Winter Mountain Biking Guide

shutterstock_9261985
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 the sun or 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.

Hydrate!
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.