ACCESSORIES AND TOOLS
There are some accessories you will want and need to ride a Mountain Bike off road.
First of all you will need some safety equipment. A light weight helmet that fits you is an absolute must. This is not a given, but you will probably fall. There is a slogan on a tee shirt that says, "If you don't fall, you're not riding hard enough." I do not know why the desire to ride fast raises its ugly head, but it seems to in most everyone after a few rides. Find one you like the looks of that fits your head. More expensive helmets generally are cooler and look cooler to, but not always.
Some form of eye protection is necessary also. Many people wear prescription eye glasses which will serve the purpose for those people. Everyone else needs something to stop the irreverent limb or branch or briar set on poking you in the eye. Dark sunglasses will not work for most people in the woods. I have seen many people start a ride with them on and before the ride is half over they are off the face stuck in a pocket. You just can't see will enough with a gray, green, or brown tinted lenses. A clear lens is a great choice. Most riders prefer amber or yellow lenses. They protect your eyes, absorb about 10% of the light and improve contrast in the woods. Another popular choice are the vermilion or orange tinted lenses popular with shooters. You don't have to spent $100 or $150 on glasses. Many shops have them for $20 or so. You can also find good glasses in the shooters supply section of most major department store chains. This is what I ride with. I will not ride without eye protection.
Gloves serve to protect your hands from falls as well as abrasion from the handle bar grips. They absorb shock and help you keep a grip on the bar, especially if wet. If you ride much you will want bicycling specific gloves.
Riding a mountain bike is work. You will need to stay hydrated. There are three main ways to carry water on your bike. The most popular is one or two frame mounted water bottle cages. They will accept small 21 or large 28 ounce bicycle water bottles. They will also hold a 20 ounce Gatorade bottle or my favorite the 24 ounce PowerAde bottles with the power flow automatic opening valve in the top. These are cheap and can be refilled with water or sports drink and frozen to keep them cold. Another way to carry liquids is in a hip pack. Some even have one or two water bottle holders made on to them. It will have room in the middle for food, accessories, or a jacket also. The last and a method which is very popular on longer trails on in very hot weather is the Camel-Bak type reservoir. This is a long narrow back pack designed to carry 40 to 90 ounce bladder. It has a long hose from which you drink. This attaches to your shirt or the front pack strap. They have the advantage of being up and out of the dirt and mud which afflicts cage mounted bottles and they also keep liquids cool. Many will also carry tools and accessories in outside pockets. Cages are cheapest, hip packs next, and a back-pack hydration system, as they are called, the most expensive. Most all riders have at least one cage for short rides or when they don't want to wear the back-packs.
TOOLS AND SPARE PARTS
FLAT TIRE REPAIR TOOLS
Some one in the group you ride with needs to have some tools and parts when you ride off road. Flat tires are the curse of many failed ride. A quick 20 or 30 minute ride on a trail can get you 5 or more miles from your vehicle. An equipment failure can cause you to have to walk back! A five mile hike carrying or pushing a disabled bike will take most people over 2 hours, maybe past dark on an afternoon ride. I have seen more people carrying bikes out because of flat tires than for all other reasons. Flat tires are usually due to a briar or maybe a pinch flat from striking a rock or root and can easily be repaired in the woods. You will need a pump, a tube patch kit, and tire levers. A floor pump is needed at home to inflate tires easily and to the proper pressure. Most floor pumps have a gauge built in that tells you the tire pressure you are inflated to. A floor pump is easier to use than a small one. A compact mini-pump seems best to carry on the bike; because it is easily carried in clips mounted to the bottle cages, in the hip pack, or many Camel-Bak type packs have a sleeve for a mini-pump. It will seldom or maybe never used. I had zero flats in the woods for two years, then had four on the trails in one year. I prefer the glueless patch kit to carry on the trail. They cost more, but you just peel the backing off and stick them to the tube. I also carry a spare tube. A light weight quality tube weighs only 4 oz. It is easier to replace a tube than finding two pinch flat holes with poor lighting in the woods and patching them.
In addition to a pump there are some other tools you may want to carry with you. There are many combination tools on the market. Usually called multi-tools or bail-out tools. They usually have several sizes of allen wrenches. Normally 4 mm, 5 mm, and 6 mm. Sometimes 2, 2.5, 3 mm and maybe a 8 mm allen keys all on one tool. They usually have a flat blade and phillips screwdriver. Several wrenches of different sizes to fit hex nuts and many also include a chain breaker for repairing a broken chain. If your bike has a Shimano chain you will need special repair pins available for a couple of bucks from your local shop also. Tire levers may also be part of the multi-tool. If your bike has kevlar beads in the tires you will need levers to get them off of the rims. Before buying a particular multi-tool consider its weight. They vary from very light to very heavy. A heavy tool might do more, but this is not necessarily so. If you don't want to get a multi-tool, the separate tools held together with a rubber band to keep them from rattling work great. The bottom line is that if you don't ride with someone who is well prepared, you need to be. Things like a loose seat or stem can not be predicted, are easily fixed and can turn a great ride in to a hike if you can not repair them. These items can be carried in a seat bag attached to the bike, or in a hip pack or in outside compartments on your hydration pack.
Do you really need special shoes to Mountain Bike? Not really. If you decide to ride with toe clips any shoe will work. Some shoes will work better. When the hills get steep you will find yourself pushing your bike up or down them. When this happens you will want a shoe with traction lugs on the sole. When your foot is on the pedal, a shoe with a stiff sole is more comfortable and will give more power to your foot-pedal connection. There are many light weight hiking boots and shoes which work great. Choose a pair with stiffer soles if possible. Mid-weight or larger hiking boots are generally too large to fit in to the toe clips. If you decide on clipless pedals you will have to buy special shoes to which the recessed cleats bolt.
Padded cycling shorts will add a great deal of comfort to your rides. Many mountain bikers prefer the baggy style shorts with the padded inner shorts attached. Many others buy the regular lycra cycling shorts and wear light weight nylon shorts over them. This serves two purposes. It gives you pockets and keeps you from feeling conspicuous if you stop at the local 7-11 for a Dr. Pepper. In cooler weather a pair of nylon wind pants over lycra cycling shorts has proved to be a good combination for me.
Written by: Aaron Bruce
May not be reproduced without permission
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