Winter Mountain Biking Guide

The weather outside may be frightful, but you don’t have to let that keep you off your bike. With proper preparation and the right frame of mind, you can make mountain biking a year-round sport. Follow these tips to keep on track right through winter.

Prep Your Bike
The good news is you don’t need a specialized bike to put tires to snow—unless you’re looking for an excuse to buy a new ride, in which case go for it. Keep your tire pressure about 10–15 psi below normal for the smoothest, most skid-free experience possible. If you want to invest in a winter tire, choose one with wide-spaced lugs to help prevent the buildup of slushy frozen mud. Be sure to clean your bike after each use, as your tires will likely kick up a corrosive slurry of ice and road-clearing salt.

Dress for Success
As with most cold weather sports, dressing in layers and sporting winter accessories can help keep you comfortable and safe. Obviously, the more the temperature drops, the more you’ll need to bundle. Your needs might range from adding knee warmers or thicker socks at about 55° Fahrenheit to long-sleeve jerseys, vests, and cycling tights at freezing temps. For snowy or extremely cold conditions, invest in a pair of winter cycling gloves and a pair of stretchy waterproof cycling booties to be worn over your regular bike shoes. Add a pair of well-fitted sunglasses to help with the glare from sun on snow.

Get Psyched Up
Probably the biggest challenge of a winter ride is getting motivated to head out in the cold when you could be sipping cocoa by the fire. But when you’re appropriately attired, you’ll be ready to handle the elements. And everybody gets stir crazy just hanging around inside. Exercise is a great mood booster and stress reliever, so get out there and go for it.

Loosen Up a Little
In the cold, we tend to tense and hunch. But if you want a fun, injury-free ride, you’d better relax. Keep your arms and legs flexible to absorb the shock of frozen ground. Make like a cowpoke and keep a standing, bowlegged stance. The faster you travel, the farther ahead you need to look. Focusing on the track below your tires makes it impossible to prepare for unexpected obstacles ahead. If you’re feeling a little shaky or are struggling to stay loose and flexible, give yourself a pep talk. Staying positive and staying focused can help you to gain confidence as you ride.

Chilly weather doesn’t exempt you from drinking water. Even though your sweat might evaporate more quickly in the dry, cold air, you’ll still be sweating hard. A good rule of thumb for a low-temperature ride is to consume 16 ounces of water per hour, but we all sweat at different rates. You can figure out your ideal hydration plan by simply weighing yourself before and after a ride. If you weigh less after your ride, you’ve probably perspired hard and need to up your water intake. If you’ve gained some weight, you could be overdoing it, so sip a little less next time.

Respect Trail Closures
Bikes can be tough on sensitive trail systems, etching them into a messy, hazardous crisscross. Generally, if you’re just dealing with fresh crisp snow, it’ll be fine to ride. Avoid super muddy trails, which are susceptible to scarring from your tire tracks. Check conditions before heading out to find the best spot for your ride.

Be good to your trails, and they’ll be good to you.