What you need to be safe when you ride in mountain bike parks & on trails depends on how far you are going and how isolated you will be. It is also about the weather and how this weather will affect your body temperature. Extra things to carry include food, water, clothing (and tools/first aid which we have talked about in the above section).
Food – For most rides under an hour you won’t need food. Anything over this time or any ride that involves a sustained challenging climb we would then recommend a snack before your downhill. We always recommend taking food when you ride with children regardless of the time frame. If your ride is over 2-3 hours this snack should become multiple snacks or a lunch. Keeping your energy levels high is really important for your enjoyment and your ability to concentrate during the next phase of your riding, which more often than not, when mountain biking, involves a downhill.
Water – What you need to carry depends on a number of things; how far you are going, the access to drinking water, how much you sweat, how hydrated you where before beginning your ride. For more detail on staying well hydrated please read our Hydration Buying Guide and the story on Hydration – Carrying Water When You Ride. As a general guide more is better and this is why so many mountain bike riders choose a hydration pack with a bladder – it allows you to carry more water than a drink bottle.
Clothing – Regulating your body temperature and keeping yourself dry is key to keeping safe and enjoying your ride. Again this becomes more important as you choose to ride further away from populated areas. Layering is a great tactic. As you warm up you can take off outer layers. Or in reverse, as the weather deteriorates you can add protective layers. Fabrics that have the ability to wick & breath are important so that you and your clothing remains dry. Often you will be sweaty & hot at the top of a climb. After resting, to prevent a chilled feeling from airflow on the way down, adding a lightweight/wind protecting jacket or vest is ideal. The worst combination is being cold & wet this is why we recommend quick dry fabric or merino with breathable but waterproof outer layers. For more on hypothermia and its dangers please read this story. First Aid & Emergencies When Bike Touring