Make first tracks on your bike, Fraser Valley style
Mountain Biking with Keith
I’m sure you are anxiously awaiting winter’s arrival —the day when the stars align, you get first chair and Mother Nature has politely deposited a few feet of new. You have the run all to yourself, untouched snow waiting for you to make the first tracks.
Well there is no reason to wait, you can get first tracks on your bike.
There is something exhilarating about being out on the trails on a crisp day, new snow on the trail with the occasional elk or moose track. First tracks on your bike is a great way to extend the bike season, keep some fitness and have some fun.
Riding on the snow can improve your skills as well. You will be amazed at how much fun you can have. You don’t need a special bike until the snow gets deeper. The mountain bike you have will probably do just fine. There are mountain bikes that are built for snow with much fatter tires. I’ll save that for a future article.
Riding your bike on the snow will improve your skills. There is the obvious challenge of the roots and rocks being a bit more slippery. Climbing can be a bit more of a challenge to keep traction, too, but with the right technique and a few minor adjustments to your style and bike you can have a great time.
It is important to be aware of your body position. Too far forward and the front wheel will have a tendency to slide out, too far back and you can compromise the pedaling position making it more difficult to ride.
The optimum position is one that allows you to ride with very little weight on your hands. This allows you to be in a more neutral position and give more predictability to the handling of your bike. When climbing you will need to be conscious of pedaling as equally as you can throughout the entire pedal stroke. This means applying constant power to the pedals during the entire revolution. Keeping constant power to the pedals helps prevent the wheels from slipping.
The only real change I make to my bike is to drop the air pressure by a couple of PSI. This lets the tires grip a bit better and allows them to roll over obstacles with less tendency bounce off or slide away. I do add fenders to keep me a bit drier. You are more likely to get wet and muddy from the roads than from the trails.
Clothing to ride in the cold and winter is pretty simple. Almost everyone has cold weather gear. If you don’t, then welcome to the valley. If you cross country ski then you already own just about everything you need. I tend to wear a lightweight shell jacket and pants to block the wind. Layers under those shells is usually enough to stay warm. Typically a lightweight set of winter gloves will do just fine on the hands.. If it gets colder wear your standard ski gloves or mittens. Under my helmet I wear the same skull cap that I use under my ski helmet
Keeping the feet warm may be the most important part of the body to address. Your feet are near the ground and exposed to snow, wind and any water that may not be frozen. As we all know, staying dry is critical in cold weather. Start with your ski socks. They will warm the feet as well as the muscle mass lower leg ,resulting in less cooling of the blood. The most important thing is wearing cycling booties over my shoes. These are insulated and made of a waterproof material. I’ve ridden in below zero conditions with the booties.
One last bit of advice: Be aware of temperature fluctuations. I tend to go out in the morning or later afternoon. The reason for this is to ride when the ground is more likely to be frozen. Traction is generally better and I stay far drier. I’m also less likely to do trail damage. If you can only ride when it has warmed up a bit then seek out the shaded areas wherever possible.
The only thing stopping you is you. The nice thing about biking in the snow is that there are ample opportunities to make those first tracks. Rumor is we are in for a bit of snow this winter. Next time it snows grab your bike and take it for a ride.
Beavers Sports Shop at the Best Western in Winter Park weekly group ride is now over for the season. Come join us this spring as soon as conditions will allow 970-726-5988
Looking for more information? Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Mountainbikecapitalusa.com. Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!
Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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