Winter is tough for mountain bikers, there's no two ways about it - it's tough on bodies, it's hard on the mind and it's demanding on gear too. It took us a serious amount of will power to get those lights out for the first night ride once the clocks went back, but we have been here before, we've survived the muck and the cold in previous years and we are sure that this year will be no different! Even if spring does feel rather a long way off at the moment.....
No matter, the chill in the air is here to stay a while and as the snow sits atop the mountains, we've picked out the bits of kit we know will get us through until the warm winds of spring grace our cheeks once again!
1. A Mudguard
The number one priority has to be given to the humble mudguard. Which ever brand you choose, you need to choose one and affix it to your bike as soon as possible. We're loving this long and sleek provision from The Mudhugger, the length does an excellent job of keeping the muck out of our eyes.
2. A Suitable Winter Tyre
Closely related to the mudguard for er, muddy reasons, a winter tyre is a must have for the months of May to September. You might not need it all the time but it's handy to know its there in your garage for emergencies. Our choice goes to the Maxxis Shorty, a tyre inspired by a cut down spike, this one is going to get you out of trouble when the going gets wet, sticky or loose! We stuck ours on some nice wide Light Bicycle rims too for even more grip.
3. A Dry Sack
Next up is the dry sack or waterproof bag. These from Sea to Summit and Alp Kit kept our Web Editors kit (and lunch) dry at the NZ Enduro earlier in the year and we all know how day two panned out, don't we? With not so much as a soggy sarnie in sight these were literally a lifesaver. A dry sack is a great place to store a clean base layer or fresh gloves on wet cold rides, if you're in such a state that you are in need of a new layer then like as not you don't want it to be damp!
4. Base Layer
Talking of base layers, we thought we'd throw one of these in too. We always keep a spare layer in the bag for emergencies. Even if you don't need it whilst riding, if you have to stop for a prolonged time in an exposed place then the extra warmth will be appreciated. This Phoenix Button down from Mons Royale is just the ticket (mens versions also available), saw some action at the NZ Enduro as well.......
5. A Good Jacket
A good jacket you can trust to be warm and waterproof in times of need is a must have. This one from Endura has vents under the arm so everything stays super breathable too. It stayed firmly on the back of our Web Ed throughout the Nydia day at the NZ Enduro - you night see a theme running here? It's safe to say those vents stayed sealed all day!
6. A Buff (aka. neckwarmer)
A product that has taken it's common known name from the company that designed it, a buff is a seamless tube of stretchy material and is a jack of all trades - neck warmer, hat, ear warmer, sweat band, bandage in a crisis - neat and small, it'll take up next to no room in your pack and will provide much pleasure when preventing chills down your collar. Our one hails from the Tweedlove bike festival in Scotland, proving freebies can be useful after all.
7. A Personal Locator Beacon
We spoke about the reasons to always pack a PLB at the end of last month so we don't need to revisit that topic, suffice to say emergencies might be a little more serious at this time of year given the weather and the early evenings. Our is s small and lightweight PLB - an ACR ResQLink.
With all the above now coming along on the ride, you're going to need something sturdy to put it all in. Forget going "full 'duro", put away the fanny pack and get yourself a proper rucksack. This one from Camelbak keeps the weight down low just like your bum bag, but you can fit more than just your multitool in there.
Going out in the dark might be the only way to get some bike time between each weekend over the winter so a set of good lights is a must have. We reckon you need at leat 1000 lumens on the bars and a separate 600-800 lumen light on your head to light up the corners as you turn. Buy as expensive as you can afford and steer clear of Chinese knock offs that are likely to set your house on fire each time you charge them!
Lastly we recommend you always carry enough cash for a coffee, there is nothing like warming through with a healthy dose of caffeine post ride. Take enough for your mate too, the'll be forever in your debt!