It’s the cold season – winterize your mountain bike!
The dust of summer is but a distant memory now and the winter months are closing in, but luckily for us in North Vancouver, that doesn’t mean the end of the riding season! It does mean though that to really enjoy riding through the winter season, you’re going to need to make some changes to the way you ride and what you’re riding.
In this article, I will talk about some relatively minor changes you can make that will transform your bike into a capable winter machine!
Your tires are an important part of the bike (arguably one of the most important) – they are the only thing connecting you and your bike to the trail or road. As conditions change, the way your tires work on the trail/road surface also changes, and having fresh rubber that is appropriate to the conditions makes a huge difference to the way your bike rides and reacts to changes in surface.
On a mountain bike, the tires you choose depend a lot on the terrain you have available and the way you ride, but I’ll focus here on tires that work well on the majority of BC terrain. There are two main things that I look at when choosing a tire for the conditions: tread pattern, and rubber compound. I’ll explain these using Maxxis and Continental as a baseline.
In terms of tread pattern, when the weather is worse, you want something that will hook up well, maybe has sharp, aggressive knobs to help with grip, but also has a slightly wider spacing to the knobs than a summer tire to help clear mud and prevent them from getting clogged up. Rolling resistance is generally less of a concern because the trails will be running slower anyway, and rolling speed doesn’t matter if you don’t have grip in the first place! A rear tire that works well here in the summer might be a Maxxis Aggressor, as it rolls well but has some aggressive, tightly spaced knobs. Going through to winter you might change this up for a Minion DHR II. On the front if you’re using a Minion DHF, you might swap this to an Assegai with the large, widely spaced knobs. You could even go Assegai front and rear.
Rubber compound refers to how soft the rubber you use is. A harder rubber compound typically rolls faster but has less grip. A softer compound will roll a little slower but have more grip. Through the summer months I’ll run the firmer Maxxis 3C Maxxterra compound both front and rear, but as it starts getting wetter I might use a softer Maxxgrip up front, and then when it’s really wet a Maxxgrip front and rear. You could even use a Supertacky (the softest compound Maxxis makes) tire on the front for bucket loads of traction. Click here for a run-down on Maxxis’ tire technologies.
You might think fenders are uncool, but how cool is having your eyes full of mud? Not very!
When you’re riding, one of the biggest enemies is getting a glob of mud in the eye, right when you’re trying to navigate a tricky bit of trail. Fenders have come a long way in the last few years and it’s pretty easy to keep your face mud-free these days. The simplest and most cost-effective fender out there is the Marsh Guard. It’s a simple piece of flexible polypropylene that zip-ties under your fork arch and actually does a good job of keeping most of the mud down. They’re pretty minimal and look fairly clean. I tend to keep one on year-round, as you never know what the weather could do.
Next, if you want something that will really keep the slop at bay is something like the Mudhugger. Again it zip-ties to your fork lower, but this fender provides way more coverage than a Marsh Guard, and is really great for those sloppy winter rides. Say what you like about the way they look, they really work and I leave mine on all winter long.
We have a good stock of fenders for most bikes and tire sizes, feel free to come and talk to us in store, we’re happy to supply and install them for you, leaving you to just worry about when your next ride is!
One thing that you may want to change, particularly if you’re not super confident on the bike is your pedals. If you ride clipped-in through the summer, you may want to consider switching to flat pedals through winter. This will make it slightly easier to get a foot out should you hit a slippery section. SPD pedals can also become clogged with snow easily, which flats can also help with. It may be worth having a set of flat pedals and shoes to swap over for when the weather really turns. We really like OneUp flat pedals – the aluminium ones have a nice wide platform and are super grippy. Alternatively their composite platforms are at a great price for a spare pair of pedals.
If you’re concerned about your main bike taking a beating, getting a hardtail is always a good option. Hardtails are fun to ride and during the winter slop when grip is at a minimum on any bike, you might as well just resign to not riding as fast but having fun instead!
Hardtails require less maintenance than full suspension mountain bikes. They have no pivots to maintain, and they have fewer places for mud to get trapped, which makes them easier to clean.
And hey, who doesn’t want another bike? Hardtail frames are cheap too; you could always just swap out your full suspension frame for the season. Take a look at the Santa Cruz Chameleon (available in Aluminium or Carbon) or the Specialized Fuse – both great bikes with fun geometry that would make great winter bikes.
Riding through winter your bike will need more regular maintenance in order to stay working at it’s best, although what you actually do doesn’t need to change a whole lot. We’ll be covering this in another article, so keep an eye out for this one soon! Alternatively, come see our service shop, winter is a great time to have a major tune-up done!