They say the best things in life are free – like sunshine and a challenging mountain bike track to explore. While the bike itself is, sadly, not free, the experiences to be had in outdoor areas around the UK are certainly priceless.
As with road cycling, the most important accessory is a proper biking helmet that fits properly, followed by proper biking gloves; think about it – if you fall (which you probably will at some point) your hands are often the first thing to come into contact with the ground.
Comfortable clothing is a must, although you needn’t settle for spandex – shorts and a T-shirt will do the trick too. It’s important to take a waterproof windbreaker along for the ride as well. Finish the look off with mountain bike shoes and protection for your eyes, and you’re ready to go!
Tips from the Pros
MTB Tips has a number of videos on YouTube with tips on everything ranging from ‘How to Ride Drops’ to ‘Easiest way to Lubricate Brake and Shifter Cables,’ which are well worth a look.
Essentially Schultz adds one layer of long-sleeved clothing for every 10 degree drop. He explained that layers are essential when mountain biking and recommended starting with a thin base layer, then a jersey, followed by a breathable jacket. On really cold days it might even be a good idea to start with a thermal base layer and then building on that. Of course, working in layers also means it’s easy to cool down when needed.
He also recommends wearing cycling caps underneath your helmet. ““I like wearing a cycling-specific brimmed winter cap under my helmet,” Schultz says, “because you can flip the brim down to block a little bit of extra mud and wind.”
A final tip is to keep a pair of emergency mitts on hand, “They’re ridiculously big ski gloves that I think I’ll never need,” he says, “but more often than not, I’ll finish the ride with them on.” Rather safe than sorry so be sure to pack a thick pair of gloves in case of bad weather.
Setting Off for Distant Horizons
When it comes to the best mountain biking routes, you’re really spoilt for choice in the UK, Wales and Ireland; there are even sites to help you select the best route, or add your own for others to enjoy.
Readers of Sport Pursuit recently voted for their favourites with Afan Forest coming out first in line. Situated in an old South-Wales coal-mining valley, the site reports that it’s since become one of the UK’s top single track destinations.
A close second was Holmbury Hill – part of the Surrey Hills, which are apparently known as mountain biking Mecca by the locals. There are loads of great trails, but you’ll need GPS or guidance from a local to find them all.
Get the full list of top ten sites on the website, or use one of the many great apps out there to find a route. Bikely is recommended by BikeRadar.com and enables you to upload from your GPS, draw your own cycle routes or search for routes.
Another useful site is mtbroutefinder that works on a similar premise, resembling Google maps.
Winter biking is a great way to keep fit while spending time in some of the most beautiful parts of the English countryside. Get your kit at DickiesStore and give it a go this winter!
Check out how Dickies hold up when biking for Pro Builder: