Cold temperatures don’t mean the end of mountain biking season — not by a long shot. With the right gear, you can ride year-round.
This may be the most important part of your gear. Your base layer stays tight to your skin and keeps you warm and dry, whether you’re ripping across a snowy trail or going for a relaxed ride on your fat tire bike. As such, it’s important to pick a base layer that wicks away moisture, whether that’s rain, snow or your own sweat. Merino wool will keep you toasty warm, even if it gets soaked. A variety of moisture-wicking synthetic base layers won’t provide quite as much warmth, but they will keep you dry.
Jackets and Vests
It can be easy to overdo it with the outerwear, so remember this: You should wear enough layers that you’re a little cold when you first hit the trail. Once you really start pedaling, your body’s going to produce plentiful heat.
Bearing this in mind, opt for outwear that fits the local conditions. If it’s cold and dry, you may be comfortable in only a vest. For chillier days, a soft-shell jacket is typically enough outerwear for a dry, cozy ride on most mountain bikes for women and men.
If it’s cold and wet, on the other hand, you’ll need a waterproof jacket to keep out the rain, sleet or snow. No matter how wet or dry the conditions, breathability is important. Your outerwear should let in enough cool air to counteract your body heat and keep you comfortable.
Waterproof Shoes and Socks
There’s a reason why soldiers put socks at the top of their care package lists when they write home. Wet feet are incredibly uncomfortable. If your budget has room for a good pair of waterproof boots or hiking shoes, they provide superior protection against rain, slush and snow. If not, opt for waterproof socks. Can’t find those? Thick, wool socks will keep your toes snug. As with your base layer, avoid cotton, as it won’t provide warmth when it gets wet.
Buffs and Beanies
A buff or gaiter that fits easily beneath your helmet is a versatile accessory for winter riding on every two-wheeler in your garage, from mountain rides to hybrid bikes. Depending on how you wear your buff, it can keep your ears, nose and/or neck warm.
Colder routes require extra protection, such as a wool cap or helmet liner. Whatever type of headwear you choose, be sure that it doesn’t undermine your helmet and prevent it from fitting safely.
The type of gloves you need depends on how mild your winters are. If the main issue is rain and sleet, choose a pair that’s waterproof and provides plenty of grip since you’ll be dealing with slick handlebars.
For colder climates, any sporty winter gloves fit the bill. It doesn’t matter if they’re designed specifically for mountain biking; skiing and snowboarding gloves work equally well to keep your hands warm and dry.
Safety and comfort are key when it comes to winter mountain biking. Don’t skimp on the essentials, and you’ll be ready to ride 12 months per year.