BikeChain-MTB
BikeChain-MTB

All You Need For MTB

We’ve all been there…day dreaming about the next ride or thinking back to that all day epic. The screens are off and the tools are down and all that matters is getting back to the dirt to nail those lines. Whether you’re a beginner, a seasoned expert or full-blown racer, the trail always comes through with fist pumping goodness.

Time is limited so don’t waste it messing around with questionable gear…that’s where we come in. Let us deck you out with only the best, all you need to do is pedal.






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Frequently Asked Questions

What do MTB riders wear?

Mountain bikers often wear loosely fitted shorts, a jersey and helmets with sun peaks. Shorts have zip pockets to carry a multi tool, keys, and phone etc. Baggy shorts sometimes have riders using a breathable under-short liner featuring a chamois for extra comfort. Full Finger Gloves are must for MTB riding, they give extra padding on rougher terrain but most importantly protect your hands in a crash. More adventurous MTB riders should really look at using knee pads too, ones that don’t restrict movement as they will be comfy for longer pedals but enough protection to reduce the impact against grazes in a fall.




What accessories do I need for mountain biking?

All bikes should have a drink bottle cage and water bottle. When riding in the woods you need to be prepared, carry a spare tube and know how to change it. Make sure you have a multi tool, tyre levers and a pump (or Co2) to inflate that tube trail side. Don’t forget to pack an energy bar too. Running out of room in your pockets? A backpack with water bladder or saddle bag is a way to carry all you need.




What shoes are good for MTB?

Mountain biking always requires good sturdy shoes with decent grip so you stick to the pedals on the rough stuff. Some off-roaders use ‘flat pedals’. These are great for a novice to learn the ropes, skilled riders also use these for more control. The other cyclists use ‘clip in pedals’ where your foot is attached to the pedal with a cleat on the bottom of the shoe. MTB clip in shoes are different to road shoes - as you are more likely to walk around on loose terrain, they have grip on the souls. When looking into shoes, laces offer a casual look and traditionally more comfy to newer cyclists, while the shoes with buckles and dials are more performance orientated with stiffer soles for power transfer.




What does every mountain biker need?

A good floor pump! Too much air pressure on your tires or too little can make a fun trail terrible. When you go for a ride you should check your tyres - floor pumps make short work of inflating tyres in the car park or at home.

You will also need a good fitting, good quality helmet. Over the rough stuff, a bad fitting helmet will move around and distract you. You want it to be snug and comfy. Remember what a helmet is designed to do, protect your head in a crash, this is a place to invest in a quality product. And lastly - a trail map, a friend (or someone who at least knows where you are) and a phone.




How do I choose a mountain bike light?

Firstly look what you are needing a light for, to be seen or to see? If you’re riding around town, chances are you want to be seen. Check out rechargeable LED lights. These are great for seeing the path in front of you and have a flashing mode for when in traffic or commuting. General purpose front lights range from 50 to about 500 lumens and can be recharged with a USB lead. Fit these to your handlebars and a red rear light to your seat post.

When looking at MTB night riding, you really need to see what’s approaching on the trail. BikeChain recommends lights above 1000 Lumens of output to be required as a minimum. This light is best placed on your helmet rather than your handlebars. Helmet lights allow you to see when you are looking at features or around corners to see where you’re going. Also consider how long you ride at night - lights often claim a run time which needs to match the time you are out riding for too.




Mountain Biking

Mountain biking refers to a type of bike riding that, as the name suggests, takes place off sealed roads and typically in rough and hilly terrain. Whereas once this term described any kind of off-road riding, modern-day mountain biking incorporates several exciting, adrenaline-pumping biking categories.

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Types of mountain biking

If you’re looking for a specialist mountain biking pursuit, you’ve got plenty of options! 


Downhill

Not for the faint-hearted, downhill riding may or may not incorporate a lift up the hill, only to require sound bike-handling skills (and all the proper protective gear - read further on) and suspension to handle the wicked descent. 


Freeriding 

Consider this form of cycling the love child of BMX, downhill and dirt jumping. Whilst the term originated from the world of snowboarding, it quickly leapt into the cycling vernacular, too, and describes a creative, unique and, dare we say, free line along a trail. It’s DIY, choose-your-own-adventure stuff, and it’s incredible! 


