The Met Office are pushing out weather warnings and telling us to stay indoors, but the temptation to play in the snow is strong. I love getting out when the conditions are properly wintry, and the rewards can be great, but there is an inherent risk and most of us in the UK are not accustomed to artic riding. So how can we get out and safely enjoy a ride in full winter conditions? Here are my thoughts…
Remember, you are already on an adventure… The fact you are riding at all is awesome, so don’t feel you need to push the envelope too far. On a day when a narrow back road can become technical riding, please don’t head out on an epic route. Stick to local trails you know well, er on the side of caution, take the edge off your normal riding speed and stay in your safe fun zone.
The fact you are riding at all is awesome…
Gear up… Layer up for the conditions, with an emphasis on warmth and windproofing, and don’t forget the extremities, as the cold will nip at every square inch of exposed skin and especially attack your exposed hands and feet. However, and this is going to sound a little contradictory, don’t go over the top; remember you will be riding, exerting yourself, and sweating heavily on the climbs can become a real problem if that moisture is then able to cool next to your skin. Find a balance, be careful to maintain it.
Choose your ride carefully… Pick the bike that has the best tyres for the job, the wider the better, lower the pressures a bit and make sure it is running smoothly as you don’t want any mechanicals on a freezing hillside. I took my Sonder Broken Road, which is simplicity personified and with 2.8 inch tyres is almost ideal for snowy trails and road conditions, but admit that a dropper post would have given me more confidence on the descents. Also, I would recommend you run flat pedals to help get your feet down quickly and avoid the issue of SPDs clogging up with snow and ice (I forgot this today but got away with it…).
Think about Plan B… At times when the emergency services are working at full capacity just to keep essential services in place, you don’t want to be the idiot that places an extra burden on them because your playtime went wrong. So, always keep in mind how far you are from home, how close the nearest main road or point of shelter is and what your options might be if you were to have a problem that meant you couldn’t ride on. I am not suggesting complete risk aversion, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog at all, but ensure your decisions are conscious of these factors to keep inside what you feel is an acceptable safety envelope.
have an amazing couple of hours in the white fluffy stuff before retreating to a well deserved place in front of the fire
Short, sharp and fun… The cold can and will wear you down so don’t plan on being out too long. Rides in wintry blizzards are a blast for a while, but the initial rush of emotions brought on by getting out and exploring this wonderful new white world eventually fade away and don’t underestimate the extra energy your body is using to keep you warm and fight the elements. So don’t plan on a full day out, instead it is better to have an amazing couple of hours in the white fluffy stuff before retreating to a well deserved place in front of the fire.