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Be Prepared, Have Fun.

Night riding mountain bikes in winter can keep you busy while you wait for snow in your neighborhood. Credit: Pat McCloskey

While a lot of folks retreat to the gyms, health spas, and YMCA facilities during the winter for continued workouts, there are those of us who value being outside and continue to ride mountain bikes through the winter. The common questions we get are, “What about the snow?”  “What about the cold temperatures? “What are the trails like?”  The truth is if you are clothed properly and have the proper equipment like a fat bike or a plus bike with aggressive tread on the tire, you can enjoy your mountain bike riding all year.

Here are a few tips for maintaining your riding fitness and enjoying the winter on  a mountain bike:

  • Make sure that you utilize a fat bike or a plus bike with a tire like the Maxxis Minion DHF. These are aggressive tires for fat bikes or plus bikes.  They provide excellent traction in snow and mud. 
  • Fat bikes typically use a 4” plus diameter tire where the plus bikes utilize a 2.6-3” tire. Either bike can be used for winter riding. Fat bikes typically are hard tails without rear suspension with theory that the large diameter tires with very low tire pressure( around 6 PSI) provide plenty of suspension.  The plus bikes come in either hard tail or dual suspension design. (Personally, I like the dual suspension for comfort year round).  Plus bike tire pressure should be no more than 14 pounds to provide adequate traction. 
  • Use a good light on your helmet as well as your handlebars.  The bar mounted lights provide a wide beam on the trail while the helmet light can light up the peripheral vision allowing full visibility at night.  Securitylng light is the new company that uses Cree LED technology. and be found on Amazon. I also bring a spare battery in my pack.
  • Use a balaclava under your helmet for face protection against the elements and also warmth.  They are available in any ski shop or online. 
  • Use old ski gloves for warmth.  Chemical hand warming packs are good to use with your winter gloves.  They can be used on the bottom of your socks as well. 
  • Use ski socks with your normal riding shoes or go to your local shop to secure high topped insulated winter riding shoes.  You can search on line for these shoes as well. I find that as long as you use ski socks, you can get away with your normal riding shoes. 
  • Then, layer like you would for skiing with a nice base layer top and bottom and, depending on the temps, a fleece vest and your riding shorts over the top of the base bottom layer. 
  • Finally, I use the Frogg Toggs weather proof suit for wind protection and also to assist with heat retention.  It also keeps the mud off as do fenders which are also available for your bike from your local shop.  The $39.00 Pro-Lite suit is perfectly acceptable and provides good service without spending an arm and a leg. 
Winter boots from Sidi make a difference in keeping warm.

Make sure you are properly hydrated with your Camelbak bladder or utilize an insulated water bottle to prevent from freezing on the bike.  I personally like Hammer Nutrition Fizz Electrolyte with my hydration pack or bottle. A lot of folks don’t realize that with winter exercise, you need as much hydration as you do in the summer.  You lose a lot of fluids with perspiration and inhaling and exhaling during exertion so make sure you don’t forget to hydrate no matter what winter sport.

One word of caution is that with the freeze thaw cycles that we get in the East, black ice can develop on the trails.  There are a lot of choices for studded tires for these conditions that are available online or from your local bike shop.  Prepare to pay several hundred dollars each but if you intend to ride no matter what the trail conditions, studded tires will keep you upright. 

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