Mountain Biking - A Beginner's Guide

Posted on June 04, 2019 at 01:46 AM


By: Marc-André Bourque; Amateur Mountain Biker and Gear Guy.



You finally bought your first mountain bike, congratulations!  I’m sure you can’t wait to hit the trails on your next day off.  Much like other sports, there are always accessories that can make life a little easier while lowering the odds of getting hurt when hitting the mountain bike trails.

This list is meant to give you a rundown of what would be wise to have with you at all times when you’re out biking.

Safety First

mountain biking and being safe

René, My Personal Squamish Adventure Guide & Photographer Taking The Easy Way Out.


Remember that with or without protective equipment, awareness will always be your best safety asset. You may soon find your level of confidence increasing rapidly as you become more acquainted with your new bike and local trails. 

Keep in mind that taking it easy and starting slow will always serve you well and that it is best to follow your gut, especially when you’re not feeling it.

Here are a few things that can help you become a better biker while remaining safe:


Warming up always helps you get a feel for the bike and of your body.


You don't have to wait for a friend to show you their favourite trail to go explore.  Take some time to walk down the trail and see what's ahead.


On top of being a life-saving telecommunication device, phones nowadays can take amazing photos and allow you to know where you are at all-times with apps like TrailFork.


Two Mountain Bikers enjoying the safety of their helmet

René had his bike bounce back in his face on a small spill a week earlier, encouraging the wear for full-face helmet.


Mountain Bike Helmets

Regardless of the amount of money you’ve spent on your education, you value the information stored in your noggin…you should protect its content.  Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.

There are a variety of mountain bike helmets.

The regular bucket style helmet offers a lot of ventilation, is very light, and does not restrict the air flow to the mouth. It is ideal for those who enjoy long rides and lots of pedaling.

The full-face helmet is usually worn by riders that enjoy a fast-pace, or technical/risky trails. They may not breathe as well and may perhaps be heavier, but they cover your entire head (including face) for extra protection.

Some new technology has also made its way to the head protection industry in recent years; The MIPS helmet (Multi-directional Impact Protection System). Scientists teamed up with brain specialists and discovered that the average helmet was tested and developed to protect against only one type of impact (linear). Taking into account the angle at which most people hit their head when falling to the ground, they came up with a system that allows the helmet to slightly rotate on the skull upon impact, absorbing more of the hit and redirecting the energy away from the brain.

Read more on MIPS technology.

*Disclaimer - Neither of these helmet styles are meant to sustain more than one impact and should be discarded after its first crash.  It does not matter the level of damage the helmet has endured.  Even if you can't see any cracks there may be a small fracture in the foam (which is designed to break upon impact and thus served its purpose).

Shop Bike Helmets

Limb Protection


Poor little boy with scrapped knees

Little Boy Who Should Have worn His Knee Pads.


Knee Pads

After finding the perfect fitting helmet, look for a pair of knee pads. As your knees are usually exposed and often knock against the bike frame, it’s a good idea to keep them covered at all time. This will also come in handy if you ever get sent over the handlebars. There are a variety of models available depending on the amount of protection you want versus the level of maneuverability you need. For example, if you are as keen on pedaling as to going down the hill, you would benefit from smaller less restrictive pads. And if you, like myself, have lazy friends that would rather shuttle up the mountain than use their legs, you might want to consider buying thicker Knee Pads that extend down to your shins for more protection.
Shop Knee Pads

Little girl with broken arm dreaming of biking

Little Khloé Didn't Wear her Elbow Pads Like Mommy asked

Elbow Pads

You might be familiar with the part of your arm known as the funny bone. What you may not know is that despite nature’s elegant mix of rocks, roots and cool looking plants found on the trails, there is nothing funny about ending a ride early because you slipped off your bike and bashed your bare elbow on one of those elements. Please do yourself a favour and cover your funny bones, so you can keep laughing all the way down your favourite trail.
Shop Elbow Pads

Although the next two items are more of a personal preference than a necessity, both your hands and feet are the first points of contact with your bike, and you could only benefit from wearing the proper equipment.


Mountain Bike Gloves

Wearing gloves will increase your grip, as well as keep your hands clean and scratch free. And if you really fall in love with mountain biking to the point where weather is no longer a deterrent, you will have an easier time keeping your hands on the handlebar when your grips get wet. 
Shop Bike Gloves


Mountain Bike Shoes

Unless you ride with clip-on bike shoes, you may not feel the need to buy bike specific footwear, and that’s perfectly fine. But know that bike shoes are designed with a stiffer sole and more support for your feet, which ultimately translates into more traction and control over the bike. By being stiffer, the proper shoe will protect your toes from banging against rocks, as well as help your feet and knees remain aligned on the pedals and can prevent joint pain over time.  
Shop Bike Shoes

Tools And Accessories

You should always carry a small tool emergency repair kit with you when riding so you don’t have to walk home every time something happens to your bike.


The multi-tool is basically a Swiss army knife for bikes. There are also various models and if you are going to spend money on a useful little tool, make sure it contains a decent variety of Allen key sizes, so you can tighten and adjust the majority of your bike components.

See tutorial: How to choose the right multi-tool

Derailleurs can easily become out of whack when hit on a stump or a root.  Make sure your multi-tool also includes a Phillips (star-shaped) screwdriver bit to allow the adjustment of your derailleur. 

See tutorial: How to adjust your rear derailleur

A chain breaker should also be included on the tool.  This tool will help you put your chain back together in the event it breaks. That same part of your tool should also have marked dents with small numbers on it, those are spoke wrenches and are used to tighten the spokes of your wheels.

See tutorial: How to fix a broken chain

Spare Tubes & Pump

Eventually, you will get a flat tire.  In some unfortunate cases it will be blown beyond repair.  But in most cases, you will only have to change the tube inside.  Always make sure you pack a spare tube that matches the size of your wheel, as well as the type of valve it is designed for.

Some multi-tools include a Tire Lever, but if yours doesn’t, make sure to keep one in the kit, as it will be a lifesaver when fixing a flat as it will help remove the tire from the rim.

If you are running tubeless, you may not have to add a tube in order to repair a flat, as it contains a sealant that “should” stop the leak and allow to pump air back in the tire until it is back to normal.

Find yourself a nice little Bike Pump. Make sure that it accommodates the same type of valves found on your bike, as some of the smaller pumps don’t always have both presta and schrader adaptors.

See tutorials:  

How to change a flat tire with tube

How to repair a flat tire with patch kit

How to repair a flat tire tubeless


The last item on the list is a backpack, or the now very popular fanny pack. Many of the biking backpacks of smaller size are reasonably priced and sometimes include a bladder, which allows you to carry water while maximizing space and weight. The right backpack should be just big enough to contain your new multi-tool, your portable bike pump, a spare tube, one or two tire level, and a small snack.
Shop Backpacks

Now that you have all the essentials, you are ready to hit the trail with confidence. Don’t forget that bringing the kit with you is only a backup plan and that it does not replace safety tune-ups which should be performed regularly on your bike.

If performing a safety tune on your own - always use the proper tools in good condition, the appropriate pressure, and torque level specified by your manufacturer. When in doubt, bring your bike to a certified bike tech so it can be serviced appropriately and in a safe manner.

See tutorial: How to do proper maintenance

Also, remember to be honest with yourself when biking and to respect your limits at all time. You can always push a little further, but if you start slow you will avoid injury and become better faster as you won’t have to take time off to recover.

See you on the trail!

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