I find I need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy a winter ride, and that means going into it with the knowledge I’m going to get wet, muddy and slide around barely in control, and embracing that knowledge
I tend to keep my winter rides relatively short and sweet, sticking to well-surfaced fireroads for the climbs and sessioning tracks with enough gradient to overcome the extra resistance that comes with winter descending. Test the grip levels on the way into a descent with a push into a corner or a sharp stab of the brakes and this will give you vital information about when the tyres are likely to let go. Having the right mindset is the key to extracting heaps of fun from my winter riding, but that comes much more naturally when I know my kit is set up for the conditions.
1. Flat pedals
Being able to dab within a split second of losing grip gives me the confidence to push harder in corners and go for those hard to reach high lines. Riding flat pedals gives me that option, as well as providing a bigger platform to aim for if I need to dangle a leg. If you’ve never ridden flat pedals before, winter is the perfect time to learn how to use them, as you won’t be sacrificing perfect summer riding conditions while you get your head round them. Recently there has been an explosion in quality nylon flat pedals, and that’s where my money would go. They offer as much grip as their metal counterparts and arguably a more robust construction along with a much cheaper price. My pick? The Burgtec Mk4 Composite (review).
2. Dry feet
Winter used to mean sweaty feet if you wore waterproof socks, or wet feet if you didn’t. But the new Five Ten Trailcross Gore-Tex gives protection from soggy feet along with Five Ten’s tenacious rubber soles. I’ve just started using my pair and so far they’re doing a great job of keeping winter trench foot at bay.
3. Waterproof trousers
I’ve been wearing waterproof pants in the winter months for years now, long before they became fashionable, but now they’ve become a must-have garment, there are now many more quality options on the market. My current favourite is the Troy Lee Designs Resist Pant (review) as they have a nice slim fit, zipped storage pockets, a decent waterproof and breathable fabric and adjustable vents should you start to steam up.
4. Body warmer
One of the best jackets I tested last year was the Föhn Polartec Alpha Hybrid (review). For such a light jacket it’s exceptionally warm, even when I wore it in the snow, thanks to that Polartec fabric, but it’s also effective at getting rid of body heat and offers reasonable protection against light showers. The seams are not taped, so it’s not a full-on waterproof, but for those typically cold, grey winter days it’s a really cosy place to be.
5. Spiky rubber
Once it gets past a certain point around late November, I know the trails are basically not going to recover until March, and that’s the time to stick the old mud tyres on. Yes, it’s a chore, but from the first corner you tip into and feel those tall knobs bite and see your mates slide wide, you’ll be glad you did. For the ultimate winter grip I go for the WTB Verdict Wet (review). It has ridiculous levels of traction in soft dirt and wet mud, and holds off-camber lines that will have your mates shaking their heads in disbelief.
6. Glove up
Finally, and you’ll probably be on this tip already, is the 100% Brisker glove (review). A remarkable hand covering that gives fingertip control but always seems to keep your digits warm and mobile.
So there you have it, my top six products for ensuring your winter riding is always a pleasure, never a chore.