Mountain biking in the snow is more challenging than riding on a regular trail. However, with the proper knowledge, you can easily conquer snowy terrains. Learning how to mountain bike in the snow is essential if you do not want to wait for the next mountain biking season to practice your trail riding skills. Once you learn how to ride in the snow, you will have no barriers to enjoying mountain biking.
When mountain biking in the snow, it is essential to:
- Use a fat bike
- Reduce tire pressure
- Use flat pedals
- Wear the right gear
- Remain seated on the bike
- Maintain your speed
- Push the brakes gradually when stopping
- Your mountain bike – a fat bike is the correct type of mountain bike for people who want to learn how to mountain bike in the snow.
- Basic mountain biking pack – this should contain a basic survival kit such as water, snacks, tire sealant, and repair tools. It is also ideal to bring a bivvy bag and a tent if you are mountain biking with a group. Foil blankets are another essential to combat the freezing temperatures while you are mountain biking in the snow.
- First aid kit – a trail covered with snow is slippery, so it is crucial to have a first aid kit in case of an accident. (source)
Fat bikes are the right mountain bike for slippery trails filled with sand or snow. It is because such a mountain bike provides more traction than other mountain bike types. More traction means the bike will grip better on the snow, allowing you to keep your footing as you pedal.
Additionally, the wide tires of a fat bike prevent you from sinking in the snow. Most fat bikes have 3.7 inches of wheel width in contact with the ground. This wheel size is enough to keep you running in thick snow and frozen ground.
DIY MTB Pro Tip: What’s the largest tire you can install in your MTB? Read this article: 👉 How Mountain Bike Tires are Measured
Moreover, going for a fat bike with tubeless tires is ideal. This tire replaces tubes with sealant, so you can use your bike with lower tire pressure and not worry about getting pinch flats. The tire sealant also fixes tiny punctures, allowing you to ride continuously instead of having to stop and check your tires from time to time.
However, it is essential to note that only professionals should turn your fat bike’s tires into tubeless ones as the process can be challenging. (source)
When using a regular mountain bike, you want the tires to have high pressure so the bike can quickly bounce when you go over bumps or jump landings. However, this is not the case with fat bikes.
As mentioned, using tubeless tires for your bike allows you to use it with low tire pressure. The low pressure means the tires will have less resistant to your body weight, allowing it to flatten the rubber even further. This way, your tires will have a wider contact with the ground, thus providing you with more traction.
If your fat bike is not tubeless, you can still use it with lower tire pressure than the manufacturer recommends. But you need to be careful as lowering the pressure of such tires can cause pinch flats. (source)
If your flat tire bike has clip-in pedals, switching it to flat and wide-surfaced pedals is ideal. Wide pedals will give your feet more surface area, which allows you to find traction while pedaling. The pedals’ width also reduces the likelihood of your feet slipping off even when they are not clipped onto the pedals. (source)
Mountain biking in the snow is a lot different from biking on a regular trail. You will be out in freezing temperatures for hours, which can cause hypothermia and fatigue. To prevent such instances, you must wear the proper gear to protect yourself against the cold weather.
The proper gear for mountain biking in the snow includes:
- a thick cycling sweater
- winter pants
- good gloves
- winter riding boots
- a headwear that can cover your ears
When pedaling continuously, your body will feel warmer due to the constant movement. So, even if it is cold, chances are you will be sweating after some time of pedaling. To prevent sweating too much, especially when the temperature is not too low, wearing layered clothing is ideal.
When you have layered clothing, you can simply take off your cycling jacket when you feel like you are starting to sweat. This way, you will feel comfortable throughout your ride.
It is also vital to wear water-resistant and insulated footwear; not only do they keep your feet arm, but they also prevent melting snow from reaching your skin. (source)
DIY MTB Pro Tip: A must read for winter riding is this article 👉 10 Tips For Keeping Your Hands Warm Riding in the Winter
When mountain biking in the snow, looking in front of the trail is crucial as you go along it. Looking ahead of the track will allow you to find the spots with the least obstacles, thus making the ride less bumpy. This way, you can easily reach your destination without encountering major problems.
Choosing the trails with the least obstacles like sharp rocks or bumps will help protect your bike’ tires from acquiring snake bite flat. Such is especially useful if you are not using tubeless tires.
Another thing worth noting once you are on the snowy trail is that sliding is entirely normal, even though it feels weird. The reason is that when your bike is in an elevated area, it will always slide back into the low areas of the trail. If you are uncomfortable sliding down your bike, you can always choose a terrain with only a little elevation. (source)
Your fat bike needs weight on its rear wheels to retain good traction. Remember that you lowered the pressure of your tires so that your weight can flatten and increase their traction. For this reason, you need to remain seated as you conquer the trail so that you will not reduce the contact between the tires and the ground.
Staying seated while mountain biking in the snow is fundamental when climbing uphill. It will help you keep your weight back and help you steadily climb uphill even when the trail is slippery. (source)
A lower bike seat will provide you with more center of gravity. As a result, you can balance your bike better and maintain a steady ride as you pedal. (source)
Maintaining a steady step is another crucial factor in preserving traction when mountain biking in the snow. If you try to increase your speed and pedal fast on flat terrain, your tires will not remain intact on the ground, which can cause you to slip and fall. The only instance when you need to gain more speed is when you are approaching an elevation ahead, as the speed can give you enough power to reach the top of the hill. (source)
Quickly braking when mountain biking in the snow can cause your bike to lose balance. So, instead of stopping abruptly, the ideal thing to do is to push the brakes gradually. If you are looking for what is ahead of the trail, you will know when you need to stop. So, while you are still a bit far from the area where you want to stop, you can push the brakes gradually to prevent slipping. Slowly pressing the brakes is also applicable if you want to reduce your bike’s speed. (source)
Cranking Final Thoughts
Did this tutorial help you learn how to mountain bike in the snow? Since snow-covered trails are more challenging to ride on than regular trails, knowing the techniques to maintain good traction is essential to keep your bike going on the slippery path.
If you have comments about this article, you can leave them in the comment section so we can answer them! You can also share this article with fellow mountain bikers who you think need it.
Learning about Mountain Bike Tires could take years. Let me help you just a bit quicker with some articles.
- Can a tire be great for both street and trail? – Find out in this article: Best MTB Tire for Street and Trail
- Are 26 inch Tires Dead? Heck no…Read – Who is a 26 inch MTB For
- Love playing in MUD – Read What tire is recommended – Mountain Bike Tires for Muddy Conditions
- Rocks can destroy a mountain bike tire – Find the Best MTB Tire for Rocky Conditions (PRO RECOMMENDED)
- Thinking about getting a 26 inch MTB let me help – Should I Get a 26 Inch Mountain Bike?
- Does sand slow you down? It might be you’ve got the wrong tires. Read – The Best MTB Tires for the Sand
David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or casting a fly on a small mountain stream. Read more about David HERE.
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