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12 tips for winter mountain biking in the Southern Lakes. 

 1. Reduce your tyre pressures
Maximise the contact area of your tyres and hence your grip on soft slippery muddy trails by running slightly lower tyre pressures than you would on firm terrain. But don't go too low because you might get pinch flats, which are never fun. Experiment with your pressures to see what feels right.

 2. Wear goggles
When it’s cold and muddy googles are a game changer – they'll protect your eyes from dirt and keep them snug so they don’t dry out or stream litres of tears. Clear lenses are the way to go, because you can also wear them at night. 

3. Get good lights
With your lights blasting out hundreds or thousands of lumens night riding is awesome. USB rechargeable lights are amazing – but just make sure they’re fully charged before you set out.  

A good lighting strategy is to team a handlebar mounted light with another on your helmet so you’ll have light where you’re looking and also where your front wheel is pointing.  

And don’t forget your taillights. The flashy ones are best because they’re easier for motorists to spot from a long distance.

4. Get gloves
Cold fingers and hands can be sheer torture, especially on long downhills, where your hands are cramping up from constant braking. Looking at you Treble Cone access road. 

Warm, grippy gloves like these from POC will take all that pain away. 

 5. Flat grippy flat pedals
If the conditions where you ride are often damp and slippery then using flat pedals can be a good plan, because you’ll be able to put a foot down or bail more easily if you need to. Also cleats and pedals can get gummed up with mud and become a hassle to clip into.

6. Mudguards are great
It’s amazing how much mud mudguards will keep away from you and your bike’s frame. They’re inexpensive, lightweight and easy to install. A no-brainer really. 

7. Keep your momentum up
A lot of the biking you do in winter will be on soft ground and often wet, muddy terrain, and even slush and snow. Try to keep your momentum up through these parts of the trail so you don’t bog down. 

 8. Know your route
It pays to know the trail, especially if you’re going to be riding after dark. Getting lost on a cold night isn’t any fun. If you’re heading somewhere new just make sure you’ve scoped out the route or better still tag along with people who know where they’re going. 

In case of the unexpected make sure you bring your phone or even an Emergency Locator Beacon like this from ACR. 

9. Keep hydrated
Even when it’s cold you still sweat when you’re exercising - even though you might not notice it so much. So make sure to keep hydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are loss of energy, and as it get worse light-headedness or dizziness.

10. Bring snacks
Biking is a high energy expenditure activity. Having a snack of two in your backpack is always a good idea. And in the cold weather you use a lot more energy just to maintain your core temperature. OSM bars are a local favourite. 

11. Wear winter bike clothing
As our Norwegian friends at Norrona like to say "there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes." Like any winter mountain adventures, the key to comfort and protection is layering. Mons Royale pretty much wrote the book on layering for winter mountain biking. Merino stays warm even if it gets wet.

Start cold. You'll heat up pretty quickly once you get going, so don't layer up too much before you head off, otherwise you'll just overheat and have to stop and re-arrange yourself. But do bring warm clothing in case the weather changes - because New Zealand.

Wear a pack and use it to store your extra layers including a mid-layer, a fleece and a packable waterproof jacket. Patagonia, Arc'teryx and The North Face all have great options. Merino socks and long merino leggings will also help you keep warm.  

 12. Don’t let winter stop you riding
The toughest thing about winter mountain biking isn’t staying on your bike, finding your way through the dark, or even keeping your hands warm. It’s getting out the door and onto your bike when it’s cold and miserable. But with the right gear and preparation it’s really not so bad – in fact it’s a heap of fun, and way better for you than slobbing out on the couch.

Of course we can help you with all the winter biking gear you need to keep it up in the cold. See the bike team at our stores in Wanaka and Queenstown, they get you sorted and out on the trail all year round.


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