Mountain biking in winter can be a LOT of fun, especially if you go on tracks and trails that you know, but there are a few things that you need to look out for when on the trails in darkest winter.
Here are our top tips for riding safe:
1. Thoroughly check the bike beforehand
This should really go without saying, but checking your bike over beforehand will be the best way to ensure you don't have any nasty surprises whilst on the trails - the last thing you need is a chain break or your brakes failing whilst flying down your favourite track.
2. Clean the bike after every ride - IMMEDIATELY
In winter there's a lot more grime and rubbish around on the trails which is usually a result of rain and other elements washing or blowing debris across it. As with most mountain bike rides you will get filthy and in summer when it's light and warm out it's easy to hose down the bike. In winter though it can be hard to stay motivated to clean the bike after every ride which can lead to a build up of filth and bad things that can really reduce the life of your components and easily lead to a failure on a ride.
3. Lights, Lights, Lights
Unless you venture out during the day between 10am and 2pm, you will need some lights on your bike. Mountain biking in the twilight or the dark can be just as thrilling as any other time, but more safety is required. The more lights you have on the bike the better - front lights with a high lumens count will allow you to see where you're going better and a strong rear light will stop your pals from running into the back of you if you have to stop suddenly. Lights are also vital for if you have to ride on a public highway to get to your trail.
4. Check the weather conditions
We know, this isn't usually something that puts mountain bikers off - some even prefer the wet conditions, more of a challenge you see. But in winter you can't take any chances with snow and ice. Even your favourite trail could have a perilous layer of ice on it that can see you come a cropper if you miss it. Better safe than sorry - you don't want to spend Christmas in a cast.
5. Dress for the weather
Even if you wear armoured clothes as standard when mountain biking, your favourite shorts and fingerless gloves aren't appropriate for winter conditions. Dressing appropriately will not only keep some of the mud off of your skin but it will keep your extremities warm - essential for manouvering around corners and handling the brakes.
Like all forms of cycling, mountain biking in winter is best done with an older bike. Using your brand new, shiny carbon fibre mountain bike can only end up in disaster - be it broken components or broken bones.
Follow these tips or leave your suggestions for other tips below to enjoy a safe ride on your mountain bike this winter.