How to Mountain Bike in the Rain and the Snow

Mountain biking is one of those fun, exciting activities that are perfect for a nice sunny day with the right weather. It’s unfortunate that most bikes get tossed to the depths of the sheds during the rainy and snowy seasons of fall and winter. There is no need – mountain biking can be a year-round sport!

Tips for how to mountain bike in the rain and snow:

  • Wear a raincoat or snow jacket, depending on the weather
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Layer clothing
  • Wear rain boots or snow boots, depending on the weather
  • Walk out with confidence
  • Consider using bigger, flatter pedals
  • Adjust tire pressure
  • Use snow tires
  • Consider the trail’s surface
  • Don’t overdo it
  • Clean the brakes
  • Apply the brakes early and gradually or pump them
  • Ride through the puddles, not around
  • Handle turns and curves with ease
  • Consider organic brake pads

Riding your mountain bike during the rain and snow is nothing short of an adventure! It’s fun and thrilling with the right amount of challenge to hone your skills. You will be working on your balance and coordination in an all-new, super exciting bike ride. Who wouldn’t want that?

How to Mountain Bike in the Rain and Snow

If you are considering mountain biking in the rain and snow, there are a few different things to keep in mind to ensure your ride is a success. At the very least, you can feel happy knowing that you will be seriously improving your bike riding skills during the process and have a blast doing so. 

We’re going to break down all the must-know tips and tricks for the best ride possible. We will be discussing what you, the rider, should be doing before the trip, and how you can handle those muddy and slushy slopes with ease. 

What Should the Rider Bring and Wear?

Think about it: when you’re going out for a summer ride through the hillside, you make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothing and bring plenty of water.

Well, making sure your attire and what you’re taking along is still of the utmost importance when riding in the rain and snow!

Raincoat or Snow Jacket

The type of jacket you wear when riding your mountain bike is obviously going to depend on the type of weather you’re facing. Someone who is heading out in the rain will want to make sure they are wearing a raincoat or other type of garment that is one hundred percent waterproof. 

For those braving through the snow, an insulated jacket should be brought along. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t opt for your larger-than-life snow jacket that dangles down to the ankles. Your snow jacket should be lightweight enough to be used in activewear while still providing you with plenty of warmth. 

Make sure your jacket is long enough to cover your lower back. You’ve seen cyclists with the wet slop line up their back, right? Riding in wet conditions will definitely send a spray up your back. But if you’re prepared, you’ll never be bothered by it.

  • If it’s raining, use a raincoat or another warm garment that is completely waterproof.
  • If it’s snowing, wear a lightweight snow jacket. 

Bring – and Drink – Plenty of Water

Many people know the importance of bringing water along on their ride through the summertime. Dehydration is a real thing, but a lot of people are under the consideration that dehydration can only occur during periods of hot and warm climates.

Let’s set the record straight: even if you’re in the rain, snow, or otherwise colder temperatures, always make sure you bring some water or another type of hydrating sports drink. Make sure that your drink is not overly sugary, though, as this can have adverse effects.

The main reason why it’s so important to stay dehydrated during cold weather is that dehydration can lead to frostbite and other potentially deadly issues that you simply don’t want to face when you’re out riding your mountain bike.

  • To ensure your health and safety during your ride, always make sure you are bringing an ample amount of water.

Layer Your Clothing

Sometimes rainy weather exists when the temperatures aren’t too cold, leaving the rider to wonder if a thicker coat or jacket is really necessary. After all, you don’t want to wear so much clothing that you end up being sweltering and sweaty 20 minutes into your ride.

On rainy or snowy days where temperatures aren’t too brisk, you can consider opting for layered clothing instead. This means you should probably wear something thermal underneath your activewear, and a hat to cover your head from the cold temperatures is a great idea.

The amount of layering will depend on the rider and the temperatures. Note that if it’s raining outside, you might want your outer layer to consist of waterproof garments, so you don’t return to your home completely drenched.

  • If it’s not cold enough for a raincoat or snow jacket, then consider layering your clothes for your comfort and warmth.

Footwear Considerations

Water-resistant and insulated footwear is always a good idea if you’re stepping out during the rain or snow. They offer the tread you need to get from place to place, but they can also give you the right amount of tread to stay on your bike’s pedals.

