Is there any such thing as the perfect mountain bike for riding through the winter? Obviously, the bike you’re currently riding is, of course. But what if you have some spare cash and want to buy a bike dedicated to the task of ploughing though the wet squelchy winter, saving your main bike from the wear and tear that riding through several feet of mud brings?
There are several considerations that can make a mountain bike easier to live with through the winter, whether it cuts down on the maintenance required frequently to ensure good working order, or reducing the number of moving parts susceptible to the grime and grind and the cost of replacing parts as they wear out.
The classic move is to ride a singlespeed mountain bike through the winter. Removing the transmission reduces the number of expensive parts to wear into a gritty paste, reducing the toll on your wallet. And as there’s fewer moving parts, you don’t need to be so picky about your cleaning regime. Sometimes get away with a squirt of oil on the chain before each ride.
And speak to any singlespeed advocate and they’ll also tell of the attraction of riding a bike with so few parts, and the strength and fitness you acquire from having to hoof that single gear over any terrain.
But what if you like your gears? Another option to reduce the maintenance is to choose an internal gear system, such as a Shimano Alfine or Rohloff. These place all the working parts of a groupset inside a hub, which protects them from the elements ensuring your gears continue to work smoothly all of the time.
So, with that in mind, here’s a few different bikes that we think fit the bill of the perfect low maintenance winter bike.
Trek Gary Fisher Marlin
Ah, the venerable singlespeed. For many Brits, this is the quintessential answer to what bike to ride through the winter. The lack of a drivetrain means a lot less cleaning and maintenance after every ride, there’s no chain slipping across the cassette and less things generally to go wrong.
This £450 Trek Gary Fisher Marlin 29er perhaps isn’t the obvious choice for a singlespeed, but we love the look of it and just had to include it here. It’s got a 6061 T6 aluminium frame with sliding vertical dropouts and Fisher’s G2 geometry.
£450 from www.trekbikes.com
Genesis iO Alfine 11
If singlespeed doesn’t turn you on then how about a mud-proof hub gear option? Genesis have being offering an Alfine hub gear fitted bike since they launched a couple of years ago, and the latest incarnation gets the new 11-speed hub, updated with more gearing options and revised shifter.
The frame remains the same, a classic and sorted Reynolds 520 chromoly tubeset with a slimmer top tube for a refined ride feel. Geometry is designed around a 100mm suspension fork and there’s cable guides designed for the Alfine hub.
£1499.99 from www.genesisbikes.co.uk
It’s not hard picking a singlespeed mountain bike frame or complete bike these days; such is the popularity of ditching the complete transmission in exchange for the simplicity of one speed. It’s more difficult to find a rigid mountain bike however, but Singular Cycles popped onto the scene a couple of years ago with its rigid ready Swift.
The classically-styled frame, made from amixture of Reynolds and proprietary butted 4130 chromoly, features an eccentric bottom bracket to tension the chain. However, there are cable guides should you decide to add gears at a later date.
Frameset £440 www.singularcycles.com
If it gets really bad (anything like last winter will do) then how about this extreme example of a bicycle.
Massive volume 3.8in tyres are fitted to a custom designed 4130 chromoly frame which will accept conventional derailleur gears, a gear hub or singlespeed and the special fork accepts 135mm rear hubs – opening up the option of interchangeable rear wheels.
No matter how bad the weather gets, this bike will surely keep on going, we can’t see anything getting in its path.
£1599.99 from www.surlybikes.com
When preparing this article, we wanted to include one cyclo-cross bike, just for the simple fact that a ‘cross bike can be a lot of fun during the winter.
So it seemed, following its launch earlier this year, that Cotic’s >X< cyclo-cross frame should be the one we picked. This is a brand with a strong following the UK mountain biking community and should tempt many mountain bikers into the strange world of cyclo-cross riding.
From £900 www.cotic.co.uk