If you're new to mountain bike riding, or have done it once or twice, you may have noticed other riders kitted out from head to toe in mountain bike gear and wondered what you need. Let's be clear on the concept of 'needs'. Air, water, food & shelter are all we need for human survival. Everything else is an extra. Therefore bike equipment extending to bike armour is more of a preference than a need. mountain-bikers-thredboFor many of us older riders we have a history of riding around on bikes in the bush, or scrub or on the trails wearing nothing but shorts, a t-shirt and thongs, and not even wearing a helmet.?Were they even available? The technology wasn't there, the range of gear wasn't there, none of it was an option for us. However, mountain bike injuries can range from cuts and grazes to serious breaks, including collarbone and other areas which take longer to repair, particularly if you are on the wrong side of 40. So these days mountain bike body armour is a realistic option (better that than lying in traction rethinking how you fell off your bike). The fact is, anyone can have a careless accident by losing concentration for a minute, someone calling us, or just clipping a branch or a rock. No one is immune, no matter how careful we are. We just can?t prevent every little thing.

Below are the key body areas you should seriously consider protecting:

1. Head

Helmets can be controversial, as to whether they will protect you from trauma if you come off your bike, but as a general commonsense rule the more you have between your head and whatever land you land on, the better off you are. mountain-biker-thredboIt's not just head trauma you're wanting protection from, but also cuts and grazes and concussion. There's always going to be rocks and branches and tree roots around. Why not take advantage of the technology and products on the market? Helmets can be headcover only or cover the sides of chin areas as well.

2. Eye protection

Budget comes into play with a lot of mountain bike gear, it?s up to you how much you want to spend. Obviously, the same rules apply to helmets as to eyewear, sunglasses can be simple ones you have at home or extremely specialised for bike riding. Lenses which change with the ?brightness of the sun or cloud cover can be advantageous if you're right into your riding and you have the funds. You want your eye protection to be from the wind so your eyes don't water, the sun so you don't have to squint, rain so it doesn't go in your eyes. Fairly common sense but it can be amazing to be out riding and see riders with no eye cover at all. Preferably sunglasses should be shatterproof in case you come off, comfortable and bike helmet friendly so they don?t irritate when you ride. The less you have to lift your hands off the grips to make adjustments, the safer you will keep yourself.

3. Hands

Riders use gloves for comfort when riding over a long period (hours or a whole day). Good gloves are absorbent and help wick away perspiration instead of making grips slippery. mountain-bikers-thredboThey can assist with blister prevention or can protect from bruising and grazes or cuts when you put your hands out instinctively when you come off your bike during a fall. Lots of gloves have padding in the palm or on the back of the hand area and many riders prefer fingerless gloves. It's a bit like the mittens vs gloves debate for skiing, it's really up to personal preference. If there?s a particular trail you like to ride, check out what other riders are wearing. It?s like camping, where it?s extremely practical for campers to take a walk around and eyeball other campers? set ups.

4. Body armour vests, knee guards & shin guards

Once again, the question is how protected do you want to be? It's really up to you. Many riders feel the more protected they are, the more confident they feel riding and the more they can challenge themselves on more challenging terrain at faster speeds. For some people that is the name of the game. [caption id="attachment_8192" align="alignleft" width="270"]Knees and shins come in short or long options. Knees and shins come in short or long options.[/caption] Body armour vests have shoulder protection built-in and many have elbow protection as well if you choose the longer sleeve options. Most of the gear is washable (like exercise shorts) and allows for multiple impacts, unlike a conventional city bike riding helmet that you need to replace should you come off and land on it due to reduced effectiveness once it's been impacted. Shinguards should be flexible and comfortable and not slip down your leg as you're riding, they shouldn't get in the way of your riding if they do a good job. Shinguards in previous decades were itchy, chunky, spun around on your leg and got very hot. The superior technology that goes into making shinguards these days means they feel like an extension of your body. Beyond wearing the body armour, it's a good idea to ask riders on the same track how they found the conditions and ask about any hazards they may know of, an upcoming half buried log or a tricky corner that isn't as well known. Ride within your ability. We all like to push the boundaries but there's a big difference between starting out and trying to keep up with the guys who have been riding for 30 years. If you're happy to do a nice slow casual ride you may be confident with less body armour or other gear. But if you enjoy being on the edge and want to test and push your skill limit, then your preference may be to gear right up. [caption id="attachment_8191" align="alignleft" width="202"]Chest protection comes in short and long sleeve options Chest protection comes in short and long sleeve options[/caption] You have to do your own risk assessment. It has to be based on your own abilities, confidence and worries. It?s like any sport or activity involving risk. It's no good everyone telling you you?ll be fine, if you think in your own mind that you're going to come off the bike. It?s you that's going to be in the medical centre and it?s you that has the time off work or studies, so be responsible for your own safety and make your own choices based on all the information.

Where do you buy bike armour?

It?s pretty good these days, you can be at home almost anywhere in the world and have something shipped right to your door and have had online conversation with sellers and suppliers before you purchase. Online stores are a good place to start your gear purchases as you can shop at your leisure and ask questions of the seller via email. Chain Reaction and the Bicycle Store are popular sources of mountain biking gear online. If you're keen to pick up secondhand gear try Bike Exchange. Jindabyne has a bike shop called Sacred Ride?if you want local advice, to buy gear on the way through to Thredbo. If you're trying any of the great trails around Thredbo contact Thredbo MTB for any questions about gear or trails Phone: 6459 4119 or email: mountainbiking@thredbo.com.au Make sure you stay at one of the Lantern Thredbo Apartments self-contained 1- 4 star apartments. Many of the apartments have special mountain bike features including hoses, racks and cleaning rags. Speak to Jill or Ian about which apartments will suit your needs best for you or your group. Have an awesome time on the trails!