When it comes to winter mountain biking, it’s best to embrace the mud, rain, ice and snow. We love winter in the saddle, and we’re here to tell you how you can too!
American journalist and outdoor enthusiast, Helena Kotala, told Singletracks magazine that winter riding is ‘just a matter of being prepared and having the right mindset’. We couldn’t agree more!
The challenging conditions can also make you a better rider, as it will challenge your reactions and endurance. So, from winter mountain bike gear, to handling those slippery trails; read on for our guide on how to survive and thrive throughout the winter on your mountain bike.
Winter Mountain Bike Gear
When setting up your bike for winter riding, our tips below will help keep you riding all season long.
Tyres: get yourself some sturdy, grippy winter tyres; they keep traction far better on those wet, muddy or icy trails.
Drivetrain: clean your drivetrain after EVERY ride. Use a quality wet lube; dry or wax ones won’t last long in wet conditions.
Mudguards and fenders: get some mountain bike-specific mudguards. If you can’t get both a rear and front mudguard, then prioritise the front. This helps stop the spray getting into your face or covering your visor as much.
Saddle: in difficult conditions, put your saddle down an inch. It lowers your centre of gravity, making it easier to keep control if the going gets messy or slippery.
Puncture repair: when it’s raining or so cold you can’t feel your fingers, don’t hang around on the trail side fixing your puncture! Get some CO2 cartridges and get yourself somewhere warm.
You may have hit the same trail a hundred times in the summer and think you know it by heart, but the elements can change a path overnight. As mud washes away, it can reveal rocks and roots you didn’t realise were there before, while puddles can hide sharp, puncturing stones and be deeper than first anticipated.
Chris Ford from Bike Radar recommends: “On wet single tracks you should be standing up, centred and loose, with cranks level, heels dipped and legs wide like John Wayne. It’s tempting to grip the saddle with your thighs to stabilise the bike, but each little movement will upset your balance. You need to be able to lean the bike quickly from side to side to make turns, looking for ruts or sloping trail edges to act as reliable berms wherever possible.”
Chris also recommends looking as far ahead as possible and not down at the immediate foreground, as well as keeping your heels down, it helps absorb any shocks.
What To Wear While Mountain Biking In Winter
For a pleasant ride along your favourite trails in winter, waterproof gear is a must – unless, of course, you like to be cold and wet? The most essential waterproof items you need are waterproof shoes, socks (very important) and waterproof shorts.
The key to keeping warm over the winter is layering. Mountain bike gear can be expensive, so if you can only buy one item this winter, make it a decent base layer that will wick sweat away. Merino wool is highly effective at this, the knit just works wonders. Another crucial garment to have in winter is a reflective jacket – especially if you need to do any road cycling – you need to be immediately and easily visible. Also, carry a head torch with you if you’re planning to be out after dark.
What Not To Do
If you are taking on snowy trails, check your speed. If not, you’ll end up with a face-full of muddy snow, like this rider!
If you want to see more winter bike fails – go to our Fail blog!
Winter may not be the time to pull out your best moves if you’re worried about slipping, but for some ultra-confident mountain bikers, it’s their time to shine. Check out the video below to see how it looks when you own the winter trails – and good luck!
Don’t let a bike accident ruin your winter. Make sure you have bike insurance that, not only covers you and your bike, but all your gear as well. With Personal Accident cover of £50,000 – Get a quote from Cycleplan today!
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