As the temperatures drop and the trails turn from “hero dirt” to all out mud-fest to frosted crust, the kit you’ve been riding all summer simply makes less and less sense. For fall mountain biking, you need a more rugged and calculated setup to stay comfortable and perform at your best. Gone are the ventilation holes and mesh panels. Fall mountain bike gear is all about wind-stopping materials, merino wool and a degree of insulation. While your down jacket or fleece may keep you warm, it lacks the breathability needed on heart-pounding climbs. These pieces will keep you riding at your peak as fall steps into full force and winter creeps in around the corner.
The base layer is the most important part of your kit. Without a good base, the rest of your layers won’t perform the way they should. In this sector, merino wool is a top-performing favorite — its natural insulating properties, unmatched breathability and inherent antibacterial qualities make it a no-brainer while out on the trail. These insulating tights also feature a built-in chamois, which eliminates the need for bibs. For those who are still anti-wool, synthetic materials offer a much lower price point, but with a performance penalty.
Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Smartwool NTSMid 250 Crew ($95) | Gore Element Windstopper Soft Shell Tights+ ($160) | Icebreaker Everyday Short Sleeve Crewe ($50) | Ibex El Fito Tight ($175) | Kitsbow Power Wool Base Layer ($115) | Pearl Izumi Attack 3/4 Tight ($90)
For the upper body, a good jersey over a base layer will keep you plenty warm and will offer the breathability needed on long climbs. Fall rain showers are common especially at higher elevations and having a lightweight, packable wind and waterproof rain shell to layer over your jersey is essential. While your standard waterproof rain jacket will do most times, when you don’t need it you’ll be carrying excess weight.
While some people prefer to wear pants, a good mountain bike trail short layered over your base layer tight is recommended. This method will keep your mobility high and will provide unmatched breathability when compared to a pair of pants. The ideal fall trail short has a good degree of stretch and minimal venting to provide protection from mud and warmth where you need it.
Most standard mountain bike gloves are all about ventilation, but as soon as the wind picks up and there are flurries in the air, these vents do more harm than good. The ideal fall mountain bike glove offers warmth, wind protection and a degree of water resistance.
Just like your base layer, when it comes to socks, merino wool reigns supreme. Warmth, breathability and antibacterial properties all make merino wool the weapon of choice for mountain biking in the fall. Depending on your personal preference, and the space allowed in your shoes, a thick or thin sock may be required. The thicker the sock, the more warmth provided, but that means decreased breathability and increased bulk.
No mountain bike kit is complete without top-notch accessories. The following pieces will round out your fall trail biking arsenal and will even extend your comfort when freezing temps start to scare away fair-weather bikers.