How to Prepare for Winter Mountain Biking Fun

Tips from pro rider and Red Bull Rampage Competitor Mark Matthews

What is the best part of mountain biking in the winter? Well, love it or hate it, if you’re properly prepared it will make your riding experience much more fun. Learn to adapt to the conditions and you’ll have a blast in no time.
Here’s a few tips to get through the dark, cold months:

1.  Ride with a Small Pack

In the winter it’s important to be extra prepared. Getting stuck with a flat tire or injury in snowy conditions is way worse than in the summer. In my riding pack I carry a small pump and tube, hand warmers, a basic first aid kit, and for those longer rides I like to have a warmer drink in my pack (I use a HydroFlask). Winter more than any season is the time to be prepared. If you are Fat Biking in areas with heavier snow, I recommend being extra prepared. Shovels are cheap and should be your bare minimum additional kit, while riding with others is also a very smart choice. Be aware of hiding natural traps too.
2. Dial in your Suspension Setup

The trails can be very slippery and icy this time of year, so you want to maximize the amount of grip you can get on the trails. A small amount of suspension tuning can go a long way. If you ride technical natural trails, you should try playing around with the compression settings on both your fork and rear shock. I’ve found that bringing down the low-speed compression a few clicks will help the bike stick to the trail better. Keep in mind, the difference is not significant, but any little bit helps.

3. Install mud tires and fenders

You wouldn’t leave summer tires on your car in the winter, and the same thing goes for your bike. As already mentioned, you want as much grip as possible. Mud and wet snow can be super fun to rip though but having your front end fly away on you, not so much. A mud specific tire on the front will make a huge difference. For fenders, there’s lots of affordable and easy solutions out there. I personally recommend a MashGuard. It’s surprising how much more pleasant a small fender attached to your fork will make your ride.

4. Invest in quality riding lights.

Night riding doesn’t just make your days longer; it gives you a whole new perspective. You’ll tend to read the trail differently than in the day time, which is why it’s such a fun experience.  I would recommend a light with at least 1200 lumens, then one light should be enough to get you started. For the short winter days, it’s a great way to stay out there. If you can round up a crew of friends, you’ll be surprised how well lit the trails become even on the darkest of night.

Mark Matthews
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