5 Tips For Mountain Biking Through Winter

mountain bike adventures, mountain bike through winter, winter mountain biking, guided mtb adventures
October 2nd, 2018

Before you hang your bike up for the fall season you may want to consider pedaling through the winter. Mountain biking in the winter certainly has its mental and physical challenges, but it will help you maintain your fitness, increase your mountain bike skills and be prepared for the Spring riding season when the snow starts to melt. Plus, advances in outdoor gear, mountain bike clothing, tires, and bike specifications has made mountain biking throughout the winter more enjoyable. Here are 5 tips for riding through the winter...


1. fatbiking

Fatbikes (perhaps the ‘monster trucks’ of mountain biking) have gained popularity over the past few years and it’s one the best ways to continue riding throughout the winter in snowy conditions. Typically, fat bike tires are 4 - 5 inches wide and run on very low tire pressure (8 - 10 psi) to provide greater contact with the ground for better grip over slippery surfaces. Many nordic ski centres will offer a few groomed trails specific for fatbikers, but otherwise, you can test your fatbike skills on snowshoe trails or shared trail networks, as it’s easier to start fatbiking on trails that have been packed down. Many Riders prefer to fatbike with flat pedals, as it’s easier to react to slippery conditions and it prevents snow and ice from building up in your clipless pedals. When fatbiking, think about ‘spinning’ consistently instead of hammering down on the pedals. Hammering down on the pedals will usually result in sliding and having less traction. Most importantly, be sure to wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. Invest in gloves, a headband, and warm socks!


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2. Suit up with lights

As winter approaches and longer nights approach, a great way to get in more pedal time is to invest in some high-quality riding lights. You don’t have to break the bank when buying lights, but you’ll want a light to mount on your helmet and on your handlebars for the best visibility on the trail. We suggest purchasing lights with at least 800-lumens, but it also depends on the types of trails you’ll be riding. If you’re interested in riding fast on technical singletrack, get a light with at least 2000 lumens. Night rides are a great way to extend your riding season into late Fall, but we don’t recommend riding on your own at night. Invite your friends and enjoy the trails together. Don’t expect to ride at your normal pace on night rides, and keep a safe distance between riders. 


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3. Head South for a Mountain Bike Adventure

One of the best ways to extend your riding season is to pack your bike and chase the sun. The southern hemisphere offers up some amazing mountain bike destinations. Do your research before embarking on a mountain bike adventure, connect with local bike shops, guides, mountain bike clubs and outfitters to learn about the best regions to ride and the best trails. Planning a mountain bike trip means taking into consideration logistics and travel details that you may not have thought about before. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • When is the best time of year to visit?
  • What kind of weather should I expect?
  • What is the best gear to bring?
  • Do I need to purchase additional supplies for the trip?
  • Are there any VISA/Entry requirements for the destination?
  • Will I need vaccinations? Keep in mind, some vaccinations must be taken 1-2 months prior to entering the country (add this to your planning timeline).
  • Do I want to bring my own bike?
  • Are there reputable places to rent a bike?
  • Do I want to hire a local mountain bike guide?
  • How will I know what trails are the best for my fitness and skill level?
  • What happens if I get hurt? Will I be traveling with friends?
  • How much time do I have to travel? How easy it is to get around the country?
  • What type of terrain will I be biking? What is the local language?
  • Will I be able to get communicate effectively with locals?


Some of our favourite winter mountain bike destinations are New Zealand, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Patagonia. We’d be happy to provide tips and advice for planning your next mountain bike getaway, whether on your own, with us or another guiding company!   Drop us a line at ride@sacredrides.com or 1-888-423-7849 ext 1.

This winter, find yourself here... 

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4. layer up 

As the saying goes,   "there's no bad weather, only bad clothing."   When the mercury drops,   it's important to be prepared with the proper clothing and gear.  Here is a list of  items you should have  to ensure an enjoyable winter ride:

  • long-sleeve base layer (merino wool/quick-dry material is preferable) Avoid cotton, as it has no heat retention with it becomes wet or sweaty  
  • riding pants and bottom base layer 
  • waterproof jacket (with hood)  
  • extra layer you can keep in your hydration pack 
  • waterproof shoes
  • merino wool socks 
  • headband/buff 
  • warm gloves 
  • clear glasses (to protect your eyes from mud/slush)
  • protective gear (knee/elbow pads)

gear & bike specifications 

  • use tires with a more open tread pattern made for muddy and wet conditions
  • run a lower tire pressure for better grip 
  • Take care of your drivetrain and use chain lube for wet conditions
  • Clean your drivetrain after every ride 
  • Install mudguards on the front and back to avoid mud/slush in your face 
  • Mudguards can also protect your forks from becoming excessively dirty 
hydration pack:
  • When you're cold, it can be difficult to stay hydrated. Make sure you force yourself to hydrate while riding.
  • Pack at least 1 litre of water (or more based on the length of your ride) 
spare parts: 

The only thing worse than having trailside maintenance issues is having trailside maintenance issues when you're cold!   Be prepared with:

  • spare tube
  • Co2 cartridge
  • multi-tool
  • hand-pump
  • tire lever
  • patch kit
  • spare chain links
  • zip ties 
  • bike light 
  • trailside snacks 
  • money/ID
  • cell phone (in case of emergencies)

Watch the video below for tips on how to prepare your mountain bike for winter. 


5. tell a friend. 

Lastly, it's important to tell a friend where you're going and provide an estimate of when you'll be back.  Make sure you take a cell phone in case of emergencies. Getting lost on the trail or stranded due to maintenance issues in the winter can turn serious quickly.   Take a small first aid kit with hand/foot warming packets and ride with at least one other friend in the winter, then you can share a warm beverage with them after the ride! 

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