My thinking is that riding is riding. As long as you’re warm, with friends, and the trails are fun it really shouldn’t matter what the weather is doing. The hard part though, is controlling those first parts, and so my list concentrates on making that happen and getting you out the door and onto the trails when the weather is foul. Here are my five favourites.
Riding through winter is a whole lot easier if you have the right kit to do it with. I don’t mean the usual stuff, like waterproof trousers and jacket, snorkel, and a philosophical output – those things are obvious. I mean the little, quirky products that can make riding in winter feel like a summer’s day.
1. Bike rack
In the summer months I’m happy to whip the font wheel off my dusty bike and post it straight into the back of my car. No fuss, little mess and maximum security. When the manky weather comes it’s great to have an alternative though and keep most of the mud on the outside and not swimming around in the footwells. The latest selection of bike racks are excellent. The Thule TopRide doesn’t grip your bike’s frame at all, so there’s no chance of it scratching up the paintwork or crushing a tube, instead it uses the fork’s bolt through to keep it upright. The rear wheel is then held in place by a ratchet strap, and there’s even a steel cable and lock to slip through the frame to deter thieves. I’ve taken to strapping the front wheel to the frame with toe straps too, so it doesn’t have to ride inside either. Popping the bike on the roof also frees up space inside and offers up a handing cleaning stand, which brings me to my next fave product…
2. Portable pressure washer
The best time to wash your bike is straight after a ride, while the mud is still fresh and easy to spray off. It’s a nice idea but, like pairing your socks straight out of the dryer, it just never seems to happen. Pressure washers you can actually take with you make that a whole lot easier though, because you can do it while you’re still covered in crap anyway. My pick is the Ryobi 18V One+ Cordless Power Washer, the unit is handheld and runs on a big 4Ah battery, which is pretty much essential if you’re going to take it in your car with you. You also get a long hose to dip into any decent looking water source you find, or there’s a collapsible bucket to take with you. Now that extra boot space makes sense. The Power Washer pushes out an impressive flow rate, 182lites per hour, and the pressure looks good too, 22bar should be powerful enough to wash your bike without scouring out your hubs.
3. Extended coverage helmet
When it’s really cold I like to wear one of the new breed of convertible helmets that offer greater coverage down the back and sides of your head. I like the idea that I’m better protected in conditions where I’m more likely to have an unplanned sit down, and just as importantly they keep my ears warm too. There’s something really satisfying about riding in one of these, with bad weather on the outside your head warm and dry inside. In my opinion the Giro Switchblade is the best at this, it’s just about the comfiest and best protected place your head can be.
4. Good lube
Dry chain wax is great for summer months but you want wet lube for the winter when it’s muddy. So the old advice goes, only now it’s not actually true because you can get wax lubricants that dry to your chain and don’t get washed off when you smack into a puddle. This is great because wet lubes have a habit of rinsing themselves off if the weather is particularly nasty. Then with your chain free of grease, grit and grime can do its dirty work and wear your drivetrain to a smooth waste of space. My favourite of the new breed is Squirt Chain Lube, clean off any old grease and factory lube and apply it to a dry chain. It contains waxes and an emulsion that dries off to leave your chain slippery and protected.
So when I said I wasn’t going to list the usual and ordinary stuff you need to keep riding through winter, I lied. Tyres are just too darned important to ignore, they are the single biggest factor in making a winter ride fun. When conditions are wet and muddy you need big lugs to bite into the dirt and find grip, and WTB makes my favourite combination with the WTB Verdict (front) and WTB Judge (rear). On steep natural trails they offer truly amazing levels of traction as those tall lugs bite into anything going, finding grip where there really should be nothing but a face full of mud.
Happy winter riding y’all!