The first beautifully sunny days are here, the temperature rises above that critical 10 °C threshold, and the ground finally waves goodbye to ice and frost. It's spring, the best season for many activities, including mountain biking.
It’s the beautiful season, sure, and the weather is pleasant, yet spring is also renowned as the most unpredictable time of the year in terms of weather: A large temperature variation between early morning and afternoon, uneven temperatures in light and shade, rainfalls that are often difficult to foresee. All this must necessarily be considered when getting ready for our mountain bike outing, and the longer it is, the more it will have to take into account changing conditions.
In fact, even the experts find it hard to dress most appropriately in this period, and therefore some guidance will certainly prove useful, especially to less experienced riders. Here are our tips on how to dress for mountain biking in the spring.
Let's start from the inside, with the first layer, the one in contact with the skin. In modern mountain biking, protectors are increasingly used, even outside downhill or enduro competitions. This is why a jersey with integrated protectors is often chosen as the first layer. There are different types, with and without sleeves, and the former also come equipped with shoulder protectors.
MTB jerseys with protectors usually feature pockets at the back and front, to house a back protector and a chest protector. These are removable and made of soft material, so it’s easy to wash them.
The aim of these garments is to protect without adding a substantial layer, so that they can be easily worn even in summer. This is why they’re made of extremely lightweight fabric and the protectors are designed to ensure breathability; tight-fitting clothes should also be worn, to keep the protectors in place and maximize their effectiveness.
Let’s move on to what to wear above the protective jersey, which could also be the first layer, the one in contact with the skin, when you’re not wearing protectors on the upper body. At this level, the choice mostly lays between long-sleeved and short-sleeved MTB jerseys, although there’s more. In fact, different fabrics are also used in jerseys’ constructions – some are more focused on lightness and breathability while others are more geared toward resistance and abrasion protection.
Moving on toward the outside layers, here’s a very practical midseason garment for mountain biking when temperatures average between 10 and 20 °C – sleeveless jerseys, also called vests, which represent an excellent middle ground when it’s not cold enough to wear a real jacket yet not so warm to go out in just a jersey.
MTB vests are, in fact, a very smart solution in uncertain conditions – such as spring weather – as they allow you to achieve good comfort in a wide range of climates. This is due to a combination of features that succeeds in combining wind protection on the chest and abdomen area with breathability on the back. To increase frontal coverage, light layers of insulating material are strategically placed in the most sensitive areas. Some vest models also have an asymmetrical front zipper: This allows to avoid any gaps and optimize wind protection. On the back, however, the fabric is very light and perforated in some areas, in order to expel heat while pedaling.
Waterproof MTB jackets, commonly called shells, are worn in spring mostly when it rains or there’s a strong wind, as average temperatures wouldn’t otherwise require a jacket. They usually feature air vents adjustable with a zipper, in order to preserve a margin of flexibility in case the temperature rises.
There are different types of MTB jackets, made of stretch or non-stretch fabric, but they all share some common features:
As mentioned, a waterproof jacket is often not essential during MTB outings on a beautiful spring day. But in the event of particularly long outings, when you start early in the morning or ride until the late afternoon – and therefore might have to deal with a wide temperature range – having a backpack or a bike pouch with a jacket properly folded in it when you’re not using it can be very useful.
When it comes to pants, it’s not that easy to get it wrong. During the summer, the choice almost always falls on shorts, especially if we plan to cycle a lot. Long pants are nonetheless still a valid choice for disciplines that involve taking ski lifts, such as downhill riding, or for a day spent at the bike park.
The same goes for gloves: Summer models are the best choice from around 8-10 °C upward.
MTB protectors are for all seasons. In addition to the above-mentioned protective jerseys, knee pads are important and, nowadays, widespread. Ever-present in the most demanding disciplines such as downhill and enduro riding, they’re also increasingly used by trail bike riders. This is also due to continuous research on materials, which allows protectors to be increasingly light and breathable without compromising safety. The knee pads belonging to the Dainese Trail Skins family are a perfect example of this, and we have written a dedicated article to provide further information on this topic.
The same goes for MTB helmets – choosing an open-face or full-face helmet is not tied to the season but mostly on the type of bike you own and how you use it. A full-face helmet is always and in any case recommended with downhill or enduro bikes, and can be mandatory in races, while an open-face helmet is a valid solution for trail riding. Here, too, we have written a dedicated article on how to choose mountain bike helmets.
Modular clothing is the key concept when dressing for mountain biking in the spring. Especially on longer rides, it's essential to wear gear that can adapt to the weather and be ready to add or remove a layer when necessary.
Giving specific advice for all occasions is, however, impossible, as conditions at this time of year are much more varied than in winter or summer. In fact, from one day to the next, even when the weather looks perfect for wearing a jersey, you might find out that a vest or perhaps an extra base layer, or even a shell, might have been better.
All things considered, there are countless possible clothing combinations for MTB outings in the spring, but knowing your body and how it reacts to temperature changes, as well as how to choose your outfit carefully, means you will always be able to find the right combination for the day.