Today, December 21st is officially the first day of winter. While the winter is the off-season for most cyclists, some prefer doing some dirt rides on their mountain bikes. But, finding an affordable mountain bike can be really tricky. And you may don’t want to spend a few bucks which you could use upgrading your road bike or even buying a new one if you’re like me.
Luckily, there are cheaper options. Obviously, you can’t expect much if you don’t spend enough. There would a big difference between a cheap mountain bike and a top-end one in weight, durability, quality and ride comfort. But, remember, our goal is just having fun and turning our pedals to stay fit in the cold, dark winter days.
What to look for in a mountain bike?
- A total bike weight of 14.5 kg (32 lbs) or less
- A frame that fits you well in size. Aluminum is preferable. You can’t find a cheap carbon mountain bike, obviously. Remember, we don’t want to spend much. Steel frames might be acceptable,
- if the geometry and size fit you well.
- Larger volume tires with teeth that bite into loose dirt, mud, and snow
- A bike with hydraulic disc brakes would be good, but it would be probably not cheap. The mechanical disc brakes are also good, but the feel of safety and stopping power of hydraulic disc brakes are really attractive.
Tips for winter rides
Here are some tips for winter rides:
- Adjust your mindset. The hardest part is starting the ride. Getting out your warm bed, dressing up and hitting the pathways can be really challenging, especially if it’s really cold. But think of that – in the warm days of the spring, you’ll be thankful for those hard winter rides. “Winter miles are summer smiles”. And it can be chilly for the first few minutes, but if you were properly dressed, you’ll be fine for the rest of the ride.
- Dress up properly – and layered. Winter conditions are often unpredictable. Plus, there can be big shifts in temperature in a single day. And as time passes by, your body gets warmer. So, dressing in layers is a big advantage. You can remove the outer layers at any time, for example, if it gets too hot. And keep in mind, a good, breathable base layer is essential to stay warm and dry. Good gloves and shoes are also important, as your hands and feet are the body parts that feel the cold most.
- Mountain biking in the winter conditions, riding on a wet, muddy, or even snowy pathway, is different from your summer rides. Don’t expect to cover as many miles. Your winter ride will be much slower and sluggish. At times you will be able to ride barely at walking speed or even slower. So, adjust your expectations accordingly.
- Don’t forget to drink. You can easily forget getting enough liquid because it is cold outside, but it is very important to stay hydrated. You may consider starting with hot water in your bottle to prevent water from freezing. Another option is using an under-jacket hydration pack.
- Ride with your friends. This will give you extra fun and, most importantly, motivation to ride your bike in the first place.
- Always carry some food. Your body will spend much more energy in the cold. You don’t want to get a hunger knock. Riding the final miles to home while being bonked, on a cold winter day, is one of the worst things one can ever experience.