Again, the type of shoe that is used will be determined on the type of weather. They shouldn’t be too bulky as it may be more challenging to ride in already somewhat challenging conditions. 

  • If you’re riding your mountain bike in the rain, a good set of water-resistant shoes is helpful
  • For riding in the snow, you want to have on a set of insulated shoes that aren’t too bulky to hinder your movements.

Of course, this is more of a preference than anything. A lot of people will find that during minimal weather conditions of rain and snow, they can still find enough tread with their regular riding shoes. 

The main concern is that these shoes can become damaged or uncomfortable due to the amount of water they will come in contact with. You don’t want to wreck decent shoes in the rain.

Confidence!

If you’re having a feeling of being overly scared or timid about riding a mountain bike in the rain or snow, then you need to take a step back and work on your confidence. If you don’t go into mountain biking with your head held high, ready to take on the challenge, then you might not succeed.

Remember that it’s going to be somewhat of a challenge at first, but you will get the hang of it. Riding in the rain and snow is one of the most exciting adventures a bike rider can have, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to find the confidence inside yourself to conquer the environment on your mountain bike.

  • A positive mindset will really help you throughout this challenging yet adventurous and fun ride through the mountains.

Bike Adjustments for Mountain Biking in the Rain and Snow

Mountain bikes need minor adjustments in order to work right in the rain and snow. Making these simple yet effective adjustments will ensure a better outcome for your trip.

Bigger, Flatter Pedals

One thing many mountain bike riders do during the fall and winter seasons is switching out their pedals. Instead of using the skinnier model that likely came with your bike originally, riders opt to buy pedals that have a wider surface area in terms of length and width.

Finding a pedal that is bigger, wider, and flatter will help with your overall mountain bike ride. The wider surface will give you (and your boots) more room to find traction while you’re pedaling. It will also make it less likely for your feet to slip off as there will be more room for your foot to go.

  • It’s highly beneficial to opt for bigger and flatter pedals while riding in the rain and snow. The extra width ensures you have enough traction and won’t slip off. 

Adjust Tire Pressure

This is perhaps the biggest tip of them all. If you do nothing else to prepare for your mountain bike experience in the rain and snow, at least make sure you’re doing this: lower the tire pressure.

When you’re dealing with terrain that has more depth and is slippery or sludgy due to slushy snow and muddy areas, then you want a tire that can somewhat bend with these soft surfaces and provide more tread. The only way you can do that is to release some of the pressure from the tires for a safer and steadier trip.

  • Always make sure you lower the pressure of your tires when riding in the snow and rain. This provides more traction for the tires.

Consider Snow Tires 

If you are really serious about mountain biking in the snow, you might want to go all out and opt to switch out your tires with snow tires. Much like you change out a vehicle’s tires in the winter months. 

Winter bicycle tires are specially designed tires that work in the slushy and thicker snow terrains, offering a higher level of traction. They ensure that your bike stays on track and you won’t have to worry as much about slipping and sliding.

The extra tire width and lower air pressures allow more of the tire to remain intact with the ground and helps you maintain traction.

  • Mountain bike snow tires are a great idea as they provide the rider with the utmost traction to avoid slipping on snowy terrain.

Riding and Braking in the Rain and the Snow

It’s no secret that the overall ride is going to be somewhat different while it’s raining or snowing. We have all the must-know tips and tricks to keep in mind for a smooth ride all winter long.

Consider the Trail’s Surface

When you’re riding along the trail, it’s important to look ahead. You want to find the area that has the least number of obstacles and take that route.

For example: if one side of the trail is covered in slippery rocks and sticks, you want to avoid this as much as possible. Stick to the trail that has the least amount of problems, and you will have fewer problems, too.

  • Always find the trail with the least number of obstacles for a smoother ride.

However, keep in mind that you don’t want to be zooming back and forth across the trail. Too many quick movements can lead to a slippery disaster which will more than likely leave a rider finding himself next to his ride, instead of on it.

Don’t Overdo It

Only you know your limits and know how much more of a challenge it is to mountain bike on rainy and snowy terrain, you should always keep that in mind.

