A Mountain Biker’s Guide To Riding In The Winter

Weather and temperature are not exactly constant problems when mountain biking if you just know where to go and what to wear. The latter can be found difficult to some only because they are still not sure about whether or not they’re wearing the right clothes. When the temperature is just too low for us, it’s only normal that we resort to wearing more layers and more cotton. However, in cycling, this isn’t always the case because your comfort and safety should be taken into consideration. If you are uncertain about the proper attire on mountain biking in the cold, then you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, you will finally learn the perfect gear to wear from head to toe when mountain biking during the cold days. And when you’re finally outfit-ready, you’ll get to learn some of the most useful tips on how else you’re going to prepare for winter mountain biking!

What To Wear: Mountain Biking In The Winter


Neck Tube/Neck Gaiter

A neck tube or neck gaiter is what you wear under your helmet. It helps fight off the worst of the cold by keeping your neck warm and cutting out the chill before it hits the lungs. So even if you unzip your jacket, you won’t be completely exposed to the cold air.

Additionally, a neck gaiter also protects your face from elements like splashes of water or mud. Because it’s basically like a scarf, it can also be worn like a bandana to keep your ears and whole head warm. 

Upper Body

Bike Gloves

When choosing your bike gloves for the winter, it’s important to remember that just because a pair is thicker does not mean they’re the perfect gloves for riding in the winter. Even though some gloves produce more warmth, you should still opt for something that does not cause discomfort on your grip.

Windproof gloves are best for mountain biking in the winter. They give cold-weather protection and breathability.

Base Layer

The base layer is what you wear right next to your skin. Being the first layer of clothing, it’s supposed to draw sweat from your body to keep you dry and warm. This is why its fabric should be either polyester, nylon, or spandex, and should be tight-fitting to the skin. A base layer with cotton fabric is absolutely discouraged because it soaks up all the sweat. Also, when it’s winter, most opt for long-sleeved base layers.

Perfect for winter mountain biking, Odlo Performance Blackcomb Base Layer gives you exactly what you need. Its synthetic fabric blend wicks away sweat and dries quickly. Precisely how a base layer should be, it’s slim-fit and it provides body-hugging warmth. It also comes with an integrated hood and face mask for extra protection against the cold temperature and the wind.

Insulating Layer

The insulating layer is the next one you wear after the base layer. It’s pretty much like the base layer but not as fit. What it does is it helps in keeping the core warm. A jersey, sweater, or fleece could be your insulating layer. However, this is just optional because some prefer to ride light, so they go for just the base layer and the outer layer instead.

For $205, the Brevet Insulated Jacket protects you from the cold and other elements efficiently. It’s made with Polartec Alpha insulation to provide exceptional warmth and breathability. This insulated jacket also has a durable water repellent coating. You’ll surely get your money’s worth.

Outer Layer

The outer layer is basically your winter jacket for cycling. Therefore, it should be windproof and waterproof. Although a winter jacket is usually poofy, a winter jacket for cycling shouldn’t be. Wearing a big or puffy jacket can only cause discomfort and inconvenience to you. This is why you should go for a much breathable fabric like Gore-Tex; it can be expensive but it is ideal.

The back of the neck is especially vulnerable to the cold wind, so when choosing an outer layer for your winter mountain biking outfit, high-neck jackets are needed. Besides the neck gaiter, this will also help in keeping you warm. Also, if you like having a hood, go for a jacket that has a removable or detachable hood. You won’t always need them so you can remove them anytime especially when they start bothering you.

A good thermal-lined jacket with durable wind and water-resistant properties is the Bontrager Velocis Subzero Softshell Cycling Jacket. The softshell fabric excels at trapping body heat all while keeping the cold air and moisture out. Its fitted cut provides a body-fit effect that helps enhance performance during mountain biking. Because of this body-fit effect, the rider reserves its aerodynamic posture while riding, thus, making him faster. The fabric also has excellent breathability.

Lower Body

Bike Tights/Knee Warmers

Bike tights are best for cold mountain biking especially when they are thermal and waterproof. Mountain bikers have the option of choosing between bike tights or just baggy waterproof shorts, but most choose both by wearing tights under the shorts. With the bike tights as the lower base layer (besides your underwear, of course!), they boost the warmth of the standard set of shorts.

They pretty much cover everything down to your ankles to protect the skin from elements – the cold wind, splashes of water, mud, and whatnot.

REI’s Thermal Cycling Tights has a stretchy, midweight fabric that wicks sweat and keeps your legs warm at the same time. It’s perfect for night rides and low-lit areas because of its reflective trims. For only $48, you’ll be able to keep yourself comfortable from the beginning to the end of your ride.

Waterproof Shorts

Waterproof shorts and cycling shorts will do the job just fine if it’s not too cold outside. Most male mountain bikers, however, prefer baggy waterproof shorts because they’re more comfortable and breathable.

Cycling shorts, on the other hand, are very fit. They can also be worn as your base layer should you decide to go with baggy shorts.


Waterproof Socks

It gets really uncomfortable riding with cold, wet feet. It’s unpleasant, squeaky, and honestly kind of gross. But with waterproof socks, your feet are going to feel so much better as you pedal your mountain bike. Although waterproof socks don’t exactly keep your feet 100% dry, it still makes a lot of difference.

Water can still get into the top of your feet but with waterproof socks, you won’t completely be soaked. It’s considered essential because it’s especially useful when you don’t have waterproof shoes. If you pair your waterproof socks with waterproof shoes, then you’ll definitely have a smoother ride.
To keep your feet dry while mountain biking in the cold, Crosspoint Waterproof Socks is the perfect solution. Developed to keep your toes dry and clean, these waterproof socks have a wear-resistant knit exterior, a waterproof breathable Artex membrane, and a Coolmax FX moisture wicking anti-bacterial lining.

