The initial fun of splashing through puddles and riding through icy winter wonderlands soon evaporates once you’re sodden and freezing cold. If you’re ill-prepared, you’re not going to have a good time out on the bike this winter — that’s a fact. But with decent planning, kit and technique, you can mitigate the pain and suffering.
Once you’ve accepted you’re going to get wet and dirty, it’s pretty good fun – and you’ll find some trails actually ride better when they’re wet.
So stop living vicariously, watching other people ride on the internet, and get out there and embrace the winter when it arrives.
1. Get set
Make sure you’ve got good waterproof socks (or shoes) and gloves. These will stop your feet and hands going numb, letting you ride in comfort for longer.
You’ll want to protect your eyes from splashes and grit. A front mudguard and set of glasses or goggles will stop you having to squint your way down the trail.
Don’t let your bike suffer in the dirty conditions. Apply wet lube to your chain, make sure moving parts are properly greased, and clean your bike as soon as you can after riding, before the mud and grime dries.
To get maximum performance out of a waterproof jacket, you need to wear the right layers underneath. A baselayer adds warmth and wicks sweat away from your skin. On cooler days, throw on a midlayer too to keep yourself warm.
5. Clean up
A good clean-up routine is worth mastering. Hosing kit down before you whack it in the washing machine will keep you in the good books with the boss (whoever that may be!). It’s also a good idea to make sure you’ve got somewhere to put dirty kit during the drive home so you don’t get the car filthy too.
6. Pick your route
Choose the right route for a cold ride and it’ll be easier to stay stoked. Trail centres and bike parks often offer the best winter riding because the trails have an all-weather surface so won’t be as wet or muddy as natural terrain.
7. Make a splash
As tempting as it may be to avoid puddles, it’s better to ride through them — it’ll help stop the trail widening and the surface is usually hard beneath. And if you’ve got protective kit on, a little splash won’t matter.
8. Speed it up
When you do find yourself riding along through the mud and gloop, then try to keep your speed up. Apart from being more fun, this will help your tyres to shed mud and (hopefully) keep them gripping better.
Winter riding is a great way to improve your skills. You’ll become more confident slip-sliding down the hill, so next summer you’ll be even faster.