When the cold weather sets in, it is not necessarily time to hang up your mountain bikes for the winter and hibernate. Don't let a little snow and cold weather weather keep you off your bike this winter. Step outside for a bike ride through a winter wonderland and an exhilarating cycling adventure. With the leaves off the trees, new vistas open up giving you a different perspective on mountain bike trails you may already be familiar with. And . . . no pesky mosquitos.
There are snow and ice-bikers who will tackle snowmobile trails, ice and below zero temperatures during the winter. This requires body and bike protection from the cold, bikes with fat tires designed to handle snowy trail conditions or the proper tire prep for your mountain bike; and bke handling skills for winter riding. These days, biking in the snow has become popular and many ski resorts around the country cater to those looking for some downhill winter excitement. Fat Tire mountain bike races and events have become popular.
However, mountain biking in the snow and ice may not be everyone's cup of hot chocolate, in which case, it is time to get out and ride on mild winter days. Local dirt backcountry roads, forest roads, rail trails and multi-use trais when relatively clear, will provide the best opportunities.
Though there may be as many variables as there are snowflakes, a few things are certain. Mountain biking in the winter can be a lot of fun in optimum conditions. Here are a few basic tips to keep in mind.
- Always check ahead for current weather and snow conditions or restrictions and trail closures for mountain bikes.
- Winter biking isn't difficult. All it takes is to prepare for winter biking and know which mountain bike trails, rail trails and bike paths will provide the best mountain biking opportunities during the winter months.
- The tire pressure for winter biking conditions varies depending on where you are riding, how cold it is and what type pf mountain bike you have. Letting a little air out of the tires will improve your ride.
- If you travel on road, use caution on roads with vehicular traffic because shoulders could be covered by plowed snow. Watch out for "Black Ice", a thin layer of ice that looks like slick wet pavement. Slow down and if you can, either get off and walk or ride cautiously around it. If you must ride across it, slow down as you approach and avoid braking or making turns on it.
- Roots, rocks and other obstacles may be hard to see or hidden under the snow cover.
- Keep the rides relatively short. Avoid biking many miles into remote forest or choosing steep narrow trails with precipitous drop offs.
- The best snow conditions for biking are a few inches of the dry, fluffy stuff. In the early morning, when the trails are frozen (hardpacked) is the best time for riding. Avoid very deep, wet or icy snow.
- The way the bike handles in snow is different from what you may be used to on dry summer trails. It takes longer to stop, is harder to pedal, and is much slower going. If you are trying this for the first time, practice on a nearby quiet backroad or fairly level trail. Practice turning, stopping and braking.
- Get a Fat Bike. The wide tires provide more surface coverage and traction and provide a bit of "unfair competition" in a race.