ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR WINTER RIDERS
We are lucky here in Australia. For many mountain bike riders around the world, winter riding means freezing temperatures, white powder, or icy brown sludge. Here there are very few places that have to contend with really cold conditions. But for those of us who have to deal with nippy winter breezes, here are some essential tips to boost your enjoyment on long winter rides.
COVER UP FROM THE FEET UP
With a strong wind chill, particularly if you are riding in the Blue Mountains, the Australian Alps, or anywhere else at altitude, you need to cover up from the feet up. Look after your extremities and you will find cold weather riding becomes a lot more enjoyable. Start with waterproof or woollen socks. If you are on a budget, wrapping your existing socks in tin foil can help you out. There isn’t much sense in splashing out on waterproof winter riding boots for a couple of days a year, but on the occasional cold and wet days, duct taping your breathing vents in your boots will give you more warmth and waterproof protection.
Staying warm without sweating is the most difficult part of winter riding. Once you start sweating, that means wet clothes, and wet clothes eventually mean you will be cold. Layer up to get the balance right. Start with a woollen thermal layer against your skin. This will keep warmth even if you start sweating. Finish with a waterproof shell to keep the heat in and protect from wind and rain.
GET SOME GOGGLES
If you can get away without goggles in the dry summer months, you certainly can’t in the winter. Goggles will keep the muck from the trail out of your eyes and stop the cold from drying your eyes out and ruining your vision. They also keep a little warmth in your forehead and cheeks. To keep the rest of your face warm, wear a buff to keep the wind off your mouth.
PLAN YOUR RIDE TO START UPHILL
Whatever you do, don’t start off your winter ride downhill. If you have layered up perfectly, you should find that you are cold at the start of the ride, but once you get going you will be the perfect temperature. Starting off cold and then roaring down a steep incline with the wind in your face will set you off on the wrong foot and have you battling the cold from the start.
When the ground is damp, your slick summer tyres are going to struggle. You might find yourself hanging on while your bike slips and slides around underneath you. If you are going out in wet and muddy conditions, a good pair of mud tyres will seriously elevate your winter riding, giving you more traction and control.
LOWER THE TYRE PRESSURE
If you can’t justify spending money on mud tyres for a few days a year, at least lower your tyre pressure in the winter. With more surface area in contact with the ground, you might find you get a few extra morsels of grip, and the ride should be smoother too.
Mountain biking in the winter is not the same as summer. Managing your expectations and embracing the cold weather might be the only way to win the mental battle and really start enjoying your winter rides. If it really is too much, you can always find somewhere warm on our beautiful island, whatever the month or season.
Do you have any tips for riding in the winter? Please share them with everyone in the comments section below.