Photo by Jess Daddio

Andy Beckman’s must-haves for mountain biking

“I grew up riding bikes up and down the street as every kid does,” racer Andy Beckman said. “It all progressed from building little ramps in the driveway and just having fun with friends.”  The enjoyment of riding continued through childhood and far beyond. In middle school, Beckman started racing, mostly mountain bikes but some road here and there, and continued to race through college.

Nowadays, Andy calls the rolling hills of Western North Carolina home, citing his love of biking as one of the main motivators in deciding where to live. “There’s a great selection of trails around here and this is an amazing community for mountain biking.” From the countless trails throughout Pisgah National Forest to lesser-known spots in the Asheville area and his local park here in Boone, Beckman still rides with excitement that began nearly three decades ago.

With that much time spent on the trail, Beckman has picked up a tip or two when it comes to the best gear to have and why. From helmets to hydration to tools on the go, the gear you bring on your rides plays a part in their success. Here are Andy’s go-to pieces of gear for every ride:

1.  Use your head…wear a helmet.

The importance of protecting your head while biking cannot be stressed enough. Look into different styles and brands and try some on at your local shop. A helmet that fits the right way, and comfortably, is the key to maximizing this crucial safety feature. For cruising around the hills of Western North Carolina, Beckman turns to the stylish but highly protective Chronicle MIPS helmet.

Chronicle MIPS helmet – $100

2. Hydrate or diedrate!

Average adults should consume anywhere from 2.7 to 3.7 liters of water per day, and even more when participating in physical activity like mountain biking. Being properly hydrated starts before your ride even begins, but to quench your thirst as you go, Beckman recommends the M.U.L.E. 100oz pack by Camelbak. Even at full capacity, this pack is comfortable and rugged, all while providing plenty of liquids for the long rides ahead.

Camelbak M.U.L.E. 100oz Hydration Pack – $110

3. Be prepared to make fixes on the go.

We’ve all heard it before: “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” Things go wrong, especially when it’s least expected, which is why Beckman urges all riders to carry a quality multi-tool. Something like the Crankbrothers M19, which comes stacked with a chain tool, hex wrenches, screwdrivers, a spoke wrench and more, is ideal for its variety of tools but also for its compact size and lightweight. 

Crankbrothers M19 Multitool – $33.99

4. Stay grounded.

Grounded to those pedals that is! When it comes to riding in comfort, one of the most important pieces of gear you can have is a good pair of shoes. Known for their durability and sticky grip, the Five Ten Freerider Pro shoes are some of the best in the game. This lightweight, synthetic shoe offers top of the line protection and weather-resistant materials to maximize its capabilities as a first-rate riding shoe.

Five Ten Freerider Pro – $150

5. Come ready for the ups and downs.

One of the most important innovations in mountain biking came in the early 2000s with the automatic dropper seatposts. With the simple push of a lever, you can adjust the height of your seat to best suit that moment’s riding. By allowing you to sit high and pedal hard on climbs to dropping the seat, and thus lowering your center of gravity for downhills, dropper posts allow you to be an efficient rider on different terrain while saving you time in the process. There are lots of options to choose from on the market, but Beckman is steadfast and happy with his Contact Switch Dropper Seatposts made by Giant Bicycles.

Giant Contact Switch Dropper – $168

6. No more bumps and bruises.

Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport and inevitably ends with a crash here or there. For general protection, Beckman suggests a solid pair of gloves, which helps with both deflecting debris and limbs as you ride while also protecting your whole hand in case of falls, and a quality set of knee pads that serve that same purpose. Both of these items depend on personal preference as they are sold in a wide variety of styles, so head to your local shops to try some out. Whether he’s running laps in Pisgah National Forest or taking his sons to the local downhill park, Beckman suits up in his Fox Launch Enduro Knee Pads and a pair of Pro-Lite Gloves.

Fox Launch Enduro Knee Pads – $59.95

Pro-Lite Gloves – $29.95  

More Gear

Gregory Quadro Pro, $199

Built using a bombproof polycarbonate shell, the carry-on 22” Quadro Pro combines absolute gear protection with Gregory’s expert-level design. An ActiveShield compartment separates dirty gear from clean clothes in a fully removable vapor- and odor-resistant compartment. 

Six Moon Designs Flight 30 Pack, $190

Ultra-lightweight and minimalist, the Flight 30 is even slimmer and more streamlined; it shed 4 ounces in its newest version. For long-distance hikers, the Flight 30 is small and compact, but can still carry enough to travel several days between resupply. 

Ridge Solstice Hoodie, $80

Lightweight? Sun protection? This simple styled hoodie gives you both. With a natural UPF of 25+ and a longer hem in the back for more coverage, the Solstice Hoodie is the perfect layer for long days spent in the sun. 

Hydro Flask National Park Foundation Collection Wide Mouth 32 oz Water Bottle, $49

Durable yet easy to carry, the National Park Foundation Collection features double-wall insulation to keep beverages ice cold for 24 hours or piping hot for up to 12. Proceeds benefit the National Park Foundation. 

Kitsbow Cyclone Tee, $79

This high-performance shirt is built for biking, but our wear-tester ended up wearing it off the bike just as often. Polartec side panels provide active cooling, and the lightweight breathable fabric keeps you cool, dry, and comfortable.

More Biking in the Blue Ridge from our September Bike Issue Here