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Whilst it’s still unseasonably warm in some areas, the days are drawing in and the clocks will go back in the UK on the last Sunday in October; change is on its way.

This is the first of series of 2 blogs that will offer tips for making winter riding safer and more enjoyable. We will look at what to wear and how to set up and maintain your bike. The first thing to do is to check the weather – we use Yr.NO

What to Wear
The Norwegians are credited with the phrase that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes”, which does have a degree of truth. There are limits however and the unique demand of mountain biking means that manufacturers and riders need to balance water / wind proofing capabilities with the ability to allow heat and sweat to escape; there will always be compromises.
We always advocate a layering system, which allows greater flexibility in manging your body temperature than one or two bulky layers.

Base Layers.
These are close fitting items worn next to the skin, often synthetic materiel or merino wool, they will wick moisture away and keep a warm layer of air next to the body. Our preference is short sleeved as our arms don’t tend to get particularly cold.

Mid Layers.
Long sleeved jerseys with insulating and wicking properties, that can often be used on their own in spring / autumn conditions. Look for ones that are cut longer in the back to provide cover when leaning forward.

Outer Layers.
There are a number of options with outer layers.
• Gilets – light weight, windproof gilets are a great addition to your wardrobe. They pack down to a small size and provide an intermediate level of protection.
• Waterproofs – Long sleeved and breathable is the key here. We both use hooded versions, where the hood is cut so that it goes over the helmet. Check that the zips are waterproof too and ideally look for jackets that providing venting to allow heat loss. Finally, make sure they are cut with longer backs to provide protection when leaning forward. These will get wet and it’s important that when they do so, they remain windproof.
• Windproofs – Soft shell jackets are becoming more popular, they can be worn on their own in dry conditions and, those that aren’t waterproof can be used under a waterproof jacket in cold and wet conditions.

Perhaps the biggest change in what we wear in recent years is the advent of well-cut full-length trousers. These are pretty much our go to from the end of the summer, especially when paired with winter shoes.
Waterproofed versions are great when it’s wet. Look out for those with waterproof venting zips to allow heat to escape in between rain showers, especially on long climbs.

All in One.
In really wet weather, our go to is always the Endura All in One. It keeps you clean and dry and there are no gaps between your top and trouser to allow water in.

A good set of winter shoes are a must. Ideally look for those with a waterproof liner and a neoprene cuff to stop the water entering the shoe around your ankles. Pairing these with trousers, waterproof or otherwise, is a game changer.

Some people like waterproof socks. In our experience, the issue is that when water eventually gets in, it stays there which can be uncomfortable. If this doesn’t bother you, then go for longer, just below knee length, socks to limit the chance of water getting in. Our preference is merino / smart wool socks with a waterproof winter boot.

There’s a balance here between bulk and warmth. Bulky gloves will affect your grip on the bars and brakes and potentially your ability to change gear. Look for those with good waterproofing and thermal properties. One tip is to wear a set of nitrile gloves over the top of you summer gloves.
Make sure that the top of your loves fit under the sleeves of your jacket, so that there are no gaps for water to get in. On longer winter rides we will take 2 pairs of gloves.

Grit, mud and rain are the issue here. In the winter we use the clear lenses on our SMITH Wildcat glasses, which provide goggle like coverage, without the bulk of the goggles.