Mountain Bike Resources Online - The Zone - Off-season and Winter Riding
Off-Season and Winter Riding
excerpt from The Mountain Bike Experience
If you live in an area with four seasons, it's wonderful to watch the year go by on a mountain bike. You see each cycle unfold and blend into the next. When the leaves turn to gold and skis and snowboards come out of the closet around the country, my mind turns to ... riding my bike at night in subfreezing temperatures, on bulletproof ice. Winter, especially, offers exhilarating riding-if you prepare properly. When snow and silence blanket everything, the terrain becomes incredibly beautiful.
In a more practical vein, winter riding keeps you in shape by extending your season. Come spring, you won't have to start your training from scratch. Your rides won't be as long, and you probably won't ride as often as during the warm months, but at least you'll retain much of what you accomplished the previous season. Many road bikers take to mountain biking in the winter to maintain their training schedule. Since mountain bikes travel at much slower speeds than road bikes, there's less windchill.
Sometimes, I even turn winter jaunts into excursions that provide a whole different experience. I bring matches, bread, and cheese; stop halfway through my ride to toast myself a grilled cheese sandwich; and eat lunch by the fire. Like most of mountain biking, coldweather riding is all attitudinal. If you tell yourself you're going to be miserable, you will. If you tell yourself you're going to have a good time, you will. So just relax, be careful, and enjoy yourself.
Ice riding opens you up to other experiences. You become more willing to take risks and make yourself vulnerable, less hesitant to put yourself in uncertain situations. You trust yourself more. You learn how to stay in control-and when it's OK not to be in control.
Off-season riding also opens you up to a multidimensional relationship with terrain. If you hide the bike when it gets cold, and you don't ski or do anything else, you're experiencing only one aspect of the landscape. Part of the challenge of the sport is pushing your limits-and your bike's. That's the idea behind ice riding, snowtire slaloms, and other ostensibly insane activities. Whatever the parameters of your experience, you'll always be pushing the old limits and discovering new ones to surmount and surpass. You can do it on several levels-endurance, weather, whatever.
Weather conditions, of course, vary according to where you live. In the coastal Northeast, there's a long period with no snow in the winter. Cold temperatures, rather than cold conditions, are the thing that's different from the rest of the year. You can probably ride most of the season on dirt, especially from the Middle Atlantic to down south.
Obviously, you won't mountain bike all winter. But ice riding at least gives you the option of taking advantage of all of it and the feeling of having that possibility is wonderful. It's empowering. It expands your perception of where you live. You need to take just a little extra care to ensure that your bike-and you-function optimally in cold weather. You have to become conscientious about what you eat, how you dress, and how cold weather might affect your particular bike.