Long shadows, crisp air, and a stillness in the forest

Love them or hate them, Michigan winters are part of the experience of living in this great state. You could spend months on the trainer enduring the season, or you can embrace the experience and keep in top riding condition by riding all year long.

There's a lot of great advice on clothing, tires, and other winter riding topics in the MMBA Tips and Techniques forum.  Here are some of the most important:

  • Layers and technical fabric.  Old school cotton and fleece start out warm, but the fabrics capture sweat and snow and it's not long before they are wicking away all of your warmth. There have been huge advances in running, biking, and active winter sports gear that make them are worth their weight in chain lube out on the trail. They keep you dry, they keep you warm, and they have features like vents to help you shed heat after a strenuous climb. Stores like REI and your local bike shops can help you make good choices.
  • Ride with a friend. Not only is it more fun to share the misery, a friend in need can save your life. A broken bone or twisted ankle is a definite downer in any season, but in freezing temps it can be deadly. You don't need to be in the Alaskan tundra to die of hypothermia; it could happen on your favorite trail. If you must do solitary rides, make sure someone knows where you are, when you enter the trail, and let them know when to expect a call that you're finished. Keep your phone warm (so the batteries last longer) and carry a back up device. One of my friend's life was saved by a whistle, used to signal for help after the phone battery died during a 911 call. 
  • Be prepared to walk out. Cold temps are harder on machine than man, and obscure failures seem to haunt my winter rides. I prefer to ride flat pedals and winter hiking boots, but whatever your preference is make sure you could walk out of the trail if you needed to.
  • Stay hydrated. Your body uses a lot more energy when it's cold. Feed it - eat and drink often (as if I needed an excuse...)

Fat is fun and owning a fat bike can definitely extend your riding opportunities, but people have been riding snow covered trails for decades on normal mountain bikes. You can too - no excuses, get out there!