Getting (Safely) Into Downhill Mountain Biking

Downhill mountain biking offers unbeatable adrenaline rushes and fun in an outdoor setting where bikers can enjoy all that nature has to offer. Making the transition from cross-country or road biking to downhill can be daunting, and investing in the right gear and protective wear is essential. Here are some tips for a successful journey into the exciting world of mountain biking:

mountain biking with gear

1. Choose a Bike That’s Appropriate for Mountain Biking

Although a mountain bike can run into the twenty-thousands, you can find a reliable new or second-hand downhill mountain bike for much less. Be a smart buyer. Know a bit about what you’re looking for in terms of function and safety. Staff at a specialty sports or biking store should be happy to help, even if you’re not buying a bike right away.

There are a few must-haves, like disc brakes and gears in good working condition, and front and rear shocks that provide appropriate bounce, or travel, for the type of trails you plan to ride on.

2. Get Professionally Fitted for a Quality Mountain Biking Helmet

Protecting your head should always be a priority. For downhill mountain biking, most pros recommend a full-face helmet. You should expect to pay between $100 and $500 for a suitable helmet. Don’t compromise on head protection. A good helmet, and the peace of mind that comes along with it, is worth paying for.

3. Buy a Neck Brace

Some riders view the neck brace as optional, but that’s debatable. A neck brace will help protect your cervical spine should you suffer a rough fall. In some regulated parks, neck braces are mandatory.

4. Get Full-Coverage Mountain Biking Goggles

Goggles may not seem like an essential piece of protective equipment for mountain biking, but anyone who has taken a branch to the eye while barrelling down a trail will tell you otherwise. Making your way back to a trailhead with a painful eye injury is a challenge you don’t want to experience first hand.

5. Invest In Body Armor

“Body armor” is a vague term. It can describe anything from a full chest plate with arm protection to basic knee and elbow pads. As a general rule, you should protect as much of your body as possible. Body armor is light, breathable, comfortable, and there’s no reason to skip it.


Downhill mountain biking is a fun sport enjoyed by many bike enthusiasts. Like many sports, it can be expensive to get started. Check out websites like PinkBike or Kijiji if you’re hoping to score a deal on second-hand bikes or gear. Some specialty mountain biking stores sell used gear, as well. Always get a used bike safety-checked by a reliable bike store before hitting the trails. If you’re not ready to commit, some parks and organizations will let you rent a bike and equipment, so you can get a feel for the sport before you invest. Be aware, though, that most require a pre-authorization on your credit card to recoup some of the cost of the equipment in case you run off or destroy it in a fall.