It’s too cold.” “It’s too wet.” “There’s too much snow.” There are many reasons why we stay off of our bikes once summer is over. Yet, for some, the trails call to them, and that call is too hard to resist. And for those of us who can’t resist, we have found ways to keep our tires on the dirt year-round.

Your gear is going to make or break your off-season mountain biking experience. Any trip you go on can be ruined by being cold and wet or overheated and sweaty. Keeping an eye on the daily forecast for your location will often be step number one.

Apparel

Flannels seem to be the new go-to item for autumn and winter mountain biking. And why not? Throw one on in the morning and you are ready for your mid-morning work meeting, your lunchtime trail ride and your after-work dinner party!

But be warned–these flannels can be rather pricey. Good deals can still be found, however, and you can save even more money by purchasing from more common brands. The important thing is to stay away from cotton. Flannels with cotton can cause you to overheat and feel like a sweat-soaked blanket. Polyester and poly-blend flannels wick moisture away from your body, keeping you at a comfortable temperature for much longer.

Socks are something we often don’t think about until our feet are wet and cold on our ride. Like flannels, it is important to stay away from cotton. Instead, look for a good merino wool riding sock. They may be a bit of an investment as far as socks go, but having 2 or 3 pairs of wool mountain biking socks should last you a few seasons.

Depending on the winter rainfall in your area, you might also want to invest in water-proof riding apparel. Companies like Fox Racing and Pearl Izumi make great wet-weather kits. These cycling-specific brands can be expensive but are a worthy investment since they have designed the apparel with mountain biking in mind. This means you’ll maintain your freedom and mobility, your pants won't get caught in the chain and you’ll stay dry.

Equipment

While what you are wearing is important, you also need to think about what your bike is wearing. With mountain bike innovations taking leaps and bounds over the last several years, you might find that a set of winter tires adds to your trail ride experience tremendously.

It works on our cars, so why not on our bikes? Tires intended for use on wetter trails will have not only higher but more spread-out knobs and an overall more aggressive tread pattern. This allows for greater grip and traction. Tires such as the Maxxis Shorty and Schwalbe’s Magic Mary are great options.

A new set of tires is certainly an investment. Try having a set of winter tires and summer tires for your mountain bike. Switching them out depending on the time of year can make them last for a few seasons. Not only will you have the best grip for the season you are riding in, it also takes some of the sting out of the price.

Speaking of tires, making sure you’ve got a tubeless tire set up is also going to help with winter riding. Going tubeless allows lower tire pressure, resulting in more traction on the trail.

Wetter conditions mean it is time to switch up your chain lube. While dry lube is great for keeping dust, dirt and grime off your chain and out of your drivetrain, it does wash off when it gets rainy. Switch over to a wet lube to keep your bike quiet.

Etiquette

In some places, riding on soggy, puddled trails is simply unthinkable. In others, where the rain sticks around for 8 months out of the year, riding in the wet is the only option. Knowing the rules for winter riding is a must before you arrive at the trailhead. 

Typically, when approaching a puddle, you want to ride right through the middle if there isn’t room on the trail to go around. But if you can go around, make sure you’re staying on the trail. Keep singletrack single!

Thinking about a snow ride? Fat-tire bikes have made that possible! But check with your local trail organization first, as not every trail is built and prepped for snow riding. Don’t have a fat-tire bike? Consider renting one from your local bike shop.

Fat-tire bikes have tires that are 4 inches or wider. Your typical 2.3- to 2.6-inch mountain bike tire will dig deep ruts in the snow and trail beneath. Also, wider tires mean much lower tire pressure. Many of these fat-tire bikes run less than 10 PSI. Wide and low is the motto!

If not here, where?

Once the snow sets in, many mountain bikers are left wondering where they will ride. In places like Bend, Oregon, year-round riding is possible, despite many of the trails being snowed in for the season. 

When snow covers the west-side trails, mountain bikers in Bend head out east, where they not only find rideable conditions but a good change from the trails ridden all summer. Trail systems like Horse Ridge and Horse Butte offer nearly year-round riding.

However, not all are lucky enough to live in places such as this. To stay on the bike in the winter, maybe a mountain bike vacation is in order. There is year-round riding in places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Sedona, just to name a few. 

If you’re not satisfied with trading your bike for skis once it starts snowing, you’re not alone. It may take some planning, and it may cost a little extra money, but there are ways to stay on your mountain bike year-round!

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