Introducing our first article of a new series called 'In the Saddle'!
In this series, we'll be speaking to a wide range of cyclists, from mountain bikers to road cyclists, to get their top tips and personal cycling stories. We want to put you in the saddle (metaphorically, of course) by giving you interesting and practical insights from some respected names within the cycling world.
Let's get started. The first interviewee of our series is content creator Jamie Carruthers from Mtb Trail Hub.
Jamie is a renowned mountain biking enthusiast and knows all there is to know about the sport. We sat down with Jamie to get his top tips for mountain biking in the cold winter months.
How do you keep yourself motivated and stay fit during the cold winter months?
I think the motivation comes from the love of riding bikes which, for me, doesn't stop during winter. But having the right gear for the job and getting everything prepped and ready the night before will make it much easier for you to carry through plans. I like to mix things up during winter and get out running and road cycling too, which keeps things fresh and new.
What’s your sleep schedule like, and how do you like to fuel yourself in terms of nutrition?
My sleep schedule is nothing to be desired to be honest, and it’s something I need to work on. I'm a bit of a night owl, so I tend to go to bed late and wake up late. I normally function best on 8.5 hours of sleep. As far as nutrition goes, a good few eggs and veggies for breakfast will keep me going most of the day!
What clothing should you wear for winter mountain biking, and can you recommend any personal favourites?
A decent thermal top layer for the cold days will serve you well. I’d also recommend some 100 per cent brisker gloves and sealskin waterproof socks! It's important to not wear cotton shirts as base layers, as they get sweaty and will make you cold. Always try to use quick-dry shirts when possible. A windproof gilet does well during autumn and spring, as it will keep you warm but not restrict movement.
What essentials do you take with you when you go cycling?
I will always take a spare inner tube, tyre levers, and pump to fix a flat tyre. Depending on the ride length, I'll also take enough water and maybe a sandwich and/or oat bar. Maybe some jelly beans too for desperate measures!
How do you set up your bike differently in winter?
My set-up doesn't change a huge amount. I run fairly aggressive tyres which tend to be decent in all conditions (Michelin Wild Enduro), but you can lower PSI during wet rides to get more grip. A mudguard and cheap brake pads will also do the trick.
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What are the key considerations when you cycle in a place?
Before riding somewhere new, ironically, I don't tend to do much research. I might have a quick scan on YouTube or Google to find the best car parks and trails. Of course, for anyone reading this, you will want to go straight to the Mtb Trail Hub YouTube Channel and watch the review!
How important are your warm-up and warm-down routine, and what do these routines typically consist of?
Warming up for a day’s riding usually involves taking a few trails or about half an hour of steady riding. This gives me enough time to scope out the conditions and assess how much grip is out there. As the ride goes on, I like to push the limits more and more throughout the day. I have no set warm-down, although I like to finish with a beer whenever possible and I sometimes use a foam roller to iron out tight muscles.
Are there any particular techniques you use when mountain biking in winter?
A big tip for beginners when riding in the wet is to be less aggressive with the front brake to avoid it slipping out!
What are your favourite trails to take on in winter in the UK?
Any trail centre during the winter will serve you best, as they tend to have a firm paved route and good drainage. I look for trails that drain well, such as Rogate, Revolution Bike Park or Innerleithen.
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What advice do you have for other winter mountain bike riders?
Riding during the winter can be a struggle at times, but I think a good mindset can help a lot. I struggle with this at times myself, but I’ve found that if you embrace the weather and just enjoy yourself, whatever the conditions, you will have a fun day out! Clean your bike as soon as possible after a ride whilst paying special attention to your drive chain.
Thanks to Jamie for his insights!
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