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Recommended Gear for Mountain Biking Adventures in Cape Town

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Introduction to Mountain Biking Gear

Welcome to the exhilarating world of mountain biking in Cape Town! Whether you're a local heading out to conquer our trails or a traveller looking for world class outdoor adventure amidst Cape Town’s breathtaking landscapes, having the right gear is highly recommended. In this guide, we'll provide advice on what gear you need for a safe and exhilarating mountain biking experience. From helmets and shoes tailored to specific disciplines like XC, Trail and Enduro, to optional accessories such as gloves, knee pads and elbow guards, we've got you covered.

Helmets: Safeguarding Your Adventure

When it comes to mountain biking, safety should be your first priority. A well-fitting helmet, appropriate to the terrain you're riding, is crucial for protecting your head from potential injuries. There are discipline specific structural differences in helmet design for cross country (XC), trail, enduro and downhill. One can, of course, theoretically use a downhill helmet for XC, but it is not advisable to use an XC helmet for downhill riding.

MTB Helmet Types by the different MTB discipline
Helmet Types by Discipline

It is crucial to ensure your helmet is safety standard certified, therefore, it’s highly recommended to choose a helmet from a reputable helmet manufacturer only.

It is also important to replace your helmet after any significant impact or if showing signs of wear and tear. Materials lose their effectiveness over time so it’s a good idea to think about replacing your helmet every 3 years.

Tip: Some manufacturers offer a helmet crash replacement guarantee and will replace your helmet for free if you've been involved in a crash within the first year.

Modern helmets feature advanced protection technologies. In this article, we deep dive into what options are available on the market and their differences.

Shoes: Enhancing Performance and Control

Your choice of mountain biking shoes can greatly impact your performance, control and comfort on the trails. We strongly advise investing in shoes specifically designed for mountain biking, as they offer features tailored to the demands of off-road riding. If your choice is clip-in pedals, then these shoes will typically have a stiffer sole and less sticky rubber, non-sticky plastic or carbon fibre . Shoes designed for flat pedals offer more flex and a stickier rubber sole so that the sole can ‘mould’ over the pedal cage.

A selection of MTB shoes based on riding style and disciplline
Shoes to suit your ride

XC Shoes

Lightweight and efficient, with stiff soles for maximum power transfer, minimalistic design and secure closure systems.

Trail Shoes

Balancing pedalling efficiency and off-bike comfort, featuring durable construction, moderate sole stiffness, added protection and a combination closure system for a secure fit.

Enduro Shoes

Designed for aggressive trail riding, with a focus on durability, efficient pedalling, increased traction, added protection features and secure closure systems.

Downhill Shoes

Built for maximum protection and durability, reinforced construction, deep tread patterns, added impact absorption and robust closure systems.

Optional Accessories: Adding Protection and Confidence

MTB knee pad
MTB Knee Pads

While helmets and shoes are essential, additional protective gear can provide extra confidence and safety during aggressive or technical rides. Knee pads and elbow guards are popular choices for riders seeking added protection. Opt for knee pads and elbow guards that offer a balance between flexibility and impact resistance. Look for designs that stay in place during active movement and provide sufficient coverage to protect vulnerable joints. Prioritise comfort, breathability and adjustability to ensure a hassle-free riding experience.

Are MTB gloves really optional?

Yes, the decision to wear gloves while mountain biking is a matter of personal choice for many riders. While gloves are widely recognised as essential gear for their benefits, some riders opt not to wear them for various reasons. Here are a few factors that influence this choice:

Comfort and Feel: Some riders prefer the direct contact and tactile feedback they experience without gloves. They feel that riding gloveless is more comfortable and free while allowing them to have a better grip on the handlebars and a more intimate connection with the bike.

Climate and Conditions: Riding conditions and weather can also influence the decision to wear gloves. In hot and humid environments, riders may choose to forgo gloves for a cooler experience. Conversely, in colder temperatures, gloves can provide insulation and protection against the elements.

It's important to note that while some riders choose not to wear gloves, others consider them an essential part of their riding gear. Ultimately, the decision to wear gloves or not depends on individual preference, comfort, riding style and the specific conditions in which one rides. If in doubt, riders should prioritise safety and choose the gear that best suits their needs and preferences.

Practical Tips and Recommendations

To make the most of your mountain biking gear, here are some practical tips and recommendations:

Properly size and fit your gear: Follow sizing charts and guidelines provided by manufacturers to ensure a proper fit for your helmet, shoes, knee pads and elbow guards. Ill-fitting gear can compromise safety and comfort.

Regularly inspect your gear: Perform routine inspections to check for any signs of damage or wear. Pay attention to helmet integrity, shoe sole wear, and the condition of protective accessories. Replace any damaged or worn-out gear promptly.

Maintain and clean your gear: Follow manufacturer instructions for proper maintenance and cleaning of your gear. Proper maintenance prolongs their lifespan and ensures optimal performance.

Seek professional advice: If you're uncertain about gear selection or fitting, consult with knowledgeable staff at local bike shops or seek guidance from experienced riders.


As you set off on your mountain biking adventures in Cape Town, equipping yourself with the essential gear and equipment is crucial for safety and the best experience. Invest in a high-quality helmet that meets recognised safety standards, choose mountain biking shoes that enhance your control and comfort on the trails and consider optional accessories like knee pads and elbow guards for added protection and confidence. Remember to prioritise regular inspections, proper maintenance and get professional advice when needed.

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