We’re based in the Waikato, and it’s no secret that our winters bite hard. Not necessarily cold all the time, but definitely wet - and super foggy! After years of riding in these conditions, we rounded up some of our Crew to compile a list of some favourite winter must-haves for mountain biking.
Get with the program & keep your shorts for Summer - long pants are where it’s at these days! There’s nothing better after a few hours out in the elements, covered head to toe in mud, than peeling off your long pants and jacket and being more or less clean, it certainly makes the drive home a lot more pleasant. Full-length pants have changed a lot in the last few years, gone are the loud coloured, heavyweight moto-inspired fabrics, with silhouettes more suited to FMX than MTB. Taking their place are hard wearing yet lightweight, stretch fabrics, allowing for all manner of yoga-inspired manoeuvre on the bike (or off for that matter), a slim cut so you’re not getting hung up on your saddle or your pants leg tangled in your chain. Pockets to keep your keys, shuttle-pass and that all-important selfie-taking cell phone. Price tags will leave you with enough money for that post-ride pint, or 4 (for your mates of course).
Most brands offer a range of pants. From a low-key casually inspired ‘trail’ riding pant, designed for pedalling and general trail abuse, to a slightly more “aggressive” styled pant with larger logos, more tech and harder wearing fabrics. Moving on towards the “downhill” end of things we generally see a more race-inspired look, yet more tech, multiple harder wearing or abrasion-resistant fabrics across various panels, and fewer, or no, pockets. Whether it’s after work laps on your local trails, or longer, weekend jaunts aboard your e-bike in the hills, if the temperatures are cool, long pants are a great investment.Shop MTB Pants
We’ve never heard anyone say they regret buying a good jacket. Spend wisely, ensuring what you’re buying is fit for the purposes you need, and you’ll have the jacket season after season. Mountain Biking jackets generally fit into one of two categories, a windbreaker, and a waterproof jacket. In an ideal world, you would own two jackets - a packable windbreaker is a key piece of dry-weather kit, take it off while you’re heating up while slogging up a long climb, and help keep the chill at bay for the descent putting it back on. Ideally, it will be small enough to stuff in your pants pocket, bum bag, or down-tube (see the latest Trek bikes!)
Save the fully waterproof jacket for those days when it’s actually raining and you need protection not only from wind chill but the rain itself. When you’re buying a waterproof jacket steer away from one with added insulation, generally just riding along on a somewhat undulating off-road trail will keep you pretty warm, and just add or subtract layers underneath to fine-tune your warmth from there. A hood that covers your helmet will help stay things dry and snug in the worst conditions, just make sure it has a tensioning toggle to keep it from flapping around when not on your head. Jackets tailored specifically for riding will generally have more length in the back, avoiding water down your pants, and slimmer sleeves to stop them from flapping around.Shop Jackets
Winter Mountain Bike gloves can be a bit contentious, some prefer to go for a slim fit to retain handlebar feel, while others go all-out and get something more insulated to keep their digits warmer. Much of the decision which style you need will be down to personal preference, and what conditions you’re generally riding in. One of the keys to toasty tentacles (ok we were trying to alliterate!) is a wind-blocking layer across the back of your hands and fingers, the cold air hitting your hands is what causes a majority of the issue so ticking this box first and foremost is paramount. From here you’ll see insulation added to gloves depending on the intended temperature range, most still try to retain a thin palm so as not to cause bunching, the insulation of course adding to the bulk of the gloves. This bulk may also make it more likely for the glove to retain moisture (depending on how waterproof it is) so keep this in mind if you’re going to be riding regularly in the rain.
One handy feature to look out for is some form of conductive fabric in the forefinger and thumb, important if you want to use your touch screen phone, there’s nothing worse than needing to take your gloves off to use your phone on a brutally cold day!Shop Gloves
A mudguard certainly isn’t anything new, but it’s an often-overlooked essential for wet days on the trails. Available from unobtrusive (ie a Marshguard) for those not-too-sloppy days, to a max coverage model like a Mucky Nutz Long MugGuard (yes, it’s spelled like that) for those so-wet-you-can’t-see-where-you’re-going rides. Many mudguards can fit both the front fork and rear triangle of a bike (depending on bike design), using both keeps your bike and body as muck-free as possible. A worthy investment for anyone wishing to make the most of their winter riding, good mudguards will help keep your bike running smoother for longer and make the post-ride clean up a bit easier.
Days are short, nights are long, and sometimes you’ve got no choice but to ride in the dark. Night riding has become a popular way to get out on the bike over winter, and provided you’ve got a decent set of lights you’ll be able to make the most of your afterhours rides. The most effective set up for singletrack riding is a helmet mounted high power’ light, with a handlebar mounted ‘flood’ beam; if you can only have one light, it's best to mount this on your helmet. Learn more on our “How to Buy Lights” blog here.
We all know riding in the mud thrashes the trails, and come the core riding season they’ll need a bit of a tickle up before everyone can make the most of them again. Most of us also know there’s no such thing as trail fairies! Chances are the trails you ride are funded, built, and maintained by a local MTB club. The more club members they have, the easier it is for them to raise funds to help maintain the trails, so why not join your local MTB Club, attend a working bee, and ensure the riding experience is as good as it can be for everyone!
Depending on where you live there’s a likelihood the mud in your area may have some type of grit in it, it's no secret this stuff can wreak havoc on drive trains, but it can do the same to any area where there’s friction, like where your pants occasionally rub on your top-tube or seat-stays. In the wrong conditions, the mud can turn to basically a cutting compound, wearing into your frames precious paint! The use of a frame protector will add not only a personal touch to your bike but help keep the paint looking fresh.
When things get real sloppy or boggy, ditch your normal handle grips for something more aggressive. Either something with large, deep channels, or a grip with a Waffle type pattern - Carried over from Motocross, ‘waffle’ style grips give your hands some extra purchase when conditions get sloppy and your gloves, hands or grips get wet and muddy. Simple.
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