What equipment do I need to get started?

  • A mountain bike in safe, working order is critical. We can help you with bike shop and mechanical support and resources to make sure bike is safely ready to ride. If you don’t have a bike, we can help you get one through discount programs with our NorCal and bike shop sponsors, and possibly through our fleet of loaner bicycles. See additional info below about purchasing a bike.

  • A helmet. Hopefully, a recent one. Helmets expire. There should be a date inside the helmet. If it’s older than 2 years, consider getting a new one. Kids without helmets can not ride with us.

  • Full finger gloves. Full finger gloves are a must. Accidents happen and the first thing that usually makes contact with the ground, a rock, or a tree are hands. When they’re not protected, they’re usually scuffed up pretty badly. So, cover those digits.

  • Padded bike shorts. Our rides can last 3-4 hours. Imagine sitting on your bum pedaling that long without padded shorts. Not having padded shorts is one way to make sure your kid doesn’t like ridding bikes. So, protect those precious bums.

  • Breathable shirt and lightweight cycling jacket. Working out in cotton clothes will cause your kid to overheat. Look into non-cotton or a cotton blend shirt (short and long sleeve) that they’ll be comfortable in. Nothing fancy. Target and Old Navy sells good quality workout shirts.

  • A simple bike multi-tool. Not required, but later in the season, we’ll be teaching the kids how to maintain their own bike. Including how to patch or change the tube in the tire if they get a flat, and other simple bike maintenance tasks.

  • A spare tube. Our coaches typically carry spare tubes or patch kits with them, but teaching your kid to carry their own is a good thing. Besides, it would really suck if they had to walk their bike back a few miles because they didn’t bring a spare tube.

  • Hydration pack or water bottle. We’ll get into this more on the Ride Nutrition page, but a CamelBak or the like is a good investment.

A lot of these items can be purchased on Amazon for much cheaper than you’ll get them in a retail store. For example, I’ve purchased full finger mountain biking gloves from Amazon for my kids for less than $10. One thing you won’t want to skimp on is a helmet. Concussions are very real. Get a decent helmet. Expect to spend $40+ for a good helmet. Another good online retailer to look at is Jenson USA.

Do I have to wear silly looking bike clothes?

Ha! No, comfortable clothes that you can safely ride in are fine, but there’s a reason bike shorts have padding. We can talk about that. Tight, stretchy clothes are comfortable, don’t get too sweaty, and stay out of the way. We recommend that kids do not wear cotton for riding, as it gets wet and cold, doesn't evaporate as well as other materials and can cause chafing.

If you race, you are required to wear a team jersey, per NICA regulations.

What kind of bike do I need?

There are two common divisions of mountain bikes; full-suspension and hard-tail. A full-suspension bike has a rear shock, and the frame is made of pieces which move on pivots. Full-suspension bikes can have lots of travel, and be more for going fast downhill, or have short travel, and before more cross-country use. A full-suspension bike with lots of travel is going to be pretty fun, but it's also going to be heavier, and will require more maintenance. (The pivots and rear shock need to be serviced once or twice a year.) Depending on how much it's designed to be fun going downhill, it may be less fun going uphill. For cross-country racing, which involves climbing and descending hills well, it's hard to beat a "hard-tail" (no rear suspension) bike. We like 29" wheels (the bigger wheel size) for medium-to-tall kids, and 27.5" wheels (the next wheel size down) for small-to-medium kids. For the race courses and training rides we'll do, a hard-tail 29er is optimal. It's also really good for most Bay Area terrain. You don't really need a full-suspension bike around here, but the faster you go downhill, the more fun they are. There are some trails that reward them. Many of our kids have them for a second bike, some race on them. A "cross-country" bike is best for our sport, whether full-suspension or hard-tail.

Check out our Purchasing a bike Page.

This video helps explain the importance of having a bike designed to ride on trails. It is not only for safety but also comfort of your rider. All bike shops listed are familiar with our training and race trails. Please make sure you discuss what will be best for your rider. If you have other question, please reach out to your head coach.

Where should I get a bike?

Our National Interscholastic Cycling Association ensures all student athletes and coaches get deep discounts on bikes from Trek and Specialized; 30%. Our NorCal League gets us 30% off Santa Cruz bikes as well.

Local Bike Shops:

All NICA discounts are a pass-through deal; it is from brand to athlete, the shop simply assembles and transacts with the buyer; they don't lose money on the deal. We encourage families to shop local, you not only have get NICA discounts on bikes, but also clothing and other gear.

How much bike maintenance is required?

All new bikes will need tune-ups, once they’ve been ridden for a bit. This is also true of any used bike. Additionally, used bikes often need their brake pad, chains, cassettes (cogs in the back) and cables replaced. We race rain or shine, and our athletes will ride their bikes a lot. Kids are hard on bikes. Develop a good relationship with whatever shop will be doing your maintenance, and bring it in for service early. Our races are on about a two-week cadence. Bringing the bike in, washed, first thing after a rainy or muddy race for repair is a good idea. Bringing it in right before the next race means you might not have it back in time, or in good shape for the next race. Expect certain things to wear out and need replacing; chains, brake pads, tires. Expect tune-ups / adjustment for suspension, drivetrain, brakes. Expect to have to rebuild the suspension at least once a year. Many tires can be run tubeless. I can explain more about this, but if the bike has the option of being run without inner tubes - tubeless - then we recommend the athlete go that route. We have partnerships with many local bike stores, where you will receive NICA discount on bike maintenance.

Do I need a full-race helmet? Should I get one with a detachable chin-guard?

Do not get a full-face helmet; they are hot, heavy, and you can't hear well while you’re wearing them, and you'd be the only one wearing one on team rides. Lots of kids want them because they see them in videos. If you decide to ride/race downhill, get one, but there's nowhere around here you'd use it.

The detachable chin-guard helmets work. But are very expensive. Your call, I'd recommend a regular bike helmet. Tougher trails do not require tougher helmets, they require better skills. We can teach you those skills. If you hit your head and need a helmet to protect yourself, it's bad either way; the helmet only does so much, your brain sloshing inside your skull is where the damage happens. Let's just make sure that does not happen.

Coaches wear basic mountain bike helmets. We have some donated helmets available to kids.