winter trail riding

Forums Mountain Bike Forum winter trail riding


This topic contains 19 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  m.krupp 1 month, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #289099

    Who is excited about cold weather riding as i am? I rekindled my roots to riding last January and have not looked back for a second. First ride it was 20 degrees out and with some proper prep I was off to a hole new world of fantastic riding. I stayed with three rides a week in the sub 30 degree weather till the end. Not many will ride those conditions but should give it a try. The ground is frozen so little to no cleanup. The leaves are down and the line of sight is awesome. Some trails that dont get ridden enough because they are overgrown start to become visible again. Only downside is light of day but I was fortunate enough to day ride. I’m sure most will have two days here and there to get the daylight ride in. As for riding indoors,it is just not riding anymore when ya get on a stationary or a trainer and I refuse to go that route. Oh yeah if you havent ridden in 1 to 4 inches of fresh snow while its snowing you are missing out on some of best mtb riding life has to offer. So gear up with some warm shoes sweat pants two layers and a wind breaker and oh yeah a pair of ski goggles because your eyes will freeze out head and enjoy some of the best riding thats is yet to come.

  • #289105

    I’m usually good till about 37 degrees in shorts.

  • #289133

    I certainly don’t mind winter riding but I need to figure out my clothes. Sometimes I just put on some hunting clothes and make sure I have warm gloves on. Other times I try to wear coats and then get wet from outside in and inside out, until I am just cold and wet (I can handle one or the other, not both).

    Last year, one weekend we went out and the trails were frozen solid and had a good ride. The next week it snowed and we struggled so hard to move. Tried two trails and it was just a joke.

  • #289138

    I ride year round (4 seasons).  As you mentioned winter riding has a number of positives, i.e. great line of sight without the foliage, no bugs, less crowded trails.  And it is very cool to ride in snowy conditions.  It’s also the time of year I break out the fat bike which has been waiting (im)patiently since early spring.  But am I “excited” for winter?  Not at all.  I much prefer warmer temps and longer daylight hours.  Whereas I can deal with the cold I am not at all enthused about the inevitable freeze/thaw cycle and trails icing up.  But, like you, I’d rather deal with the harshness of winter than the indoor trainer.

  • #289154

    Big fan of riding all year!  Winter riding especially when you get a few inches with that turns into the perfectly smooth crust. Started the ride pictured before the snow came down. Another upside to winter riding is you have to keep moving to stay warm. Even then not a guarantee.

  • #289165

    I love fat biking. I live in Canada Southern Ontario and last year we had 4 month of fat biking in the snow. Are we talking about the same minus 37 and wearing shorts? Perhaps not? I dont go below minus 25. After that it becomes too hard too breath for me. It should start snowing here in the next few weeks I hope.

  • #289195

    I have tried some riding in colder weather. I love the idea of riding in snow. Got an additional bike with plus size tires thinking about this. The issue I have is once it gets below 40 F, I struggle to keep fingers and toes warm. Most other stuff I have figured out or warms up as I ride. This issue with gloves is that bulky ones make it hard to grip, shift, brake.  I would love to hear what others do to keep fingers and toes warm.

    Great suggestion on the goggles!

  • #289202

    I ran warm socks with cross trainer sneaks for feet, sometimes some plastic bags(haha) to keep the cold air off. Shorts with just sweatpants on the legs. For upper body a long sleeve under armor shirt a turtle neck and the a lite weight wind breaker. Sometimes a lite nylon vest if it was super cold. take two different hats a thin and a thick cause as you warm up you’ll wanna shed some thickness.Ski googles so you eyes will work and not just tear up. Takes a little getting used to but you will ride much longer.And last but not least I get away with fleece gloves and asi warm up regular riding gloves with bar mittens like you would use on a hunting quad.  As Podiumcrashe said you have to keep moving because you will sweat and good chance you’ll be soaked after the ride so ya tend to freeze up if ya stop. Biggest thing is to keep the wind of you dress warm enough but not to warm. Take a pack so ya have options and have two different type gloves,hats, thick and thin. You’ll be surprised how cold it can be and you can still have a great time on the trails. Take a dry shirt to change into and hat for the car ride home.Hats off to you downhill mike, I thought I was manly riding in the 20s.

  • #289204

    Got an additional bike with plus size tires thinking about this.

    I did this with my fat bike as well.  Had a 29+ wheelset built up for my 27.5 Beargrease.  It truly is like having another bike in your quiver.

    The issue I have is once it gets below 40 F, I struggle to keep fingers and toes warm.

    I find that some people handle the cold better than others.  In fact, what is cold for some may be quite comfortable for someone else so what may keep another person warm may not be enough for you.

    As for fingers and toes, it is the greatest challenge for me as well.  For your fingers, get a good pair of MTB winter gloves.  There are certainly options available that are not too bulky.  I have a pair of Pearl Izumi gloves that I wear in temps below freezing.  On really cold days I’ll put Hot Hands warmers in my gloves at the start of a ride.  During the early parts of my ride if my fingers are really cold I’ll stop and clench the hand warmers every once in a while.  Once I’m warmed up from riding (usually 10-20min 4 me) I pull them out so my hands don’t start sweating and keep them in my pocket.  Don’t let your hands sweat.  Sweat is your enemy in winter.

    On your feet, get a pair of good wool socks.  I like Woolie Boolies. Sometimes I wear a think sock liner underneath them.  The Hot Hands toe warmers also are great in very cold weather.  Some people swear by shoe covers but my experiences with them have not been all that favorable.

