We are in the middle of winter now and depending on where you are located, getting out on your bike this time of the year can be tough with potential freezing temperatures. Let's break down our top 5 mountain bike winter riding tips that will keep you warm, riding after sundown, and help you manage the wet trail conditions.
Start off with a good pair of merino wool or waterproof socks. Not all socks are created equal, and there isn't anything much worse than getting out for a winter ride and not being able to feel your toes. That is where SealSkinz socks come in. The SealSkinz brand was built out of necessity and desire to fight cold and wet conditions. SealSkinz socks are 100% waterproof and will keep your feet dry and warm no matter if you completely soak your shoe. These socks were developed with athletes and don't have a bulky feel.
If SealSkinz socks are out of your price range, a good pair of marino wool socks are great for moisture wicking and perfect for winter riding. Investing in the right pair of socks might just transform your winter riding experience.
This next winter riding tip is a bit more of a hack. If you are riding in clipless pedals, most of the time the cleat box on the sole of the shoe is not water tight. The reason the shoe isn't sealed is because there has to be a way to get the cleat securing plate in to the inside of the shoe. That is the piece that your cleat bolts thread in to on the bottom of the shoe. One simple trick to again help keep water and even cold air from creeping in to the bottom of your riding shoes is to put a piece of duct tape over the cleat box from the inside of the shoe. First pull out the sole liner, cut out a small piece of duct tape roughly 2 inches by 3 inches, and cover the cleat box.
On the left you can see where water and cold air might come through the bottom of the shoe just in front of the cleat
Thankfully days are getting longer now, but for some it can be tough getting out on those after work rides as the sun goes down. Now a days, riding lights work really well. You can get a nice quality light that provides plenty of light that won't break the bank. Some of our favorites are the NiteRider Lumina 1200 and the Lezyne Super Drive 1500 XXL. Having a night riding light is a perfect way to get out on the trail more during these winter months.
Most of these lights come with their own mounting systems, that way you can mount them either to your helmet or handlebars. Some newer helmets like the Bell Sixer have their own integrated GoPro/headlight mounts that are pretty trick and have a nice clean look. With these kinds of integrated mounts you can stay away from having to use multiple zip ties to get the job done.
During winter months, depending on where you are located, it rains more than during the summer. When the trails are wet, you'll have mud and water fly off your front tire out in front of you. Then you run in to that mud and it can get in your eyes. Now is a perfect time to mount up a front fork fender to keep that from happening. Before any of these specifically designed mud fenders were available, riders would cut up an old rubber tube and zip tie it to the fork crown. Fenders like the Marsh Guard and Mucky Nutz fit perfectly on the fork arch and keep mud and water from hitting you in the face. Why not use a fork fender all the time?
Base layers are key when riding in cold weather. You want something that is moisture wicking, fits close to your skin, and is also breathable. When it comes to quality base layers, Craft Sportswear is at the top. Craft base layers are designed to keep you warm and dry on hard cold rides where you might start to sweat. There isn't much worse than starting to sweat on a cold ride and then having that turn in to chills. Get a quality base layer and ride more comfortably even in freezing temperatures.