Wondering how to stay warm while mountain biking in the winter? Mountain biking in the colder months can be more fun, as long as you’re sussed with the right gear. The trails are more quiet, it’s a good excuse to get off the couch and it keeps your fitness on point for the summer, so you don’t have to slog on the first few rides.
Someone (probably) once said there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad planning. Plus, a fire (or brew, whether it’s a warm or cold one) is always better after you’ve earned it, right? We’ve rounded up a list of gear to make your rides smoother sailing, whether there’s rain, hail or snow.
You might be wondering: “What do I wear mountain biking during the winter anyway?” Making sure that you’re warm enough is important in the winter months – especially in New Zealand, as our weather is known for its variable conditions, from snow to sun in a single day.
It’s important that you consider these points before purchasing any MTB clothing:
- Make sure that your outer layers are waterproof, especially your jacket.
- When it comes to base layers, it’s important to ensure that they’re moisture-wicking, so your sweat can evaporate instead of hanging around.
- Aim for all layers to be breathable so your sweat doesn’t sit on your skin (this is what can make you feel cold).
You can find a range of materials for MTB clothing; however, our team favourite has got to be merino wool. Its antibacterial properties mean that it’s odour resistant, as well as moisture-wicking, temperature regulating (meaning that it’s warm on cold days and breathable on hot ones) and oh-so-soft.
Investing in a good quality jacket can make a big difference for winter riding. Making sure that your jacket is breathable (yet durable) is key. You can opt for thinner waterproofs if you like to layer up below or a thicker jacket if you reckon it’ll stay cold all day. High-quality softshell jackets can be good too – just make sure you bring a waterproof layer if the rain is heavy, as these are generally water-resistant. Pro tip – it’s nice to have something with a high neck so the wind doesn’t funnel down your clothing, but you can always use a buff too.
Our pick: The POC MS Motion Rain Jacket is a top-notch addition to your ride. The hood is compatible with helmets, fitting over your brain bucket to keep you dry on those soggy days. Ilabb’s Cecil Rain Jacket is another great option – having been tried and tested in New Zealand’s harshest conditions.
Mid-layers can make a whole heap of difference. You might be able to guess this, but these guys sit between your outer and base layer for an extra layer of insulation. Big pockets can be handy for keeping another layer stored or a few more snacks (let’s be honest, snack pockets are always a good thing).
Breathable back panels with windproofing or thicker front panels are ideal mid-layers for winter mountain biking missions, so you still stay warm but breathable, keeping you less sweaty, drier and enjoying every lap.
Our pick: It’s gotta be Mons Royale’s Cargo Shift Full Zip. Super breathable, plus: snack pockets.
Base layers encompass both tops and bottoms, being the closest clothing to your skin. Everyone has their preferences, especially with base layers. You can go for a short or long sleeve, three-quarter pants or shorts – really just depends on what you like. Make sure you get something with quality materials, like merino wool to ensure that moisture doesn’t hang around your skin – you’ll thank us after your ride.
Still, feeling chilly? Fit a skullcap (a small, thin beanie) underneath your helmet for extra warmth on those extra not-nice days.
Our pick: Merino, merino, merino all the way. Be rude not to plug our very own Bike Glendhu Mons Royale collab Icon Tee – it’s got a pretty sweet design, if we say so ourselves.
When it comes to bottoms, opt for waterproof. After all, your legs are close to the ground, meaning splashbacks from puddles will get you. You don’t want a wet chamois (that’s the cushioning in your base layer to make a comfier ride), that’s how you’ll get chafing. If you plan to keep anything in your pockets, make sure you’ve got them zipped– especially if it’s your phone or any electronics.
Not a fan of pants? Maybe try out some shorts with tights underneath.
Our pick: Mons Royale’s Momentum Bike Pants are perfect for regulating temps, whether the weather is hot, cold or both. POC also have an epic range of pants, including rain pants for those who prefer to ride in soggy weather.
