Look after yourself, as well!
They might not win you any fashion awards, but mudguards are worth considering if you want to be able to enjoy riding without a steady stream of cold, muddy water coming at you from below… There are plenty of easy to fit, unobtrusive off-road mudguard options available that are designed specifically for mountain bikes, ranging from small front fenders for fork arches, through to more heavy duty guards for front and rear. Clear lenses for your riding glasses keep grit (and bacteria!) out of your eyes and a pair of neoprene overshoes will make your riding shoes last a while longer than if they were constantly covered in grit. None of the above is likely to win you style points, but if that’s your main motivation for riding then you’re unlikely to be heading out in winter anyway!
Winter riding means a tighter margin for error should things take a turn for the worse. While we always hope for the best, being pragmatic means planning for the worst. An injury, a navigational error or even a puncture late in the day can all become a serious problem if you’re unprepared. By adding a few simple things to your kit you can avoid turning an unexpected delay into a potentially serious situation.
Keep yourself warm: Extra clothing doesn’t need to be bulky: a warm pair of gloves, an under-helmet hat and a spare insulated top are worth carrying, even on shorter rides. An emergency bivvy bag constructed from waterproof, heat-reflective material is small, light and effective enough to keep a person warm while waiting for help.
Keep yourself fed: A few hundred calories worth of food, i.e. an energy bar and a small bar of chocolate, are best kept separate from the rest of your food for the day, to be used to keep up morale and rational thinking in the event of a longer then planned return to base.
Keep yourself seen: a small set of front and rear lights can be kept attached to your bike all winter without being intrusive. Even at midday on an overcast winter’s day they can keep you safe on road sections by keeping you visible.
Keep in touch: Make sure that someone knows where you are going, when you expect to be back, and what time they should contact help if you haven’t returned. The cold can affect smart-phone batteries, so make sure that you always have enough battery to call for help if needed, by keeping a small powerbank in your emergency kit.