A Guide to Mountain Biking in the Snow

bike snowLike many others, mountain biking is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors and challenge myself to reach new physical and mental heights. Most tend to put their bikes away when the temperatures and snowflakes begin to fall, but it doesn’t have to be so. Believe it or not, there are many outdoorsmen who love to leave tread marks in the snow. Winter mountain biking is actually not that much different than biking during warmer seasons, and today we’ll explore what you need to take on the activity with success and safety.

Obviously, you’ll need to make sure you either have the right bike for the job, or that your current mountain bike is outfitted properly to handle snow. Though, for many, buying a brand new fat-tire bike built for the snow can be quite costly, so for those who want to ride but don’t want spend a ton of money, accommodating the snowy conditions can be as easy as changing out the tires on your mountain bike. Replacing your current tires with fat tires, or even studded tires, provides a better grip. Though, as a disclaimer, you need to know that, despite replacing your tires or riding a specialized snow bike, you may still fall. It’s just a part of riding.

Aside from prepping your bike, you’ll also want to modify your attire to handle the sometimes extreme conditions that winter brings. First, make sure you’re wearing a high quality baselayer, which you’ll probably want to spend a little more on. Be sure not to skimp on your outer layer, too. Furthermore, be sure to pick up an outer layer that fits over your baselayer, or you’ll end up with exposed areas. You may need to add more layers, as well, if the temperatures drop in your region.

When you’re biking in the winter, mountain biking shoes designed for the cold are a must-have item. Great footwear options to counter the cold include the Lake CX140 ($190), the Sidi Hydro GTX ($300), or the Shimano MW80 ($230).

Next, you’ll want to grab a solid pair of gloves. With these, you’ll want to look for additional insulation during the winter months, as well as grip and range of movement. Solid choices include the Specialized Radiant ($57), the Mavic Altium Cyclone ($60), and Hestra Tracker ($70). Also, it’s smart to purchase a pair of gloves in person rather than online, in order to make sure they fit and suit your hands.

Lastly, you’ll also want a warm winter hat. Try to find one that will keep you warm, but will also fit under your helmet comfortably.

To most people, braving the snow and ice with a mountain bike and not a pair of skis or a snowboard may not sound like the best idea this winter. For those who just can’t stand being off their bike, though, winterizing your ride is a great way to get out on the trail, even after the snow starts to fall.