenery. But that’s enough rambling about us, let’s take a dive into the history of mountain biking, and how this activity came to be as widely beloved as it is in the modern day.
A Brief History of Mountain Biking
There’s more to mountain biking than just the gear. In fact, this activity has a long history that goes back almost as far as the history of the bike itself. In the early days of biking, almost every road was dirt or some other trail, meaning that every bike ride was “off-roading,” in a sense. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every bike ride was mountain biking. There are plenty of notable examples of bikes being used to explore the great outdoors, and take the road less traveled by, and one of these that stand out was the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps. In August 1896, this group of black men and a white lieutenant rode on bikes outfitted for a long journey from Missoula, Montana to Yellowstone National Park and back. The purpose of this trip was to see how well bikes could work to transport military troops over mountainous terrain, and the following year they road from Missoula to St. Louis, a trip of over 1,500 miles!
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that a bike was developed specifically for mountain biking, but that didn’t stop early pioneers. One example was the Velo Cross Club Parisien (VCCP), a group of 20 bikers from the outskirts of Paris who are one of the closest groups to a modern-day mountain biking club. Their bikes were outfitted for intense rides through the great outdoors, making them one of the more notable bike modding groups in history. People carry on the spirit of this group today, souping up ready-made mountain bikes to their own specifications and taking them on the road.
In the early ’60s and ’70s, off road biking was rising in popularity, with a growing community that made their own bikes out of vintage parts. Soon, this movement gained speed, and the first mass-produced mountain bikes were developed to take the off roading community from klunkers to engineering-driven modern mountain bikes we see today. Still, even with all the advances of the modern mountain bike, including gears, high-performance tiers, shock absorbers, and more, these early mountain bikers embodied the spirt of mountain biking with their commitment to perfecting their equipment and their drive to explore the great outdoors.
Mountain Biking Gear
The most important piece of mountain biking gear is obviously the bike, but there’s more to look for than just the perfect ride. Things like helmets, knee pads, and other forms of protection gear are just as important as a high-quality bike and having the right water bottle and back pack can make the difference between a great ride and a downer.
Like we’ve said before, mountain biking is more than just an activity, it’s a lifestyle, and as such there are plenty of pieces of gear that are essential to a successful ride. Things like apparel to help reduce the wear-and-tear of the road on your body while keeping you cool in hot weather and warm in cold can help keep you performing at your best for longer, while things like proper mountain bike grips, gear systems, and even mountain bike lights can make your next adventure all that more incredible.
While off roading is about finding the road less traveled by, things like GPS systems can help keep you safe on the trail, and investing in the proper safety backups can make your trip go smoothly, even on the bumpiest of back roads. And of course, there are countless pieces of outdoor equipment that can make a week-long bike trip that much easier, like compact tents and lightweight camping gear made to fit onto your bike or in your backpack with ease.
When it comes to packing up for your next biking trip, do your research into the area you’ll be heading to, and don’t be afraid to ask fellow bikers or local guides what to expect. After all, it’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared, and making sure you have the right gear with you when heading into the unknown can not only help make your trip more enjoyable, it can also be the difference between a fun day out and a potential emergency situation.
For more information on mountain biking gear, check out some of our reviews to find a great tent for mountain biking, or to find the right helmet to keep you safe on a rocky descent path. No matter the gear, we’ve done the research for you, so you can rest easy knowing you’re getting the best of the best when it comes to mountain biking gear.
Choosing the Right Mountain Bike
The first thing to keep in mind when shopping for a mountain bike is that the higher the quality, the higher the price. That shouldn’t be something to scare you off, however. What it means is that you’ll get out of your mountain bike what you’re willing to put in. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and invest in the most expensive mountain bike you find, far from it. There are plenty of affordable bikes out there (check out our articles on full-suspension mountain bikes under $2,000, hardtail mountain bikes under $1,500, gravel bikes under $1,000, gravel bikes under $2,000, mountain bikes under $1,000, and mountain bikes under $500). What you want to do is find a mountain bike that meets your needs, but that won’t require you to replace your bike every year. Of course, a big part of making your mountain bike last for years to come is to take proper care of it and making sure you stay regular on tune ups and clean your bike between uses can go a long way.
Some things to keep in mind when shopping for a mountain bike is the gear set up, the braking system, and the shock system. Of course, things like frame material and overall seat comfort are important, the most vital pieces of any mountain bike are the gears, brakes, and shock absorbers. A good set of gears can help you ascend and descent slopes with no delay, without putting added stress on your body. Brakes are vital to any descent and making sure you have good brakes with no delays or slipping is crucial to your safety. And of course, the rockier the road, the better shock absorbers you need. Once you know these are in tip-top shape, you can look into things like frame quality, seat choices, and of course, tires.
If there is one thing you take away from choosing your mountain bike, it is that there are countless options on the market, and it can be overwhelming to focus on too many factors at once. But if you can whittle down your list of needs to the basics, and then go from there, you can be sure you’re investing in the best mountain bike for you. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have some help, which is why we offer countless articles helping you pick the right mountain bike for your unique needs. If you are new, check out our article on good beginner mountain bikes.
Hit the Trails
Once you’ve picked your mountain bike and geared up, the only thing left to do is explore the great outdoors, which is really what mountain biking is all about. Whether you’re searching for that last piece of gear to hit the trail, or are getting into mountain biking for the first time ever, we offer all the resources you need to make sure your next trip is a success. So strap on your helmet, double check your map, and head out into the great unknown. The mountains are waiting.