Winter Mountain Biking Guide
Whether you're new to winter mountain biking or experienced, here are my recommendations of products that will make your riding safer and more comfortable.
Since most of your riding will probably be done at night, you will need a really good light. I actually like to ride with 3 lights. A good one on my helmet for looking around corners or looking at my drive train should something get into it. One of my handlebars for extra light. And one small LED flashlight in case both of my main lights run out of power. I ran out of light once and didn't have a backup. It was a very long and dangerous trip out of the woods that I hope to never have to take again. That's why I take so many lights.
I'm a big fan of Exposure Lights, but for the "other 98%" who just don't want to spend big bucks on a light, I picked up a $50 light off Ebay that is just as good as lights costing $300-$700. Check it out:
Up until I found the light above, my favorite lights were Exposure Lights because they don't have any wires and come in a nice carrying case. I review two of them in this video:
For my backup flashlight, I still want something bright, at least 100-200 lumens. Something like the Techlite Lumen Master (which I don't have) looks like it would be good. It operates on standard AAA batteries and is 200 lumens. To strap a small flashlight on your handlebars, you need the Two Fish Unlimited Flashlight Holder with the straps at right angles to each other. To strap a small flashlight on your helmet, I haven't tried this, but it looks like you could use the Two Fish Unlimited Bike Block Pump Holder to strap a flashlight onto the center ridge of your helmet.
Winter Cycling Boot
Cold feet are a real issue. Some people use flat pedals in the winter with hiking boots, but I prefer to use clipless pedals. The best mountain bike boot I know of is the 45North Wolvhammer. If you want warm feet, get those! They are worth every penny.
Some less expensive winter mountain bike boots are the Northwave Celsius GTX, Sidi Diablo GTX, Pearl iZUMi Men's Barrier GTX and Shimano SH-MW81. These won't be as warm as the Wolvhammer, but they'll be better than your summer mountain bike shoes. If you don't want to get winter shoes, you can opt for mountain bike shoe covers. They aren't as effective and are a pain in the ass to put on, especially over mountain bike shoes so I usually order a larger size. They also rarely last more than a season, but many people are happy with booties. I never was. Whatever you go with, you can always augment them with toe warmers (under your toes) or hand warmers (on top of your toes) if they aren't warm enough.
I have a pair of Lake CXZ302's and they aren't warm at all. Don't buy these:
Gloves & Keeping Your Hands Warm
Next to your feet, your hands are the easiest thing to freeze. The two best ways to keep your hands warm during your winter riding are Bar Mitts and "Lobster" gloves! Bar Mitts are more effective and keep your braking fingers warm even when they're on those cold metal brake levers for long stretches of downhill. You can always augment gloves with hand warmers.
You don't want your ears freezing off and don't want to experience that awful ice cream headache when screaming downhill. The Pearl iZUMi Transfer Skull Cap and Gore Universal Helmet Beany can be worn under your helmet are your best options for keeping your head and ears warm. You could also try the Lazer Dissent Winter Cycling Helmet. I haven't tried it and would be worried it would be too warm, but that's an option!
If we get snow and it gets packed down and then rained on and gets real slick, you will need studded tires. I have owned Nokian Extreme 294's which were good, Continental Spike Claw's which absolutely SUCKED and my latest are Kenda Klondike Studded Mountain Bike Tires which are FANTASTIC and CHEAP! It really suprised me how bad the Continental Mountain King tires in the summer and they are super. I can't believe how bad the Continental Spike Claws are. There are many other studded mountain bike tires out there, but the Kenda Klondikes are my favorites.
Don't buy these - they suck:
I know, you don't get very many flats in the winter, but if you do, my favorite pump is the Lezyne Alloy Drive Hand Pump. I used it exclusively in the "I Didn't Pump My Tire" video.
Silky Bigboy 2000 Handsaw
You're probably like me and will want to do some trail maintenance when you come across downed trees. The single most convenient and effective tool for all trail maintenance is the Silky Big Boy 2000! It fits in your camelback and can clear anything loppers can and can handle much larger tasks. Thanks for doing your part to keep our trails clear!
We'll see ya out on the trails!p>