Sorry to say it but the clock is ticking on summer sun, light evenings and dusty trails. The clocks change on Sunday 28th October here in the UK and that’ll be it for lazy, hazy summer cycling.
But never fear – with a little bit of kit, a bit of preparation and the motivation to get off the sofa you’ll have your best winter of mountain biking ever.
Here are our top tips to get ready for winter!
It’s easy to get out of the house for a ride in the summer, right? What about when the woods are dark and scary, the trails are soggy and the temperature is hovering just about frozen?
You’re way more likely to get out on your mountain bike in the winter with a group of up-for-it mates. Pick a time to meet, nag each other to turn up and just get stuck in. A regular, after-work ride that always meets at the same time and always celebrates with a beer in the pub will keep you powering on through to the spring, trust us!
Your mountain bike doesn’t need any specific winterisation but, it’ll be more fun and a bit safer to ride with a few winter upgrades.
We’d recommend a decent mudguard (Mudhugger do fantastic front and rear guards) to keep your face and bum clean. We’d also recommend a set of winter tyres if your budget will stretch – they’ll make steering in the mud much easier if you’re riding loose, muddy, sloppy trails. You’ll also want to invest in a good wet-weather chain lube and some good quality bike wash to keep your bike clean after your ride.
OK, we’ll admit, the idea of riding in the dark can sound pretty scary but don’t panic, with a decent set of mountain bike lights it’s not much more challenging than riding by day. The lights aren’t cheap but once you’ve got them you’ve unlocked a whole season of bonus riding.
Mountain biking at night will need a proper, good quality mountain bike light from a brand like Exposure lights. You’ll want to get a helmet-mounted light first (so you can always point your light where you’re looking) and a secondary bar-mounted light if your budget will stretch.
Ride as a group, be a bit more cautious than you would by day and pick slightly shorter rides to start with. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve got those spares, extra layers and a bit of food you might be able to do without in summer… if you get caught out in the dark it can be a lot trickier to deal with than by day. That said, it’s great fun so just go get stuck in and enjoy it!
Summer mountain biking doesn’t really need any dedicated kit… but the winter is way more comfortable with some tough, warm, waterproof gear. If you’re smart you should be able to find some gear that’s fairly cheap and will double up for riding to work or a bit of walking in the countryside with the family.
We’d recommend a decent jacket first. You want something that’s waterproof, as light as possible and ideally ‘hard shell’ meaning it’s made from tough material that keeps wind and water out. Gloves are also a must and there are some great cold-weather full-finger offerings that are designed for the cooler seasons without feeling like skiing mits. Last but not least, get a decent pair of waterproof shorts and socks and you’ll be lapping out runs of the trails when your mates are back hiding in the car!
All that winter mud, added-washing, grit and grime is really hard on your mountain bike. Chances are you’ve also just completed a big summer of riding and your bike has developed a few creaks and squeaks.
Why not pre-empt the added abuse and give your bike a full service now, so it’s ready for the winter?
We’d recommend giving your brakes a bleed and popping in some fresh pads. You’ll also want to consider new gear cables, maybe a new chain and giving your bearings and suspension a service. You can do most of that yourself at home with some basic tools and YouTube… but if you’re stuck, go check out your local bike shop.
We’re not saying you need a bike for every condition but we know a lot of riders that swap to a basic, tough and easy to maintain hardtail just for the winter.
Those expensive full suspension bikes are great but do take a hammering in the winter and a muddy season of riding can kill their value. Why not consider a cheap and cheerful hardtail (a bike without rear suspension) that you can ride all year round? It’ll be easier to maintain than a full suspension bike, less hassle in muddy conditions and won’t be quite so much effort to drag through boggy trails.
It’s a sad fact that your more likely to be burgled between October and December than any other time of year. Beef up your security before the nights draw in and you’ll stand way more chance of fending off any break-in attempts from thieves targeting your bikes.
We’d recommend a permanent anchor point (a very hard-to-remove metal bracket), a high quality, insurance rated chain and the best padlock you can afford. If you have to store bikes in a shed, out building or garage make sure the doors and windows are very well secured and can’t be targets of casual ‘have a go’ burglars. It goes without saying, never leave your bikes in your car or van overnight.
If you’ll excuse us just one plug for Pedalcover, we can help with insurance against theft and can cover you if your bikes or property are stolen or damaged. Take a look at our range of home insurance policies that are perfect for keeping your bikes safe.
Last but not least… start the winter strong by planning some big days of mountain biking with your friends. Get a few days booked in early that you can look forward to and will guarantee you have the best winter on your bike ever.
We’d recommend some uplifts at Bike Park Wales for a big day out in all conditions. A lap of Afan Argoed, Coed Llandegla or Swinley Forest are all great in rain or shine. You can read our list of the best places to ride your mountain bike in the UK here.
And of course, there’s nothing better than a trip abroad mountain biking in the sun. There are plenty of overseas destinations that offer summer-like sun when the UK is dark and wet.