Trail riding

Well, the name pretty much says it all, right? Trail riding is - you guessed it - on trails. Be they single tracks, fire roads, bridle paths, whatever. So, it would be unusual to come across too many vehicles when it comes to trail riding, which is a real plus to the sport and makes it extra sweet. 


Enduro

Beginning its life as a racing discipline over stages, enduro refers to a hybrid of downhill and trail riding. Bikes are typically long in travel (150mm-180mm) whilst still being light enough to pedal uphill at a moderate tempo. The majority of enduro racing takes place downhill and typically on rough terrain. Of course, it depends on the location, but Enduro can be anything from a short-burst sprint challenge to a momentous, extreme smash-fest, with even pro riders taking a quarter of an hour to get from start to finish. Think maximum effort and mighty adrenaline rush. 


XC or Cross-Country

Expect a little bit of anything and everything with this style of biking. From obstacles, rock gardens and technical elements to open spaces, singletracks and bush roads. But, if you’re going to compete in XC, be ready to dial it up a notch. You need to know how to handle the bike with anything that comes your way. It is all about power, speed, suspension, climbing prowess, off/on bike skills, an ability to carry the bike over obstacles - the whole shebang! 


Mountain bike features

As you’ve just read, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to mountain biking. You can be as broad or as niche as you want. As a result, mountain bike features will vary significantly depending on the riding style. However, you can spot a typical mountain bike with the following: 


Frame 

The type of suspension (see below) will dictate the frame type, so the choice is either hardtail or suspension. For a lighter and, in most cases, cheaper option, hardtails are the go-to option. Although this is typically the type of frame for a beginner or mid-level rider, there are certainly plenty of super-skilled mountain bikers who are just die-hardtailers, pardon the pun. 
A suspension bike frame must, of course, incorporate a shock absorber so that the bike has ‘travel’ (the ability to move independently and take the shock of impact). The level of travel can vary, with lightweight racing bikes featuring about 100mm compared to gravity frames with upwards of 200mm.
Mountain bike frames are available in various materials, just like their road-riding counterparts. Aluminium, steel, titanium, and carbon are the most common materials used for mountain bike frames. 


Suspension (shock absorption)

Suspension is a big deal, particularly for the more extreme side of the sport. Expect to see obvious suspension either in the front of the bike only (hardtail) or both the front and back (full suspension). The debate of hardtail versus full is as old as the hills in which you will likely take your MTB baby riding. So, in an effort to keep this shorter and sharper, we will leave that discussion for another day! 


Brakes

Sure, there are still plenty of mountain bikes out there with v-brakes (two long arms that apply pressure to the rims when the cable is squeezed). However, disc is establishing itself as the dominant kid on the block, particularly in mucky and muddy conditions where they are superior. Cable-actuated braking makes for much easier maintenance and flexibility (most callipers and levers are compatible with one another). But for precision and powerful stopping that works in rain or shine, disc brakes are the new standard. 
Now, when it comes to disc brakes you have two choices: cable-actuated or hydraulic braking systems.  Mechanical disc brakes rely on a steel cable to transition force from the levers to the callipers, which push a piston that pushes the brake pad against the disc (also called the rotor), thus slowing down the wheel (or stopping it dead in its tracks, depending on the force applied!). 
However, as the name suggests, hydraulic braking is activated by a brake line filled with fluid. This triggers a piston in the brake callipers, which in turn push the braking pads onto the rotors, again slowing - or immediately stopping - the wheel.
So, which is best? OK, hydraulic braking systems are more expensive and require more experienced maintenance (but isn’t that what a good bike shop is for?!). However, we believe they are hands down worth it. Superior and smoother stopping power, better control, easier to handle, lighter and faster riding (because you’re stopping faster) mean our vote goes to hydraulics every time.


Pistons

We’ve mentioned pistons above. In the world of mountain biking, you have two choices: 2-piston or 4-piston brakes. As the name suggests, 2-piston calipers use a brake pad and piston on either side of the disc (so two in total). In contrast, 4-piston calipers involve a brake pad and two pistons on either side of the disc. As you can imagine, the more pistons and the bigger their size, the increased force they create, thus resulting in more powerful braking. 


Rotors (or discs)

As we’ve mentioned, rotors are the actual discs attached to the wheel hub. The larger the rotor, the more rigorous the type of cycling. For example, you might see a small 160mm rotor on a cross-country bike but up to 203mm for a downhill MTB. The bigger the rotor the more efficiently it can handle heat. However, with size comes weight, and ideally, you want to keep your bike as light as possible. Check out this great Hope Rotor guide for more information. 


