Most of the year, we tend to just grab our bike, pick any route and go without worrying about a thing. Winter rides are different, you have to be more careful especially with the many rainfalls and strong winds that can strongly deteriorate the trails. There are also many other things that come into play. I tell you here some tips to put all the chances on your side to avoid bad surprises and enjoy your winter gravel ride.
#1 Check the weather for the day and the tendencies the last two weeks
Going on the trails also means that they might not always be rideable, especially after the area has experienced bad weather. Make sure to check if there have been any severe storms that could have caused rivers to flood or trees to fall. If there are many rivers along the route I would recommend avoiding it and choosing a more inland itinerary. Check also the day of your ride, as the trail could overflow while you’re riding. I usually use meteociel.com, but you can also get a sense of the weather with multiple apps and news 🙂
#2 Always have charged lights with you
Daylight is shorter during winter, and sometimes even during the day, visibility tends to be low. Make sure to have a fully charged front lamp to guide you.
#3 Check the hunting season dates in the area
In France, the hunting season is open throughout winter and usually starts around September and finishes at the end of February. Make sure to be aware of this as it is not always, or even never, mentioned on the trails. To be extra careful, wear a visible jacket or bright colors.
#4 Avoid big climbs
Go for flatter routes, or hilly ones but no major climbs on the itinerary. As it will make you sweat and the descent won’t be any pleasure, especially if you still have a lot of kilometers to go. Even with a pair of changing clothes, sometimes temperatures are just too low for your body.
#5 Make yourself visible
Even if you will most likely be on the trails, make sure to have your rear light charged in case you need to hop on the road for a section. Even if it is not raining, consider wearing your rain or wind jacket, which often includes better high-visibility bands or brighter colors, for added visibility.
#6 Have the right tire set up
There are three things to take into consideration for your winter ride regarding your tires : the pressure, the section, and the grip.
Pressure : your tire pressure will depend a lot of your body weight and is proper to each and everyone of us. The manufacturer always state on the tire the pressure range needed for that specific tire. I would recommend to be closer to the lower number while riding on slippery trails, as it will allow a better grip and more control. You can always put more pressure once you are on road sections.
Sections : a larger section will allow a lower pressure and a better grip. A larger section is therefore more adapted for the winter. I usually switch my 40mm for 45mm or 50mm. Here are the two pairs I use the most through winter : Tundra in 45mm for most of my fall/winter rides, and the Tundra in 50mm for extreme conditions. I also use this model (50mm) when I ride during summer on really rocky terrains.
Treads : a larger section usually goes with a thicker tire and bigger treads. This will lead to more grip, more control and therefore more comfort on all terrain conditions and especially for winter season.
! Make sure to have the appropriate tire clearance to run bigger tires.
#7 Wear Goretex shoes
Winter is usually humid, and there are lots of equipments to keep from being wet. You also probably noticed that your body extremities usually get cold first and that’s when you’re then having your entire body freezing. Here are the top things to protect yourself the best.
- Shoes : Fizik just came out with the Terra Ergolace GORE-TEX which will keep you from having your feet getting wet. Obviously, if you walk in a puddle with the water above your ankle, it won’t work… I love this model from Fizik as they are super comfortable for gravel riding and they are easy to walk with. For extreme weather conditions the Terra Artica GTX are the ultimate choice.
- Other must have during winter : winter jacket – rain jacket – windbreaker – overshoes – winter gloves – neckwarmer – long sleeves sking layer – winter bib tights – winter head cap.
#8 Make sure to keep drinking and eating!
The cold tend to make you forget about getting that water and nutriments in. It is a big mistake, as you will use a lot of energy to keep your body temperatures up. Make sure to keep reminding yourself during your ride, or you will be exhausted on top of having your body fighting the cold.
I hope that those tips will help you prepare for your winter gravel rides. Don’t hesitate to share in the comments your best tips for winter rides! 🙂