For most of us, the temperatures are starting to drop. While that doesn’t mean an end to our mountain biking, it certainly signifies that some changes must be made to our routine. We wouldn’t suggest mountain biking in the snow for everyone, but it can be very enjoyable for the more dedicated amongst us. And although we’d love to just take our mountain bikes out this winter like it ain’t nothin’, precautions are necessary. Some are equipment-related, others...not so much. In any case, today we’re going to outline some of the most vital steps you can take to ensure success in the winter months.
Don’t try to beat your summer trail time when there’s snow on the ground. It’s just not going to happen. Snow is hard to pedal through, and even harder if you’re trying to move with any speed whatsoever. You’ll do well to cover half the distance you would in perfect conditions. But, don’t get discouraged. Instead, take the opportunity to work on other, non-speed related things. Enjoy the view. Enjoy the ride. Hell, build a snowman if you’re so inclined. While the snow eliminates speed, it presents new and unique challenges that may not be available year-round. Try to navigate (CAREFULLY) over ice. Try to dig in on a steep, uphill climb. All in all, don’t try to outperform your summer self. Instead, focus on new challenges.
Anyone who survives in a colder climate will tell you: layers are key. Always be sure to wear a base layer, and several additional layers of warm clothing. When mountain biking, you’re going to warm up as you engage in strenuous activity. As important as it to keep warm, you also want to avoid getting too warm. Wearing moisture-wicking layers can solve that, by allowing you to adjust your warmth to how you’re feeling at a moment’s notice. Be sure to add gloves to your list of must-haves too! Fingertips are prone to dangerous frostbite and frostnip. Pro-tip: Dirt Gloves are engineered for year-round use.
When we’re burning up, drinking water is a natural sort of reaction. When it’s 10 degrees outside, though, that’s not always the case. Regardless, it’s just as important to stay hydrated. We suggest filling your bottle or reservoir with hot water to avoid any problems with freezing. Alternatively, you can wear your water reservoir under your jacket, so that the liquid inside stays insulated and warm.
There’s no way around it -- riding in the winter is dangerous. The snow isn’t exactly a mountain biker’s natural best friend, so we need to be extra careful. If you go out riding alone, and something happens to you and/or your cell phone...well, you’re basically stuck. At the very least, use a buddy-phone system. Designate a time after your ride to call a friend with the word that you’re alright. Have them call the relevant authorities, if they don’t hear from you at that time.
Hands and Feet
Your hands and your feet are perhaps the most crucial areas that need protecting when it comes to mountain biking in the colder months. Ice can quickly form on the ground (or even on your bike), so it’s crucial to wear appropriate shoes and mountain biking gloves. Make sure your shoes are reasonably capable of handling some frost and snow. As well, it’s critical to keep your hands and fingers warm, while still allowing for mobility and tactile awareness. Dirt mountain biking gloves were made for just that -- lightweight enough to allow for mobility, but thick enough to keep your digits warm.
Prep Your Bike!
Taking good care of your mountain bike is, of course, important year-round. But in the winter months, it’s even more critical. The only thing worse than doing roadside maintenance is... doing roadside maintenance in the snow. The minerals and dirt found in snow can be particularly harmful to your bike, if left on the hardware for prolonged amounts of time. That’s why it’s crucial to thoroughly clean each component of your bike before and after each ride.
Try to run on tires with a more wide-open tread pattern, and consider riding on a lower tire pressure to ensure a better grip in the snow. Be sure to lubricate your chain before each session, as well. We’d also suggest installing mudguards on your bike, to prevent snow and slush from splashing into your face (or bike!).And of course -- pack spare parts!