Winter Riding Survival Guide

Everyday Bearded MTBer 0

Winter is here!

The winter weather shouldn’t stop you riding your bike, if you’re fully prepared for the weather and riding conditions. Take a look at our winter riding survival guide.

Riding through winter can seem daunting even if you’ve ridden in the colder months before. Although everyone can agree that nothing beats riding through the summer in short sleeves and sunglasses, there is still lots of fun to be had from winter riding.

Motivation in the winter is something everyone struggles with. The last thing you want to do is hop on your bike when its pouring with rain or blowing a gale! But there are many benefits to training in the winter, which a lot of us are missing out on. 

Due to the colder weather our bodies have to work harder to stay warm, which means we burn more calories whilst riding (Which is a great excuse for popping in to a pub at the end of the ride). It’s also great at tackling those winter blues, as when we exercise our brain releases natural endorphins making us feel happier and energised.  

So, below is our guide to keep you smiling and riding in safe…even if you can’t feel your fingers!

CLOTHING

Wear the Right Gear

The most obvious and arguably important factor in winter weather riding is the right windproof, thermal and waterproof gear which will keep you dry and warm on rides so you’ll barely notice the cold. A full set of winter clothing can at first seem like a large expense but choosing carefully and layering up can give you a range of clothing to suit a range of temperatures.

Good quality winter and waterproof gloves, socks and shoes will help keep your extremities warm, this is the most likely area to get cold first.

Keeping your core warm is key. Bring a backpack. Wear a base layer, a riding jersey, a mid-layer, a fleece and a packable waterproof jacket if possible – then you can de-layer as you warm up. 

Using cycling specific clothes, which are lightweight and breathable, will ensure the correct fit and protection from moisture build up. This will stop you feeling uncomfortable or clammy which can lead to a very miserable ride. You don’t want to be dripping in sweat because you put one too many layers on, so investing in a good base layer is a must to make your cold rides more comfortable and enjoyable. 

FOOD & DRINK

Of course nothing beats rolling in to the pub car park at the end of a ride knowng your going to pop inside for a drink and some food. But don’t pin all your food and drink plans on that one idea. 

Eating enough before and during a ride is important, some energy bars can become very hard during low temperatures so keep them somewhere warm or opt for a softer product like gels.

It may be cold. You may not be particularly thirsty. The idea of drinking any sort of liquid in freezing temperatures may not be that appealing. But you are still a human being, even if you are a cold human being. Remember to drink water or you’ll quickly lose your energy and may start to feel light-headed or dizzy as it may not be obvious that you’re sweating under your clothing.

Fluid loss can happen when riding at any temperature and if the temperature is really cold you should mix your drink with hot or warm water to stave off the chilling effect.

MAINTENANCE

Look After Your Bike

The myth of winter riding is that it’s always going to through hard frost or pure white snow, but this is, naturally, not true. A lot of the mountain biking during the UK winter will be on soft ground, either through wet patches and mud or even through terrain that’s been affected by melted snow or just plain rain…lots of rain.

Wet weather can be particularly harsh on chains and rims, so it’s important to check and maintain these areas regularly. Checking your tyres prior to a ride takes less than 10 minute.

It’s important to keep your bike in good condition at all times and in winter you’ll need to pay more attention to moving parts like the chain, gears, cables, hubs and bottom bracket. Give your bike a regular check over and try and wash off the grime. 

You can check for wear on the rims and brake blocks as wet weather can be particularly harsh on these areas.

Keep your chain oiled regularly and make sure that your cables are in good shape as salty water off gritted roads and paths can cause problems with components and the water getting into the exposed cables can cause rusting and shifting.

Keeping on top of your bike’s maintenance means you can minimise the number of mechanical mishaps that you may have when you’re out riding. The last thing you’ll want to do is find yourself stranded at the side the trail, freezing.

Ultimately if you clean your bike properly after every ride then at the same time you end up checking all the points mentioned.

PLAN YOUR ROUTE

We’re not saying that you should only stick to trails you know when you ride in the winter. It can often be nice to get out and try something new, but if you’re going to do that, make sure you’ve done your research – and that you’ve timed your ride well enough that it won’t be dark while you’re riding it, or things can get sketchy. Even if you’ve done the research, things can be different in real life than they are online or on a map and, without the benefit of being able to see where you are, there’s the potential to end up in a tricky spot. If you can, try tackling new routes with friends who have done them before.

MOTIVATION

The toughest thing about winter mountain biking isn’t staying on your bike, finding your way through the dark or even keeping your hands warm. It’s getting the motivation to get up and get out the door to start with. Especially if you’re tucked up with a cuppa tea watching Friends on repeat…

As motivation levels hit an all-time low in the winter months, cycling with friends can help boost morale and make the experience more enjoyable, as well as shouting encouragement and having a good old chat, it makes the time fly by. Plus the added bonus of riding in a group is that it is also a safer option if someone experiences a mechanical or physical problem along the way.

Other ways to keep yourself motivated might be by riding with a new group (check to see if your local bike shop has a regular ride out), trying out a new route through your local hill range or by watching a few more mountain bike edits than normal. If that all fails, just leave your mountain bike out in the corridor where you’ll pass it every day to guilt trip you into riding.

PROTECT YOUR EYES

The idea of wearing goggles may seem a little excessive at first, but when you’re spitting up mud left, right and centre, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you brought them.
 
If it’s going to be a bit of a cleaner day, you’ll get away with glasses, but if it’s going to be super muddy, the glasses won’t keep out the mud. Both goggles and glasses will also keep the wind out your eyes and prevent the draining of every bead of moisture in your body.
 
Just make sure you’ve got clear lenses, so you can still see where you’re going – always a crucial part of riding a mountain bike, we find.

BE PREPARED

You may have exact requirements for the ride you are planning on going on so make sure that you plan a sensible route to match the predicted weather forecast and take a charged phone with you, some money in case of emergencies and consider all of the above advice.

FINAL THOUGHT

It’s always best to be over prepared and ready for the worst situation and the worst weather. You can always take off layers, and bring food home with you. Ultimately make sure you and your bike are ready to face more extreme conditions by fuelling up before your ride and ensuring your bike is functioning correctly. 

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Everyday Bearded MTBer

The Everyday Bearded Mountain Biker is also known as Jake Phillips, a mountain biker with a passion for two wheels. His passion for the sport has allowed him to enjoy many experiences and meet many people. From early years racing, track side support and even managing a grass roots race team and supporting young and up coming local talent.

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