Love ’em or hate ’em, New Year’s resolutions can often give you the kick in the pants you need to improve your health and happiness in the coming year. Of course it’s really tough if your resolution is to ride your mountain bike three times a week when it’s 20 degrees outside and the trails are covered in a thick crust of frozen mud and ice. Perhaps you should just give up watching reality television in 2008, that seems a bit more manageable 😉
But have no fear! It is indeed possible to make and keep your mountain biking resolutions in the dead of winter, no matter what conditions you might face outside. Look at it this way: if you start riding now, things will only get better (read: warmer) all the way through the end of the summer when you’ll have no problem getting out on the trail. Best of all, in order to survive the winter riding season you just need one thing: the right gear.
Okay, so “the right gear” is probably many things for you, depending on where you live, but I’m here to tell you that this will absolutely make all the difference in the world. To help you start thinking about what this means, I’ll give you some sample winter riding objections (questions) along with my winter gear recommendations (answers).
Q: How can I ride today, my local trails are covered in snow and ice?
A: Get studded snow tires for your bike. Can’t find/afford these? How about making your own (just take an old set of tires and poke screws/nails through from the inside) or create your own solution like this one.
Q: How do I stay warm when the wind chill is below zero?
A: Dress in layers. You’ve probably heard this a thousand times probably but it’s absolutely good advice. While a new technical wool jersey would be sweet (and also spendy) you probably already have plenty of things in your closet to keep you warm on the trail. Throw on that ski jacket, put those long johns under your sweats, and hit the trail in style. Don’t worry about looking uncool–you’ll probably be the only one brave enough to hit the local singletrack anyway.
If you do have some extra holiday cash, why not splurge on some real technical riding wear? Cycling tights, long sleeve jerseys, wind shells, and the like are specifically designed for winter riding and easily melt away any excuses you might have about getting out in the cold.
Q: Isn’t it too dark to ride after work during non-Daylight Saving months?
A: Yes, it is – unless you get yourself some illumination in the form of lights. Read the reviews, buy a set, and ride anytime, day or night!
Q: Why should I gum up my components with mud and salt just to get in a few miles on the bike?
A: You shouldn’t – instead get a spare bike. Okay, so this isn’t an option for everyone (and for the rest of us I say suck it up and invest in some lube and degreaser) but it’s something to consider. You could pick up a used bike or even one of those mail order specials (like this 29er from Bikes Direct for under $400) as your “beater bike.”
As you can see, the major roadblocks to starting a mountain bike regimen in January can be eliminated with some creative winter equipment changes and additions. While you may end up spending some cash to winterize your riding, the dividends will come in the summer when you’re riding laps around your pudgy trail buddies.