Winter mountain biking can be absolutely incredible, so just because the days are getting shorter and the ground is frozen is no reason to not ride your bike.
However one thing you do need to know about, is how to properly dress for the occasion. I'm going to focus on normal trail mountain biking here, so there is no mention of lycra or full face helmets.
Read on for some tips on getting the most out of your winter rides
Above : Jimmy Pollard showing us how to ride in the sub-zero conditions of Alexandra in mid winter, riding in a Dirtlej Dirtsuit.
Tip 1 : Always wear a base layer
When I lived and raced in europe, almost everyone wore base layers, however here in NZ almost no one does. It is the first and most important advice I can offer anyone riding in cold weather, no matter if you are going out shuttling, or doing a long distance race.
They help regulate temperature by wicking the moister off your skin. They are super comfortable and versatile. The biggest issue is they need washing every ride, so if you ride daily you will need a few.
I personally like the options from Tineli and NZO
Tip 2 : Keep the extremities cozy
The most critical parts of your body to keep warm are your hands, feet and head. I like to have a large range of options for the various riding conditions.
For the feet, obviously different lengths and thickness socks are great. Wool works good and for the really wet days I have to recommend Sealskins. They are actually amazing.
For the hands, I personally use my Yeti Maverick for most conditions, but if its under zero I might go for a proper winter glove such as these from Tineli. I'v also been known to wear hardcore ski mittens on some super cold days! Just make sure you can pull the brakes okay!
Tip 3 : Managing massive temperature fluctuations
Leaving early for a ride on a nice winter day can pose an entirely different problem. You may start in negative degrees, only to finish the ride in 15dC+. On rides like this you need to have multiple layers. I sometimes start with base layer, then a breathable short sleeve top such a Tolland, followed by a cozy warm long sleeve Merino top, before finishing off with a good quality shell (see below)
The other thing to consider is where to store these items. I'm personally not a big fan of back packs, as they make the back sweaty. I prefer to use the Yeti Enduro Bib which has a number of pockets to put layers in as you go.
Tip 4 : Shorts or Pants
Over the past few years riding pants have made a huge comeback due to improvements in materials and a range of comfortable pants that feel great to ride in all day.
My absolute favourite new piece of clothing in Yeti range is the new Renegade pants. I never thought I would enjoy pants, but these feel more like yoga tights then any set of pants I'v ever worn! They are completely non restrictive, yet still offer good protection.
Photo below is Robin Goomes in her Renegade Pants, photo by Robbie Dalziel.
Tip 5 : Choosing the correct jacket
I recommend everyone owning at least two kinds of jackets. A lightweight wind shell and a heavier rain proof shell that also doubles up as a warmer layer in seriously cold conditions.
For most NZ climates, the wind shell would be an item you either wear or pack on most rides. Its the piece to help you warm up, as well as your back up if weather turns sour.
For the rain proof jackets, these are much more expensive as the good ones are lighter, more breathable and more waterproof. But it is a good investment to buy a nice one as they should last 5+ years.
There are a myriad of other kinds of jackets, including ones with thermal layers or fleece that can be great too. And finally there is the nuclear option for those extreme conditions... the Dirtsuit by Dirtlej which would keep you warm riding through a blizzard. Its a seriously fun bit of kit !
Finally... Take care of your gear
It is recommended to wash most technincal outwear every now and then to remove sweat build up, as this actually can cause damage to the water proof seals over time. See here for a few more washing and care tips.
I'll leave you with a few photos of myself wearing the new Yeti Anorak jacket and Renegade pants at the recent Triple Crown event in Rotorua. And below feeling snug and smug in the dirtsuit on one of Rotorua's insanely wet days.
Thanks for reading
photo by Robbie Dalziel
Photo by some random rider in the shuttle line :)