It’s cold, wet and dark, but just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to hang up your bike till March. Here’s how to keep the fun going.
Mountain biking through the British winter isn’t easy, but you can either put the bike away in the shed and go into hibernation, or just tough it out. If you’re going with the latter option, good on you. There’s a few steps you can take to ensure riding through the winter is a little less pleasant.
Minimise working parts that wear out
Get a winter bike with fewer valuable working parts to wear out. A rigid singlespeed bike is the perfect low-maintenance companion for piling on the winter miles, with no gears to wear out and high-tech suspension to go wrong.
Regular serving and maintenance
Whichever bike you ride in the winter, all that gloop, mud and sand is going to accelerate the wear on vital parts of the bike. Make sure to thoroughly wash your bike after every ride (avoid the jet wash if you can, your bearings will thank you) and lube moving parts well. Pay close attention to the condition of the brake pads, gear cables, chain and sprockets to identify worn components before they cause you trouble out on the trail.
Go night riding
It’s the most fun thing in the world and is really good for enhancing your riding skills because you have a lot less time to react to stuff on the trail. And let’s face it, if you only ride when it’s daylight you’re not going to get much riding in. Good lights aren’t cheap (though lights that simply pump out lots of lumens but lack bells and whistles are now amazing value) but they’re cheaper than new wheels or some other upgrades you could buy for your bike.
Switch to winter tyres.
We don’t necessarily mean mud tyres here, but depending on the type of trails near you and how much rainfall we have this winter, specific mud tyres could be the best investment you ever make. The best way to find a good tyre for your local trails is to ask local riders and shops. Whatever tyres you run, it’s worth experimenting with the tyre pressure. Try running them a little lower to get some extra traction.
Keep yourself warm and dry
There’s no quicker route to misery than losing the feeling in your extremities so get yourself some bike-specific warm winter clothing. You don’t need to spend a fortune either as there’s some very good value for money clothing that will cut it just fine. The basics of a good winter outfit are a long sleeve base layer, a decent jacket, three-quarter-length pants shorts or tights (to cover your knees up), gloves and a helmet liner or head band to protect your head and ears.
Insulated, waterproof winter boots are a luxury you won’t regret; overshoes run them a close second. Wear the thickest merino socks that will fit easily inside your shoes, but don’t pile the layers in there. Too thick or too many socks will cut off the circulation to your toes and make things worse.
Waterproof overshorts are the bomb.
We discovered this a few years ago and they transformed our riding. You should discover them too.
Get your mates out
Riding on your own when it’s cold and wet can be a soul destroying experience, so rope your mates into a regular ride and stick to it. Whether it’s every Sunday morning at the café or a Thursday night evening ride, having a regular ride in the diary is great for your motivation and gives you something to look forward to. If something goes qwrong, there’s safety in numbers benefit, and it’s just a lot more fun to race your mates through the puddles.
Set goals and aims
It can help to have some purpose to your riding sometimes, whether it’s just being fitter for the following spring, or targeting an event like Mountain Mayhem or Megavalanche. Having a goal in mind will help you make the transition from the warm and comfortable sofa to the trail.
Carry all the tools and spares you’ll need to fix your bike
The last thing you want is a long walk home if you have a mechanical on a very wet or very cold ride. So ensure you can fix your bike in any of the likely eventualities We’re talking a chain tool and quick link, zip ties, spare tube, a good pump, patches and glue just in case, some money for a cab home and a charged mobile phone. Just in case.
Yes, yes we know a lot of you don’t like mudguards. But the truth is that front and rear mudguards can keep so much of the mud and spray off you that you’ll avoid getting quite as wet through as you would without them.