Mountain biking in the winter can be an exhilarating experience, full of the thrills and spills that make the sport so enjoyable. But get things wrong and it can be miserable, uncomfortable and even dangerous.
Like most challenges, success comes from preparing properly, so here are a few tips to make the most of winter mountain biking. So saddle up, layer up and head for the hills with our indispensable guide to Winter mountain biking...
The most important aspect of winter cycling is getting your clothing right. Keep warm and protected and the rest of the ride should look after itself. Your top half is where you need to pay most attention:
Invest in gloves that are specifically for winter cycling with inner insulation and outer wind blocking material. If you’re going really extreme think about pogies or bar mitts.
It’s all about layers when it comes to looking after your upper body. There’ll be times when you’re peddling hard that you’ll feel hot and then times when you’re racing downhill into the wind when you’ll be freezing so think carefully about what to wear. Thermals under a warm fleece or down filled vest are a good idea. Remember that if you have an accident and come off your bike keeping warm might be the difference between life and death.
Remember how much heat you lose through your head and think about what to wear. Many mountain bikers go for a balaclava. Also consider eye wear as you’ll probably be kicking up a lot of debris.
Your legs will be doing most of the work so keeping them warm isn’t such an issue. But you still want to keep joints comfortable and not protect leg movement. Insulated Gortex usually does the trick.
- Make sure your tyres have open tread patterns
- Use lube on your drive chain, making sure to keep it as clean as possible
- Check that your cables are weather sealed
- Invest in some good mudguards
- Check your brake pads
There are all sorts of hazards that come with riding in the winter and you’ll need a number of new skills to cope with them. Mud and the accompanying slip factor is the chief thing to look out for so here’s a few more tips...
- Concentrate. You’ll need to keep focused and keep your eyes on the path
- Stand up in the saddle with your heels back, legs wide and be ready to adapt to any sudden changes
- Keep your weight low if possible and avoid leaning back
- Keeping low will allow you to move the bike easily in all directions
- Avoid twisting and turning as much as possible
- Tree roots can become a big problem in winter. Stay central on the bike and shift your weight forward
When going around corners avoid jerky movements as this will cause you to skid. Lean the bike, moving your body to the outside. Begin your brake as you come into the bend and keep off the front break once you’re into the bend.
Watch out going through puddles as they’ll be a sudden deceleration as the wheel goes through the water. Counter it by keeping your body back.
Mountain bike insurance
Unlike other disciplines of cycling, mountain biking is a high impact sport and puts a lot of stress through your body and your bike - to the majority of those who regularly mountain bike, accidents are almost seen as an occupational hazard of the sport. But for those new to the sport, it can seem daunting. We want you to love mountain biking and not worry. Getting mountain bike insurance cover - for yourself, your bike and your kit - will give you peace of mind and let you hit those trails head on.