January 06, 2021 10 min read
Neil says that night riding has got to be a top reason I like winter riding. Whether you already know the thrill of riding at night or not, because the days are shorter, more rides happen after dark, and that means you're going to need lights. With good ones it's impressive how well you can see, and once you're not reliant on sunlight to determine when you can ride, suddenly a whole other world of riding time opens up. Most find a mix of on-bike and helmet mounted lights are best for mountain bikes, while just on-bike ones are usually enough for road (but if you you're riding on twisty roads, you'll appreciate a helmet mounted light even on a road bike). Luckily these days the range of high quality, rechargeable lights is very broad so it's really easy to get a lot of light for a reasonable price, and in a fairly small package. Neil keeps a couple of Nite Rider Lumina headlights on his bike for most rides in the winter, and they're a good mix of durability, value, and light quality.
My road bike has full-coverage fenders because I love the feeling of riding at full-speed on a wet road, and staying dry. I like long mudflaps too, because they keep the water low, but don't always take the time to make them. On my mountain bike, I generally just run a small front face fender (like this one from Chris King), because in our area mud isn't such a big issue, and a small fender generally does the job of keeping the odd puddle-splash and flying shred-splatter out of my face pretty well. When I see folks riding without fenders in the winter I pretty much just cringe because they just make such a huge difference to me in terms of how much I enjoy winter riding, and especially on the mountain bike, they can be so small and unobtrusive while still being effective-enough.
As Kellan says, Suffering is better with company, and whether you agree with that at face value, it's easy to see how just having someone else there to distract you from less-than-ideal conditions could make the ride a whole lot more fun.
This is a common thread for most of us here, and I suspect that it's true for just about anyone who rides in cold weather. The fact is that when you're working harder, you're going to be warmer, and then when you head downhill, you're going to get cold. Having enough (and the right balance of) layers is critical to cold-weather enjoyment. Usually this means a breathable, wicking baselayer followed by a warmer mid-weight, but still breathable layer that you can keep on all day, followed by either another heavier warm layer or just some type of wind or water shell layer (the type will depend on the conditions).
If you're riding in really cold weather, Kellan likes a windstopper baselayer. These are good insurance when it comes to making sure you won't have to deal with wind chill on your core, which makes a huge difference–especially on road rides–where wind is a big factor.
If you can swing them, Kellan says winter shoes are a great option. In places where real winter is a thing for a good portion of the year, having real shoes that you can tromp around in is a huge help. This is especially true for mountain bikers because shoe covers have a tendency to either get destroyed or to just come off when you hike in them.
This one probably doesn't need much explanation at this point. If somehow you aren't using fenders when you're riding in the rain, or shortly after the rain, get some: they'll completely revolutionize how comfortable you'll be!
Alex's list (in his own words)
So, as a Londoner living in Oregon I think I know a bit about riding in shitty weather all winter! Maybe it's that conditioning over years that have made me adapt to it, maybe it's my dislike of the indoor trainer... but having the right gear is super important so here's a few tips that keep me rolling through the winter both on and off road.
Total game changer especially for road riding, full length fenders don't need to slow your bike down or add too much additional weight and the extra dryness to both your backside and your legs lets you ride in the wettest conditions while staying way drier than without them.
My fender picks:
ROAD. PNW Full Metal Fenders Some of the best road / light gravel full fenders out there with a whole range of mounting options.
GRAVEL. Ass Savers (various) A quick and simple solution to keep the worst dirt off your backside. I tuck mine between the saddle and seat pack.
MTB. ProGuard Bolt On. A step up from the standard zip tied front MTB fender, provides a far cleaner more secure fitting via the bolts on the back of your fork.
I don't like overshoes on MTB shoes, they never fit right and don't really work if you gotta hike a bike so any winter MTB boot is a much better alternative. My Northwave boots I picked up pretty cheaply a few years back are still going strong and have yet to give me wet or cold feet on a ride.
OK, this one is not so easy right now.. I was fortunate to get away to Sedona (just a short 16h drive from Ashland) for a few days over Christmas for some sunnier, warmer riding.
Last but not least...if you gotta ride the trainer do it in class. My current choice is my mid-90's GIOS Compact pro neo retro build with a new-ish Dura Ace groupset and Stages LH crank.
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