Sunny Side | Winter Riding Advice

Photos and words by brand ambassador, Grafton Pannell

All too often I hear people who love outdoor activity complain about the weather. Well guess what... you're a cyclist... you're a skier... you're an outdoorsman... weather is weather and there’s nothing you can do to change it.  You can however be well prepared for it! This blog post is related to cycling directly but I’d argue that in just about any outdoor pursuit you can choose to be on the sunny side with the right gear and attitude.  

Winter is a time when most people stay off the bike, put on a few lbs. and do whatever else they enjoy for the season. In the eyes of many (including myself at times) it is an "off season". This season however I have a goal in mind to change that. I recently purchased a fatbike and have decided that I want to be a 4-season cyclist. For much of my life I have put the bike away and skied my days away but now with a little one at home its become a little tougher to sneak away for an entire day of skiing whereas a few hours on the bike is convenient and (I hate to say it) just about as fun.

Winter riding does however come with its own set of challenges. You're no longer trying to keep cool or make sure that you have enough water because you're sweating so much. Instead you're trying to find the perfect balance between being too hot and sweating vs. plain old being too cold. Sweating can be the cause of your downfall when you're a block of ice due to your sweat freezing. Winter riding is also limited by the conditions of the trail and mandates good gear. When it comes to riding sometimes I'll strike gold and the trail will be perfectly firm and fast whereas other times you may be the first maniac to hop on your fat bike and end up blazing a trail for others. That said, at times there is a lot of walking involved. Having a solid pair of waterproof, warm boots is so important. I’ve also found that having a good set of pedals (if you're running flats) is crucial. I’ve had my pedals ice over and my "spikes" not grab my boots at all so I think the next upgrade may be to invest in more "spikey spikes".  

Your outerwear and layering is so very important. As I said before you don't want to be too warm when you're out there but you also would hate to not have enough on. I start things off with a Club Ride Roadeo Jersy and Airliner chamois. (always stray away from cotton... should be a no brainer but just in case.) From there depending on the temperature I’ll wear long underwear and a club ride technical riding hoodie. To finish it off I wear my club ride Fat Jack Pants and a packable down jacket. Wool socks are a must and I also like to wear a wool cycling cap.

Accessories can make or break a ride in the cold weather as well. Again, depending on temperature I would definitely recommend wearing a neck tube. Anti-fog glasses are important, especially the anti-fog part. Some sort of cap is necessary unless you have a huge head of hair and even then I’d highly recommend one. This brings me to gloves. I don't struggle with poor circulation so I just wear a pair 5 finger gloves but many like a bar mitt system. Lastly but definitely not least we need to talk about footwear some more. As you can see in the video I’m wearing muckers... I actually do wear these when the conditions are really wet but usually I choose a pair of riding boots that are waterproof and have a wool liner. The last piece of gear that most certainly needs to be dialed is the bike!

So now I get to talk about my favorite part... my beautiful, (at least I think so) curvy, fatbike.  I chose to build my fatbike out of a Soma Sandworm frame due to its ability to use multiple wheel platforms.  Currently I’m running the Surly Nate 3.8 gumwall tires and loving them.  They shed snow so well. The bike can hold 26x4, 27.5x3 or even 29x3.  It can hold a straight steer tube or tapered depending upon the bottom headset cup you choose. I plan to run the bike as a 27.5+ bikepacking hard tail all summer and a fatbike all winter.  The sliding dropouts can also be replaced with a thru axel set giving you even more compatibility. As if that wasn’t enough the frame even has a cut out for carbon belt drive. They really did think of everything. As for the rest of the build, I went with a 1x10 drivetrain, (partially for budget/partially because 10 is more badass than 11) a set of 160mm rotors and Sram hydraulic brakes, a Brooks cambium saddle (if you’ve never owned one you really need to) and a set of Jones j-bars to top off the adventure vibes.

Anyway, that’s a little about the gear I think it takes to enjoy the outdoors in the frigid single digit temperatures we experience in the inland northwest. As for the attitude, that’s all up to you. It really is as simple as choosing to stay on the sunny-side of life and pursuing happiness even when the sun sets before 4 pm. Stay warm and happy out there and ride your bike! Life’s more fun that way.