Gloves make a biiiig difference in the cold. You’ve gotta remember, that’s how you steer right? It’s one of the only consistent points of contact with your bike. The thicker the glove, the warmer they’ll be, however, the less bar-feeling you’ll have. Thinner gloves mean less warmth, but that’s the trade-off. Regardless of what you choose thickness-wise, just make sure they’re always grippy.
Our pick: POC’s Resistance Pro DH Gloves will keep your hands toasty, without losing any of that valuable grip. Ladies, we’d go for Wild Rye’s Galena Gel Bike Gloves, they’ve got gel padding and wicking materials.
When you pick up more speed or are riding in the muddy months, eyewear is a must. Eyewear is something that many overlook at first, but it makes a world of difference on the trails. You can choose goggles (which provide some extra warmth) or glasses. If you’re thinking about the winter months specifically, it’s best to go for clear lenses. Clear lenses are best when there’s no sun around, especially if you’re riding through forest areas.
Our pick: POC’s Devour Sunglasses have to be our go-to. Adjustable, wide views and oh-so-comfortable. Plus, you can get spare lenses, meaning you don’t have to buy a whole new set if you get launched from your saddle (don’t worry, it happens to the best of us).
You don’t need to have winter-specific MTB shoes – the main thing to look for when buying a new set is that they’re MTB-specific, so they grip your pedals easier. Outside of your hands, it’s your other main point of contact with your bike! If you go out when it’s wet and come home with soggy shoes, chuck some newspaper inside them and put them beside the fire or heater to dry.
Our pick: Ride Concept’s Hellion range offers a low-volume shoe that is suitable for most trail conditions and comes in clip, as well as flat pedal varieties.
Cold toes are never fun. Socks seem like a small piece of clothing to prioritise, but they’re not. You’re likely to get blisters on your feet if you don’t have a quality set for ripping dirt. You can find waterproof socks but they’re generally not the warmest once you stop. The classic merino wool will keep ‘em warm. Depending on how good your circulation is, you might want a thicker set.
Our pick: The Atlas Merino Crew Socks from Mons Royale is a high-performance biking sock made from merino wool that has non-slip pique construction and ventilation zones, meaning your toes will stay cosy (plus you won’t stink out the pub during your après session).
When it comes to winter gear for mountain biking, it doesn’t just stop at clothing – having the right accessories can make a big difference for the enjoyment you’ll get from your ride, as well as the longevity of your bike.
There’s way less daylight in the winter months, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in a few cheeky laps. If you want to get out after work in the evenings, make sure you’ve got a light. If you’re planning to get one light only, grab a helmet light so you can see where you’re looking, not where your bike is pointing!
Biking on the road to get to the trails?
- Opt for a dimmer light so you don’t affect the vision of oncoming traffic.
- Grab another light that mounts onto your handlebars.
- Make sure you’ve got one mounted to the back of your seat too.
Our pick: XCELL’s BL3000U High Power Bike Light is our pick for riding during the winter – this fits onto your handlebars and helmet, giving you more flexibility.
Keep you and your bike less muddy with a simple fix. Installing mudguards on your front and rear tires will decrease the amount of mud in your bike fork stanchions (the legs of the forks, for those who aren’t up with the lingo). You don’t want mud in your suspension seals either – a mudguard is an easy way to avoid bigger bike mechanic bills.
Sometimes it can seem a little confusing installing mudguards on full-suspension bikes – if you’re battling, go see your friendly bike mechanic – they’ll sort you out easy peasy.
Our pick: Surely gotta be our very own mudguard. It does the job, easy to install, plus it’s only $10. How good!
The catch though (as we’ve mentioned), is that everything is down to personal preference. Whether it’s from how a shoe fits your foot to how sweaty you get, you’ll never be able to rely solely on anyone’s advice – mountain bike gear is a personal choice, especially when you’re riding over the winter months. Hopefully, we’ve given you some good food for thought.
Now, go enjoy those winter laps – we’ll see you out at Bike Glendhu from spring onwards! Don’t forget to check out the Bike Glendhu shop to see if anything tickles your fancy.