Flat handlebars

Unlike its road riding cousin, a mountain bike features flat handlebars only, no drops. This is partly because the very nature of this riding means there’s little time to sit back, relax and just stretch it out for kilometre after kilometre. Mother Nature just doesn’t come that neatly packaged! And don’t we love that… 
MTB handlebars come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The two common bar diameters are 31.9mm and, more recently, 35mm. Either is up to the task, with 35mm offering less flex and a more direct feel. Keep in mind when purchasing a new bar/stem that you know which configuration you need. The rise and width of a handlebar is also personal. XC bikes typically feature narrower bars, whilst flat-out downhill riders tend to opt for 800mm and beyond to maximise high speed stability and increase leverage. Finally, the rise of a handlebar will help compensate different stem heights and aid riders who want to raise or lower their set up


Wheels and tyres 

This is another feature that really makes a mountain bike stand out from the pack. You know how we said suspension was a hot topic for debate? Well, wheel size might possibly take that to the next level. But again, that’s another debate for another day. There are basically three types of wheel options available to you: 

  • 26-inch wheels 
  • 27.5-inch wheels (650b) 
  • 29-inch wheels (29er) 
    Regardless of size, expect wide knobby tyres with plenty of grip and rough-handling ability as opposed to skinny road tyres that would likely blow up within minutes. 

    Mountain bike gear

    Make the most out of this awesome sport and get the right gear - apparel that feels good, works great, and will last the distance (because this is addictive, and you’re going to be out on the bike a lot!).


    Bike jersey

    Unlike road cycling, mountain bikers opt for short-sleeve, three-quarter sleeve, or long-sleeve options with more give so as to accommodate plenty of body movement. Just remember the length of the sleeve is not exclusively relative to the temperature. Indeed, if you’re headed into bushland or scrub in warm weather, it might bode well to wear more coverage and protect your arms from scratches, stings and even summer burns.


    Shorts 

    Again, MTB shorts provide plenty of give so that the body can move freely about on the bike. However, they often come with chamois padding, which makes sense given the number of times the bum is in and out of the saddle and taking a bit of a beating on the trails! You might opt for road-style bib shorts, but if that’s the case, often you will still wear a baggier version over the top because, well, that’s just the way plenty of MTBers roll. Look for tear-resistant material with plenty of stretch and ample space around the leg for knee armour (more on that below). 


    Pants 

    A little like hiking pants, MTB riding pants are typically either water-resistant or waterproof and come in a hard-shell, breathable fabric. Not only are they great for inclement weather, but they help reduce your post-ride shower time, keeping wet muck and mud off your legs.


    Jacket

    Typically, you have three choices for mountain bike jackets: 

  • Lightweight shell
    Although this will likely be water-resistant, it won’t be waterproof. Look for fabric perforations or mesh panelling that offer good air circulation and therefore breathability. You can expect a lightweight shell jacket to bundle up into a neat ball and pack into a jersey pocket when not needed. 
  • Hybrid jacket 
    As the name suggests, a hybrid jacket gives you a little of both the lightweight and the more robust full waterproof option. Expect this to be water-repellent, warm but with good breathability provided vents are present (which you want, even in cold weather, as your body is going to be packing plenty of heat once the pedals really start to turn). Still with a good amount of stretch, the hybrid should also roll up into a ball, albeit a slightly more padded one, and stuffed into a pocket. 
  • Full waterproof jacket 
    This is your heavy-duty option for the most miserable weather! A full hard-shell, waterproof jacket, quality waterproof jacket will keep the rain off your body for literally hours. Don’t go for a close-fitting number as you need enough give to allow for any body armour as well as lots of movement. This jacket won’t be cheap, but it will pay for itself time and time again, so make the right investment to start with. 

    Mountain bike accessories

    Mountain bike accessories are a crucial part of the sport. They not only make riding a more pleasurable experience but play a fundamental role in helping to keep you as safe as possible. Here are the mountain bike accessories you don’t want to leave home without: 

    Mountain bike helmets 

    More and more MTB helmets are sporting MIPS technology, which is basically a slip-plane located within the helmet that helps reduce the rotational force on the brain in the event of an accident. Sitting low around the back and sides for increased cover, mountain bike helmets often come with integrated peaks (to help shield the rider from sun, rain or low-hanging obstacles). Downhill helmets usually provide full-face cover for 360 protection and resemble motorbike helmets more than they do standard bike helmets. Indeed, for riders doing plenty of big jumps and drops, you might even consider a full-face helmet complete with a neck brace. 

