Because they're there.
Why ride a UK mountain in winter? For the challenge, the adventure, the views and because it’s hard. Here’s how to stay safe.
The most important thing to remember, especially if most of your riding is done at trail centres and other busy places, is to ride within yourself in the mountains.
Get the pace right
Ride fast, for sure, but don’t go too close to the ragged edge, and adopt a cruising pace, with flow.
Save banging elbows with your mates for the local woods. Ice and water make the trails more slippery than normal, and on a remote mountainside, you could be hours from the nearest help.
Tell folk where you’ll be
Make sure you let someone — hell, everyone — know where you are going and when you are due back. Put it out there on Twitter if you want, as long as you have at least one follower. Be sure there is one person who will be responsible for actually checking you are back OK. The last thing you want — as you shiver in your hollowed-out sheep carcass — is the thought that it could be days before anyone notices you are missing.
Pack for the worst
There are rides you can afford to pack light for, but this isn’t one of them. Kit yourself up and assume the worst: we’re talking waterproof trousers, hat and a warm jacket, all stored in a dry bag. Then a bothy bag — essentially a tent without poles — is a real boon if things go to crap. You might end up with your head in a friend’s crotch, but hey, you’ll be warm.
Knowing where you are is another essential. A map and compass are the basics, as long as you know how to use them, but a GPS is a superb instrument when it comes to getting an exact location quickly.
A charged phone is also handy to call for assistance where there is a signal, or to record a final video for your Mum if there isn’t.
Three mountains to challenge yourself against this winter
Stake Pass, Lake District
13km (8 miles)
Brutal, intimidating, and downright hard, Stake Pass is also rewarding, fun to ride (when you’re not pushing) and achingly beautiful. Not to be undertaken lightly, this is proper mountain biking, full of rocks, hike-a-bikes and techie trials.
21.5km (13.4 miles)
The little village of Ballater, and its surrounding network of trails, is hard to get to but all the better — and emptier — for it. Our route takes in excellent winding, woodland singletrack, a dose of hilltop exposure and stunning mountain scenery.
26.4km (16.4 miles)
This loop around the Black Mountains starts with a vicious road climb and turns into a vicious off-road climb. It’s all worth it at the top of Crug Mawr — just remember to soak up the views before you tackle the flowy, slippy singletrack back down.