Don’t opt for your favorite long trail through the mountains on your first go-around; start off small and work your balance and endurance up to be able to handle longer trips in different terrains.

  • Mountain biking in rain and snow is more challenging than regular terrain, so don’t overdo it and take your time.

Clean the Brakes

One of the most important things to do after your ride is always to ensure that you thoroughly clean off the brakes and brake pads. While you’re at it, clean and dry the entire bike to ensure it’s in tip-top shape for the next ride.

When sludge and grime get caught in the brakes, it can cause them not to work as well. This can cause potential harm while you’re riding your bike, especially through tougher terrains.

Clean them as good as possible to avoid potential problems.

  • Thoroughly clean brakes and brake pads after riding. Wash and dry the entire bike for the best results.

Apply the Brakes Early and Gradually or Pump

When you’re riding your mountain bike, consider it the same as driving your car through the rain and snow. You wouldn’t slam on the brakes in a car, so don’t do it while you’re on your mountain bike, either.

The best things to do when you need to brake are:

  • Stop pedaling. This will automatically cause the bike to slow down unless, of course, you’re going downhill.
  • Apply the brakes early and gradually. Again, don’t slam on the brakes, and always pay attention to what’s coming up next. Gently press on the brakes until you come to the desired speed.
  • Pump the brakes. Need to stop quickly? We can’t stress enough not to slam on the brakes, but you can certainly do small pumps- just like you would in your car.

Ride Through the Puddles

A lot of people think you need to ride around puddles, but that simply isn’t the case. If you’re wearing the right waterproof clothing and shoes, then you can simply ride straight through the puddle.

Don’t worry about losing traction; the bike should steadily glide through the water and find its grip on the other side.

This is especially important for trail maintenance. When the ground has been softened by rain or snow, the impact that your bike creates is magnified. Make sure to stay on the trail, and not swerve off to avoid puddles.

  • Don’t be afraid to bike right through puddles.

Handle Turns and Curves with Ease

Everyone knows that if you take a turn or curve too quickly in a car, you’re risking a wipeout. Well, the same is true for your mountain bike. So how can you make sure that you’re always taking curves and turns correctly and safely?

Always handle turns and curves in a slow, easy manner. When entering the turn or curve, take your foot off the brakes completely.

This should slow your momentum down enough to take the turn. If you’re still going a bit too fast, consider pumping the brakes ever so slightly until you’re safe to finish the turn.

Organic Brake Pads

A lot of mountain bike riders swear by organic brake pads during the cold seasons. They are said to be a lot more durable and be able to provide traction when braking a lot better than regular brake pads.

If you find your brake pads to be sub-par in rainy and snowy weather, then this might be the simple solution for you.

  • Organic brake pads may supply more traction and durability than regular brake pads.

Tips for Mountain Biking in the Rain and Snow

Congratulations! No, you know how to adjust your bike and ride through the rain and snow. However, there are still a few more tips you should know before you head out on your mountain bike.

  • You Will Slip and Slide During Your Ride

If you start to slip and slide, don’t panic. It’s actually completely normal to do a little bit of sliding throughout your trip. Just keep your front wheel pointed in the direction you want to go, and you should be fine. Don’t try to slam the brakes! A gentle pump can help you out.

  • Maintain Speed

If you get stuck in the snow, don’t push your legs as fast as they can go trying to get unstuck. Instead, try a steady speed and maintain it. The tires should form traction and get you going. Keep the same momentum.

  • Consider Lowering Your Seat

Being lower to the ground offers more center of gravity, which means better balance and steadiness. Consider doing so if you’re struggling.

  • Lean with the Turns

Lean your tires to the ground when you’re turning. The more surface area of the tire hits the ground, the more steadiness and traction you’ll receive. This means less chance of slipping, sliding, and falling.

Conclusion

Mountain biking in the rain and snow is an adventure everyone should try at least once, and then afterward, you won’t want to stop! Always make sure you’re hydrated, your tire pressure is lowered, and your brakes are ready to be tapped for a successful trip.

In addition to riding in wintry conditions, you may also want to consider an offseason routine to help injury-proof your body. Make sure to take a look at my dedicated on the topic here!