Waterproof Shoes

As mentioned before, despite the inevitability of getting your feet wet, having waterproof shoes will improve your chances of less soaked feet. Although they can’t really protect your feet from water, they can still keep your toes warm and protected from mud, puddles, etc.

Waterproof shoes are a good investment. They last long and they insulate your feet very well unlike how your regular shoes do. XLC’s Winter MTB Cycling Shoes offers thermal protection, waterproofness, and comfort – an appropriate pair of cycling shoes for the winter!

Tips On Winter Riding On A Mountain Bike

Keep Yourself Motivated

Before doing anything else, it’s important to be aware of the things that motivate you. While this applies to life in general, this also applies specifically to winter mountain biking. Riding out in the cold can be quite discouraging to others because the low temperature is not exactly everybody’s best friend so it’s often used as an excuse.

However, when you have even the tiniest desire to get out there and ride in the cold, fan that flame within you! Mountain biking in the winter is just as enjoyable as riding in the summer. When things start to slowly go south in the middle of your adventure, you just have to ask yourself: what made me want to do this in the first place?

Remember your purpose and your goal. Mountain biking is not just for physical fitness. With the right routes, your motivation could also be Mother Nature – the beautiful creatures, the trees, the views of mountains topped with snow, and many more.

Know Where You’re Going

Knowing where you’re going is not just about setting a destination. It is also about knowing how to get there. One word: route.

While it’s important to know where your next stop is going to be, knowing which paths you have to take to get to your destination is just as important. You have to make sure the roads or the trails are safe and aren’t too slippery on the day of your session. It’s also better if your route is used by other mountain bikers during the winter. When other riders trust a road, then it’s most likely to be perfectly safe for you to take as well.

Have Some Company

You can never go wrong with taking a friend with you. These cold rides are usually a shared experience among a group of people or even just two friends. As cliche as it may sound, strength does lie in numbers, particularly when you’re talking about winter mountain biking. Besides, nothing sounds more perfect than having a hot beverage with your pals in between stops or just right after the ride!

However, when you do plan on riding alone, always make sure to first tell a friend where you’re going and give an estimated time on when you’ll be back.

Always Stay Healthy

Mountain biking is not something to take lightly. You have to prepare yourself because it’s definitely not for the weak! Keeping yourself healthy before, during, and after the ride are all equally important. 

One’s diet plays an important role in certain activities, particularly ones that involve vigorous movements. Nutrition requirements differ for every person but they’re all determined by training load, specific athlete needs, body composition goals, health, and adjustment for growth.

According to Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA), a training diet should compose a variety of nutrient-dense carbohydrates, along with lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy for protein, calcium, and iron. 

Here are some of the best foods to eat to fuel yourself before mountain biking:

  • Whole Grain bread
  • Pasta dish
  • Bananas
  • Energy bars
  • Granola
  • Porridge
  • Baked potatoes

Don’t forget to always hydrate yourself!

Prepare Your Bike

Your mountain bike should always be in the best possible condition when you’re planning for a ride out in the cold. 

Invest in high-quality riding lights because winter means longer nights. Riding in the dark can be very difficult, most specifically when you’re fast-riding. 800 lumens is appropriate for mountain biking but if you plan on riding fast in the dark on a technical singletrack, it’s far safer and better to get riding lights with 2000 lumens.

When choosing tires for your bike, opt for more aggressive and open-tread patterns for your tires to provide extra grip. These patterns help you from slipping very easily in wet areas.

Lastly, never forget to inspect your brakes before taking your mountain bike out for a ride. Whether you’re joining a competition or not, your brakes should always be functional. You should never rely on your own feet for a manual brake.

Dress Properly

Wearing the appropriate outfit for mountain biking during the cold days can make a lot of difference to your journey both physically and mentally. When we’re freezing, it won’t just affect us physically by numbing our fingers and toes. It also affects our motivation to continue. By following the guide above, What To Wear Mountain Biking In The Winter, the low temperature will be less of a problem.

Even though some people say it’s not safe to ride during the winter, it’s actually pretty awesome if you just know what to wear and where the right routes are. So if you want to enjoy a ride in the mountains, dress for the occasion!

Know Your Limits

Riding in the winter is a great time to discover new places or spots that turn out to be perfect trails. During the summer, a lot of these areas can get crowded and busy, but when the cold days arrive, you can get a totally different experience. Accidentally finding awesome spots is indeed very exciting but this also becomes a reason for you to be careful. Just because it’s a great spot does not mean it’s friendly to riders like yourself!

In addition, you should always keep an open mind. Mountain biking is always an adventure, and part of that adventure involves sudden changes like shortening the ride, making detours, and hiking your bike. It can be a bummer but that stuff happens a lot so don’t try to fight it because most of these things are for your safety.

It’s also advised to pre-plan your ride as much as you can, especially in the winter. Make sure you always have a plan B and maybe even a plan C. It’s only normal for some things to go wrong, and with a plan B just right under your sleeves, you’ll be back on the road in no time. 

However, take note that despite having backup plans for your winter ride to continue, you should know when to stop. Plenty of things that end up badly can ultimately lead to you being unable to continue. Just because you’re okay at the moment does not give you an excuse to not take care of yourself first.


Mountain biking in the cold is an entirely different riding experience. It offers unique and enjoyable challenges that the hot days just can’t, which is why you shouldn’t use the cold temperature as an excuse! Stick to the tips we just gave you and follow the guide on winter cycling gear, and you’ll surely have the time of your life.

Remember the old saying: “There is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”A Mountain Biker’s Guide To Riding In The Winter

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