Ah yes, we are deep into fall, and winter is right around the corner. A good many people use falling temperatures to put up the bikes for the season, but that seems like a waste of good riding opportunities, especially for mountain biking. While winter wind may make road riding less than pleasant, the trees on the woods break up a lot of that wind. As you can see from the picture Biker Bill is having a splendid time on his late fall ride. See how he is gritting his teeth in pleasure? As long as the trails are not covered in ice, get out and ride! Here are some recommendations:
For the rider
- Dress in layers - This is key to controlling your heat levels. Get too warm, pull off a layer. Too cold, put a layer back on. Also, make you bottom layer a shirt that pulls moisture away from the body. I used to think I was clever by wearing a thermal long john shirt for a ride until Biker Bill explained to me the concept of hypothermia, and how I could get it.
- Keep thy head warm - It seems a lot of heat will escape through your head if you don't keep it covered. Go figure.
- Also the hands and feet - While were on the subject, your extremities seem to be vulnerable to cold as well. Good socks are a must, and shoe covers or winter shoes are recommended by many. Also, good weather proof gloves increase the riding pleasure for me, because before my fingers go mercifully numb, there is a long period of excruciating pain that is preferable to avoid. Weather proof gloves help break the induced wind, keeping your hands, if not toasty, at least tolerable.
- Start the ride a little chilly - This may be a personal thing with me, but I find that if I am comfortable temperature wise when I set out, I get too hot PDQ.
- Bring a change of clothes to the ride - Nothing can suck the fun out of a ride faster than an hour and a half car ride in cold, wet biking gear (been there, done that). Bring a change for that comfortable commute.
- Use a dry graphite lube - When you hit the low 30's or 20's, some lubes can freeze up on you. Dry graphite seems to be the lube of choice for the winter.
- Check tire pressure - When the bike moves from a 60 degree environment to a 40 degree environment, loss of tire pressure is likely. So don't forget your pump.
- Clean the bike - After a cold,muddy ride, cleaning and drying the bike will prevent problems on your next ride. After all, you're going to clean up (I hope), so do the same for the bike. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, storing it in a dry and reasonably warm place does a lot in the way of prevention.