    Goggles or sunglasses

    You want eye protection not only from the glare of the sun but also the (reasonably high) chance of debris being thrown from your front wheel into your face. Typically, the worse the weather or more downhill riding involved, the more likely you are to be wearing goggles rather than sunglasses, especially when wearing a full-face helmet. For all other disciplines, consider sunglasses that offer interchangeable lenses or the latest technology that adjusts to the light (called photochromatic). High contrast lenses (like the BBB FullView HC )are also new, and help distinguish shadows on the trail and spot surface.


    Mountain bike shoes 

    Another important mountain bike accessory is footwear. You really want to land a pair of shoes that offers excellent power transfer and pedal efficiency. The clip-in feature is recessed into the sole of a MTB shoe, unlike its road riding cousin, which very indiscreetly protrudes. This allows you to easily move on and off the bike and get around on foot without resembling a waddling penguin, as is the case for road cycling (did we say that?!). Alternatively, you can go for flat pedal shoes, like the Clan 2 . These are great in that they also offer plenty of stiffness but give the MTBer more freedom to get off the pedals. This is especially handy for tricks or gnarly crashes! 


    Protective gear

    The general rule of thumb is, of course, the more technical or risky the riding, the more robust and numerous the armour around your body. It’s standard for a MTBer to wear at least knee pads. As risk increases, you’re more likely to opt for elbow pads and even back protectors. For many riders, body armour is about psychology as much as it is physicality. E.g. the more protected you are, the more confident you feel. There are different types of protective gear and it mostly comes down to personal preference. 


  • Lightweight body armour 
    Don’t make the mistake of thinking lightweight means less protection. It does mean more flexibility, breathability, less weight and bulkiness, but you can still get plenty of protection. Check out Alpinestars Paragon Lite line-up.
  • Hard-shell body armour 
    Combining fabric with hard polycarbonate, hard-shell body armour can be heavier, hotter and more restrictive. However, it can also offer very robust protection, particularly for full-on mountain biking. Check out the Alpinestars Vector range for options. 

    Gloves 

    We’re starting to sound monotonous now, but with increased risk comes the need for increased protection. Basic mountain biking gloves will be full finger with cushioning. Downhill and enduro riders will probably aim for additional protection on the back of the hands and extra grip on the front to maintain better control of the handlebars. 


    Socks

    Socks don’t just offer comfort to a hard-pedalling MTer. With the front wheel throwing all kinds of debris your way, they help provide some skin protection as well. You can find waterproof socks as well as shoe covers for maximum protection.


    Tips for mountain bike riding 

    If you’re new to mountain biking, then don’t hesitate to let us know. Our team is full of passionate mountain bikers who are here to offer tips and advice. For those just starting out, some of the more obvious pearls of wisdom we can impart include: 

  • Keep your eyes on whatever is ahead of you as opposed to immediately in front of you. This tells your body where you want to go (which is ahead, not right in front of your wheel!). It also helps your balance and enables you to better respond to the path’s twists, turns and obstacles. This is also referred to as ‘finding a line’. 
  • Don’t brake like a badass. This is especially important if you’re on disk brakes as you will for sure go flying over the handlebars. Ease into the squeeze! 
  • Give right-of-way to those riding uphill
  • Stay neutral when you’re not navigating technical challenges. That means a slight bend in the knees and elbows, index fingers hovered over the brake levers, pedals even weighted. 
  • Look after your bike. This baby is going to take you places and make you feel like you wouldn't believe, so respect it and care for it accordingly! 

    There is a lot more to it than just the above, and a good mountain biker will be learning for years. The best way is to simply start and learn bit-by-bit. Head out with someone experienced, soak up videos, ask plenty of questions and you will have an awesome time. 

    Contact us

    We would love to hear about any mountain bike questions you have. Whether you’re an experienced biker looking to upgrade, a beginner feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start, or anywhere in-between the two, reach out to us. We’re mountain bikers, we love mountain biking, and we would be delighted to help you! 



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