10 Must-Have Accessories
Whether buying a new bike or fixing up your trusty old steed, it’s important to recognize that a fun day on the trails involves more than just the bike you ride. To truly have the best experience possible, you’ll need a few accessories. If you’re buying a new bike, keep the additional cost of these items in mind. Sure, the new bike will enhance your ride, but these items will add safety, comfort and relief should you have a trailside problem. Here’s our list of 10 accessories every mountain biker should look into purchasing.
The most important item is a good helmet. This sounds like common sense, but we are surprised how many riders refuse to wear a helmet, especially kids. It doesn’t matter your age, skill level or riding style, you should always wear a helmet. A helmet needs to be replaced every few years or immediately after a serious crash.
Mountain bike helmets can vary in price– from $50 to a few hundred dollars. You might be tempted to think that a more expensive helmet will provide more safety, and that can be true; however, it isn’t always the case. First, look for a helmet designed for your style of riding. Do you race cross-country, ride downhill or trail ride? Then pick out the features you want your helmet to have. An adjustable visor, ample ventilation and additional safety systems are all popular features found on mid- to high-level helmets. Once you’ve found a helmet that fits your style and offers the features you’re looking for, focus on finding a comfortable fit.
2. SHOES AND PEDALS
If you haven’t yet decided which type of pedals you want, now is the time. It’s more than likely your new bike didn’t come with pedals at all. And, if it did, they probably aren’t trail-worthy. Along with pedals, you’ll want to look into a pair of shoes that matches your style. Many MBA test riders have had the same pair of pedals for years and transfer them from bike to bike, but shoes often need replacement after a season or so. If you’re looking to get a pair of clip-in pedals, you can’t beat Shimano’s SPD pedals. For shoes, you’ll want to purchase a pair compatible with a mountain bike cleat, meaning there are four screw holes as opposed to three. Ask yourself what would be more beneficial: a lightweight and stiff shoe, a comfortable and casual shoe, or a combination of the two?
Flat-pedal riders will want to find a pedal that is sized well and has adjustable pins, then purchase a cycling-specific shoe that offers more protection, more grip and a stiffer sole than a skateboard-style shoe.
3. TIRE PLUG, MINI PUMP OR CO2
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst–this is an important rule to live by when riding your mountain bike, as the dreaded flat tire can to happen to anyone at any time. Riders often convert their bike’s wheels and tires to a tubeless setup to help prevent pinch flats and gain traction with lower tire pressures. If you happen to get a flat, you will need to be prepared. If you’re still running tubes, it’s best to carry a spare that can be installed as needed. Tubeless tires can seal smaller holes using internal sealant; however, larger holes may call for a tire plug.
Riders should carry a mini pump, a CO2 canister or both. Mini pumps tend to take up more room but can be used time and time again. CO2 canisters inflate your flat tires faster and can easily be stored in a pocket but are a one-time-use item.
4. SHORTS AND CHAMOIS
Some riders new to the sport or who have been out of it for a while will want to get a new pair of riding shorts, along with a chamois to maximize comfort. M ountain bike clothing can vary greatly, and there isn’t a particular style that is more comfortable than the other. That said, each type of riding kit does offer unique features. Cross-country riders will want to find form-fitting shorts with larger vents to keep them cool. Trail or enduro riders tend to look for shorts with a more durable fabric to offer more protection while giving up some breathability. Regardless of which shorts you purchase, you’ll want to make sure they come with a chamois. If they don’t, we recommend purchasing one separately. We promise you’ll thank us later for this tip.
Being prepared for anything doesn’t stop with having a tire plug or CO2 container. Riders can also face mechanical issues on the trail that require the use of a multi-tool. If you have components with torque bolts, then make sure you have the appropriate bits for those bolts. Trust us, there’s nothing worse than pulling out a multi-tool only to find you don’t have the right tool for the job. This doesn’t mean you need to buy the biggest tool you can find, but it doesn’t hurt to be over-prepared.
To get the most out of your body while riding, make sure to stay hydrated. There are many ways to carry your H2O–from a simple water bottle mounted to your frame to a hydration pack worn on your back. Our test riders go back and forth between these two options based on the type of ride they’re doing. For shorter cross-country rides, we often use a water bottle, as it provides just enough liquid to keep us hydrated and keeps the weight off our backs. For medium to longer rides, we opt for a hydration backpack or fanny pack. There are numerous packs to choose from, all with unique features. Look for a comfortable fit; enough storage for tools, tubes and spare parts; and a bladder large enough to keep you hydrated throughout your ride.
7. FLOOR PUMP AND SHOCK PUMP
The tools you keep at home are just as important as the tools you bring on the trails. A good floor and shock pump with an accurate gauge is necessary for a mountain biker to have. Just a small change to tire or shock pressure can make a big difference to your bike’s handling. When it comes to floor pumps for your tires, look for something that’s easy to read and has a big barrel designed for large air-volume tires. If you don’t own an air compressor and want to set up tubeless tires at home, you can purchase a tubeless-ready floor pump, which fills a secondary chamber and then rapidly releases the pressure to quickly inflate tubeless tires.
Our test riders all have a trusted floor pump they use to check their tires’ psi before every ride. Additionally, you’ll need a separate pump for your suspension components. Some bikes have coil-sprung suspension, which doesn’t require an air pump; however, most suspension forks and bikes on the market today use an air spring. Paying extra attention to your tire and suspension pressures will help you maintain a consistent feel when shredding the trails.
8. CLEANERS AND LUBES
That new bike of yours sure looks and feels good when it’s clean and well-lubed, but after a handful of rides, it’s likely to start making noise if it has been neglected. If you want your bike to run smoothly in the years to come, take the time to clean and lube your bike after every or every other ride. When cleaning your bike, it’s important to avoid using high-pressure water, as it can damage your bearings and get water inside of your frame. Instead, use a bucket of water filled with the cleaner of your choice and a sponge or rag. After your bike is clean, lube the chain with a lube that’s made for your riding conditions. If you ride in mud, buy a wet lube. If you ride dusty trails, buy a dry lube. It’s a good idea to change the type of chain lube you use throughout the year to help keep your drivetrain running smoothly.
9. BIKE TRANSPORTATION
Okay, so you spent your whole piggy bank on your new bike and you’re ready to take it to the trails. You suddenly realize you have no way of transporting your bike, so you stuff it into the trunk of your sedan. This will not only damage and dirty up the inside of your car, it will also damage your bike. We know bike racks can be an investment, but they are well worth it, especially if you want to protect your bike and your car. Now, you may be saying, I have a Tacoma. I can just toss my bike in the bed of my truck. Well, while that might get your bike to the trailhead, it’s still not ideal. Your bike can get tossed around, not only scratching the inside of the bed of your truck but also causing harm to your bike. Whether you have a sedan or a truck, find a transportation method that keeps your bike securely in place while you rally your car to the trailhead.
Bike security is not an exciting purchase but a necessary one. A top-quality bike lock will give you peace of mind while you make a quick pit stop for burritos on your way home. Secure your bike during transportation to and from the trail and while it’s sitting at home in the garage. You might live in a great neighborhood and know your neighbors well, but that one time your garage door gets left open could be the time a thief happens to walk by. A cable lock might be just enough protection to deter that thief from a quick grab-and-go. There are quite a few options for bike locks, such as cables, U-locks and chains, but the best is the one you are mostly likely to use consistently.
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.