What Cool Mountain Bikers Wear In 2022

Wearing the right mountain biking gear and equipment is recommended not only for adequate protection and safety but also to look stylish while doing it. But not any gear will have you look stylish. So, if you are the type of rider to value how you look on and off the mountain bike, you may be wondering: What do cool mountain bikers wear?

Currently, colors like white, black and pastel are worn a lot while neon colors have overstayed their welcome. Like with any fashion item, what’s considered cool for mountain biking gear and clothing is changing from season to season. While trending colors change more rapidly, the protective gear design does so slower.

The outfit you put on is an easy shortcut to improve your style on a mountain bike. That being said, nothing beats bike skill for impressing your mates out on the trails. And there is no hack for that. But if you’re going to wear MTB-specific clothing, you might as well get some good-looking and even trendy stuff – apart from being protective and comfortable first and foremost.

In order to do so, there are a couple of basics, that are always a good idea to consider:

  • Clothing over the upper body and knee protectors.
  • Tilting the helmet visor up as high as it can go.
  • Clothing with a good fit. Loose and baggy is not in style anymore.
  • Short sleeves for all MTB disciplines, except also long sleeves for downhill to go over elbow pads.
  • Flannel shirts are a timeless classic for mountain bikers.
100% Status helmet in black with visor tilted up
One looks infinitely cooler …
100% Status helmet in black with visor tilted down
… than the other.

In addition to that, there are a couple of very specific items or ways to wear them that are currently considered especially cool and “fashionable” in 2022.

Long riding pants are a definitive trend at the moment. For the colder spring, fall and winter months, long pants are a no-brainer. But they are regularly seen on hot days in the bike park or on the trail centers. While pedaling uphill isn’t so fun with the combination of long pants and high temperatures, there are benefits apart from looks for downhill sections.

mountain biker looking into the distance
Sunny weather, uphill riding, and long pants are no uncommon combination, especially outside of the summer months.

For one, the knee guards don’t slip around while riding or after contact with the ground in a crash. They also don’t get dirty or dusty. And I find them comfortable with temperature changes on top of mountain peaks. And with well-ventilated models like the FOX Flexair I got, the heat is less of an issue.

Now, I’ve said protectors should be hidden under jerseys. There is one exception to this rule, however. And that is for chest protectors or roost guards worn over the riding jersey. Such a protector has been used for a long time in motocross and has only recently been introduced to gravity mountain biking by 2014 downhill world cup overall champion Josh “Ratboy” Bryceland.

For the most possible style points, a chest guard is often combined with short sleeves, a neck brace, and a distinct lack of elbow and shoulder pads. Of course, it could be worn under the top layer like any other upper body armor, but that’s the cool thing to do now. Even if it means dirty protectors and jerseys.

What should you not wear on a mountain bike?

The one thing above all to never wear for mountain biking is inadequate protection for your skill level, the type of riding you do and the terrain or tracks you’re riding on. This means at least a half-shell helmet for cross country, trail riding and enduro, and a full-face helmet for aggressive enduro, freeride, and downhill riding. It’s not always seen but it’s a good idea to also wear a full-face on jump trails. For anything other than cross country knee protection is a must since knees almost always come into contact with the ground in a crash. Same with gloves for hands and mountain-bike-specific shoes, which also help with bike handling.

With the absolute minimum of protection covered, there are also gear to not wear if you care about your style at all. There are a couple of sure-fire ways to look like an absolute beginner without even sitting on the bike.

If there is any high treason in mountain biking, it’s to have no visor on the helmet, also known as “the bullet”. It may be more aerodynamic, but will definitely get all the attention for all the wrong reasons. MTB helmets traditionally have peaks or visors, so doing this would be the same awkward look as riding motocross with a street bike helmet.

two uncool dressed bikers jumping on a tandem bike
Even jumping a tandem bike can’t make these gear choices look cool. // Credit: The satirical video “The Hangover – Whistler” by the Vanzacs crew.

Protectors as the top layer over the clothing is another attention grabber. This is especially true for any hard-plastic armor often rented to beginner bikers. This is why that look is tightly linked to uncool style. Except for chest protectors (roost guards), which are somehow cool to wear over the jersey. They’re also designed to look good, not only protect well.

Another very common, but questionable style choice is to wear regular sunglasses under a full-face helmet. That’s arguably not only uncool but also dangerous in case of a crash. Sunglasses are often not designed to prevent splintering, which is a key feature of dedicated biking goggles or glasses. On top of that, that’s just uncomfortable when they are pressed against your head for long periods.

With the top layer of protectors, the layer beneath is often regular sporting clothing like track suits, soccer jerseys and gym shorts. Or jeans, which by themselves are not uncool, but in combination with shin guards over them are.

The look of what not to wear for mountain biking is so common worldwide, that it even got a name from fellow bikers: “The Joey“. The guys at IFHT summarized how to not look cool mountain biking:

This is the type of rider nicknamed the “MTB Joey”.

Why do mountain bikers wear flannel?

Flannel shirts are a staple for mountain bikers worldwide. That trend originated from the hype days of north shore features in the early 2000s, when trail builders in the Canadian forests were handling a lot of wood. Just like lumberjacks.

Even riding in that attire has its benefits. Flannel button-up shirts are surprisingly refreshing in the summer heat, even long sleeve ones due to the airflow through the front. The materials are durable, water-resistant, and sometimes even have wind-stopping abilities.

Flannel shorts have stuck around on and off the trail. It may not be the latest fashion trend for outdoors people and bikers, but it has stuck until now, even though the materials for mountain-bike-specific flannel shirts has evolved since then.

Can you wear jeans while mountain biking?

A pair of regular jeans can definitely be worn for mountain biking. In fact, durable jeans are not uncommon for gravity-oriented riding but are not seen at all for Cross Country, where pedal efficiency is a top priority. A slim fit around the ankles and stretch materials are key features for functionality.

Like long riding pants, jeans have the benefit of keeping you warm in colder temperatures and keeping your knee pads in place by preventing them from slipping down your shins. Just make sure you wear your knee pads under those jeans. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking like a class-A “Joey”.

You might have heard of the guy named the Denim Destroyer, who repeatedly qualified and finished well for Downhill World Cup races in the 2020 season. He came to his name because he was sporting a pair of blue denims all throughout the race weekend and on track. An extraordinary fashion choice among riders at that level. The reason he chose jeans over riding pants was the durability and comfort. Also, he had to have his phone with him in his pocket at all times for work-related reasons (he owns a restaurant).

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