Mountain biking has the potential to be an all-weather sport so long as you own the appropriate equipment. Yes, even in those cold, dark months. (Nothing a little layering and lighting can’t resolve!) In fact, with cold-weather accessories and attire, a frosty pedal through the woods can be just as fun as a balmy mountain bike ride. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. But first get your hands on this recommended gear.
A proper bike. Unfortunately, you can’t play in the snow atop your everyday mountain bike. (Seriously, try it and see how far you get.) Fortunately, several companies make bikes designed to do just that. If you can justify owning one, I highly suggest you do. Riding in the snow on my “fat bike,” as they’re affectionately referred to, makes me feel like I’m a kid again. And I love it.
Warm socks. I spend a lot of time outdoors in the winter and without fail my toes always go numb first. This used to mean an abrupt end to my ride. Not any more. Investing in a toasty pair of wool socks was one of the best choices I’ve made—considerably prolonging my ride time during frosty rides.
Cold-weather cycling gloves. Ever since I snatched up a pair of cycling-specific winter gloves, mountain biking has never been the same. That’s a dramatic statement, I know. But it’s true. I know it’s true because I lost my gloves last season and sub-freezing rides have never been the same. I meant every loving word I wrote about my Pearl Izumi AmFIB Lobster Gloves in this review. And until I shell out the money for a new pair, I’ll be thawing “my fingers around a steaming mug of hot chocolate” post ride.
A not-too-warm base layer. It never fails: I consistently overdress on my winter rides. Ten minutes in and I’m a layer-shedding, sweltering mess. Call me crazy, but these days I plan to start out a tad chilly because I know I’ll heat up in a hurry. I’ve found that a light base layer, like the one I’ve reviewed here, is the perfect choice for cold-weather rides. Among other things, this shirt wicks wonderfully, dries quickly and offers a strategically-placed seam design so your hydration pack doesn’t rub your winter skin raw.
A bike light. If you live where I do, you can’t ride after working hours during winter months without a light. Night riding has the potential to be fun while still being safe--but that’s only possible if you have the proper illumination. Why? Because even your most-loved mountain bike trails will look and feel brand new when the sun goes down. See regular night rides in your future? Invest in a reputable, bright light to keep you out of harm’s way. I know I’m pushy, but it’s only because I care about you. I swear.
Water-proof mountain biking shoes. Shoes made for cold-weather riding, like the ones I’ve reviewed here, have earned a spot in my weekly winter riding routine. You’ll probably want to make room in your closet for a pair as well. Offering way more protection than booties, the waterproof GORE-TEX fabric of the winter riding shoes reviewed here kept my feet dry in wintry mix conditions. Thanks to the complete seam sealed construction, my socks never became wet when it was precipitating or when I was pedaling through stream crossings. An idiot-proof Velcro closure makes putting on and taking off the shoe a breeze—and adjustments are super simple even with heavy winter gloves. One word of (likely obvious) advice: make sure you’ve got a warm pair of socks on underneath if you plan on riding on the road for any extended period of time.