This is a totally non-sexy reference guide. I am going to assume you have a bike, and that it is a mountain bike, since we are talking about mountain biking here. After that, what else do you need? If you are already awesome, and you know what you need, then you can refer your totally un-awesome friends to the list.
Here is the list:
Get a helmet that fits right and wear it. Mountain Bike specific helmets tend to have more protection in the front and better coverage in the rear. That is a good idea.
#2. HYDRATION PACK
Since riding off-road can get bumpy and eject water bottles from their cages, it is a good idea to carry water on your back so you can carry enough and not lose it by getting the bottle shot out of the cages over bumps. Get one that can carry basic tools and stuff a jacket.
Cover your hands. Most times they are the first things to hit the ground when you crash and hand scrapes are pretty annoying. Especially if you have to go to work and not bleed all over everything on Monday. When you start crashing enough to figure out all the different ways you can screw yourself up your idea of what a good glove is will change, but for now any glove is better than no gloves.
#4. EYE PROTECTION
Sunglasses, goggles, whatever. Stuff will get in your eyes like dirt and bugs and it will annoy the heck out of you, or make you crash.
#5. PUMP, TUBE, TIRE LEVERS
What are you gonna do if you flat? You’re screwed, but not if you have a pump, tube and tire levers. If you have room in your hydration pack carry two tubes, or more. Even if you are a smarty pants and you have tubeless tires with sealant, carry these three things. Some people like CO2 cartridges, but they are stupid and lazy.
Take all the tools your bike needs. Normally this means a screw driver, and a size run of allen wrenches. Ask your local bike shop what tools your bike needs. You may need to your adjust bars, stem, headset or something. You may also need to tighten a bolt on a seat post, or suspension linkage. Out in the woods, it will be nice to be able to fix your bike.
#7. TECHNICAL BASE LAYER
Invest a few bucks in an undershirt made of technical fabric that wicks the moisture away from your body and keeps you dry. It will do wonders to help your body’s natural temperature regulation system work effectively. You will be more comfortable, and you enjoy yourself more because you won’t be all hot and gross, or cold and clammy.
#8. ELBOWS & KNEES
If you are planning to push yourself a little and improve your skills then you will fall. Having your elbows and knees covered can be the difference between getting up with a better idea of what to try next time and having your day ruined, insomnia, bloody sheets, slow healing bruises and all the annoyances that come with it. Most of all you could end your ride early and kill the fun. If you don’t want to spend a bunch of money just wear long sleeves and pants, anything is way better than nothing when you need it.
If you are planning to push yourself a little and improve your skills then you will fall- really. Baggy shorts tend to slide better, reducing the friction on your skin that would rip it if you were wearing lycra shorts. If you are used to wearing lycra and can’t ride without it, then do yourself a favor by doubling up with a pair of baggy shorts. The two layers will slide against each other in a crash and in so doing will help you glide over the ground and actually offer a lot more protection than baggies alone.
#10 CELL PHONE
If you are on your local trails, chances are you have reception. BRING YOUR CELL PHONE. If you are afraid you will crash and break it, get an OtterBox for it or put it in you pack, or get an OtterBox for it and put it in your pack. Already you have crashing in your head so that’s the reason to bring it with you- not the reason to leave it behind. Not only can you call to get help for yourself, you can call to get help for others. If you are going to be riding where there is not cell reception, DO NOT GO ALONE!.