    One last point, I always make sure that my hands and feet are fully warm before I ride.  When I’m all geared up and ready to hit the trail I will put my hands and feet by the car heat vents to get them nice and toasty b4 I depart.  Much easier to keep your hands/toes warm on-trail than to try to warm them up if you started out cold.

    • #289209

      rmap01, thanks for your thoughts. Good point about not starting out with cold hands or feet. They aren’t going to warm up in the cold.

  • #289207

    I need goggles that don’t steam up. I need them all the time though because any wind in my eyes makes them water. I probably look like the saddest guy on a bike all the time. It doesn’t bother me all that much but when you really need to see your line it can be concerning. Even walking to work this morning from the train, I kept having to dry my eyes.

    @downhill Mike +37F ~ +2C (but -37F ~ -38C so pretty close but not what he was talking about). I’m good with riding down to 0F ~ -18C but you have to keep moving and watch that you don’t get wet. I did a 20 mile ride around Cleveland on New Years in 2018 and that was the temp. It was lightly snowing and even though I used long johns that should have wicked the sweat, I didn’t get it quite right. When we stopped it was bad, especially when we went to Voinovich Park, which is on a pier in the lake and is completely exposed to the Canadian winds. Though Cleveland is not hilly, the route had us going up and down by the shore and around the river, it was enough to get warm.


    • #289285

      Goggles are great but they dont work for me in the winter. I wear just regular riding glasses but just with bigger lenses. Goggles always push on my nasal passages and just makes it harder to breathe. In my experience goggles always get foggy unless you are going fast and getting alot of air in them. Maybe just find some regular riding glasses with bigger lenses. Fat biking is not a very fast sport unless trails are in perfect conditions so most of the riders around here dont use goggles because they always fog up. Goggle might work on flat trails but on the climbs you would have to take them off because moisture will start building up in there.

    • #289315

      “I probably look like the saddest guy on a bike all the time.”

      Thanks for sharing that. Hilarious.

  • #289218

    Most of my riding is on back roads up a mountain and then a long descent back. The problem I have in the winter is twofold – I can stay warm on the climbs (most of my routes involves a climb heading out, often for quite a few  miles) but on the descents, with the windchill factor and lack of exertion, I’m pretty frozen by the time I get back to the vehicle. Second, I have yet to find any base layer which wicks as advertised, and I’ve tried merino wool, capilene, polypropylene, etc – they all get wet. My solution has been to do what I’ve done ice climbing, which involves postholing through deep snow up mountainsides to frozen waterfalls and then belaying motionless for long periods. I carry an extra base layer and a packable down jacket in a pack, strip the wet stuff off before the descent and put on a new dry layer. The brief exposure of skin to the cold is a small price to pay for a dry base layer on a long descent. I can’t say that this keep me warm but at least I’m not hypothermic. I’ve been hypothermic once in the past to the point where although I could get my key into my vehicle door I was unable to turn it. I finally got the door open by grabbing the key with both hands at waist level and rotating my entire body. With hypothermia, your muscles just quit working, a dangerous situation.

    As far as feet I use a liner sock, wool sock or neoprene river wading sock, and boots (I’ve got platform pedals and want something I can walk out in if necessary). I also have some over-the-toe cover for the boots. I’ve heard of some folks wrapping their toes in aluminum foil before inserting them into a shoe but haven’t tried this.

    As an aside, in the pack carrying the extra clothes I have a space blanket and fire starting material along with a personal locator beacon device if I’m heading up a remote road.

    If it gets too cold I leave the bike at home and break out the skis and snowshoes.


    • #289283

      I would recommend getting a jacket with zipper ventilation on the side. In the climbs I keep the open and on the long downhills close them up and this way I dont get too hot or too cold. 45NRTH have lots of great winter gear.

  • #289221

    I will ride as long as its above 15° F and there is sun.  (Without sun, 20-25° F is my limit.) I have a lot of experience dressing for the cold via cross country skiing and what works for one works for the other. Gore waterproof shoe liners, keeping a light down jacket in a small pack or bar bag, and an extra pair of gloves really help. Also, never use a camelbak in the winter.


  • #289225

    I personally look forward to winter riding but I also have a fatbike so its just a different flavor of riding for me. I have an ARSUXEO winter cycling jacket (Amazon) that works pretty well with a base layer or two and I typically do 3/4 length shorts with 4ucycling (again, Amazon) pants. For my feet, I just wear wool socks with mid-height winter boots and trail running gaiters. For my hands, I wear normal full-finger gloves with bar mitts; they look stupid but they work, I really can’t recommend them enough if you regularly ride in the winter. Add a head/neck gaiter and I’ve been good down to -10­­°F.

  • #289228

    I really enjoy fall and winter riding. I’m fortunate enough to have year-round riding where I live. Unfortunately I’m going to miss out on our first few weeks of really good fall riding weather since I broke my scapula last week. We had a really hot, dry summer and I was looking forward to some cooler temps and rain. Guess I’ll have to wait a while longer.

    My local bike park (Windrock) runs shuttles all year, and I love riding there in the winter.

  • #289243

    I live in the southeast and we really don’t have winter, I grew up in the upper mid-west. I ride year round except when it is raining and below 40F. My winter riding consists of dealing with slippery red clay and mud bogs, which I find kinda fun. Of course, bike clean up is a is mandatory after a ride which is not so much fun.

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