Kath’s Top Tips:  How to get through those long winter months without going nuts!!

Fly South, a Long Way South

The obvious answer is to make like the pro riders. Escape to the southern hemisphere where it’s summer!

In all seriousness, for mere mortals paying their own travel and accommodation costs, its one heck of an outlay. Flights to New Zealand, Oz or other exotic destinations like New Mexico, Costa Rica and Jamaica are expensive. Yes, you’ll get the best weather and some phenomenal riding. However, its also peak time so popular destinations like Queenstown are expensive and mobbed with tourists. But, hey, to ride Coronet peak and take in those astonishing views, I’d take it! Best start saving up and doing the Lottery…

Winter Sun Holiday

However, there are less financially crippling options for a winter sun getaway. Europe has great winter sun destinations to help you get through the winter. You can ride dusty trails and enjoy a cheap, cold beer after a day’s shredding by heading to the Canary Islands or southern Spain. It is of course well-known as a roadie paradise but with endless gravel tracks, smooth tarmac, and fun, rocky singletrack Gran Canarias, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, or Tenerife could be the answer. Work on that base fitness, get the miles in and at least suffer with a smile under a blue sky and warm sun!

There is of course some great MTB riding on the islands too but with more varied landscapes, I’d opt for the often overlooked La Palma, where you’ll find a landscape of volcanoes, pine forests and vineyards. Also, a less frenetic tourist scene than the other islands. Check out www.flowtrailslapalma.com for inspiration.

Also, justifiably popular, is the Costa Blanca, not as reliably warm as the Canary Islands but with some great road riding, gravel, and rocky MTB trails. Costa Del Sol is probably where the best MTB trails are but, again, the weather can be cool, and a bit hit and miss.

The same can be said for Madeira from around December – Feb. The trails are sublime and the weather around Funchal is likely to be decent but, up high in the mountains where the best trails are, well, in January last year, I came pretty close to hypothermia… 2 degrees and torrential rain! The coastal and levada hiking and exotic plant spotting were stunning though.

Stay Put and Suck It Up

Make the most of winter riding here in the UK. You can now buy better winter riding kit thanever before. So, with a bit of investment, determination and some mates who are equally psyched, you can have fun riding your local trails throughout the winter! If you aren’t lucky enough to have relatively well-drained trails nearby, then there are often options within driving distance for fun weekends away. We are also very lucky in the UK to have some fantastic, year-round bike parks to plan visits to during the winter months. Good examples are: Dyfi Bike Park, Bike Park Wales, Antur Stiniog, and many other trail centres which do drain well and aren’t likely to close due to weather warnings. This can be the case with uplifted bike parks, so watch the weather forecast carefully!.

So, get yourself warm shoes, gloves and great waterproof jacket and trousers. Arm yourself with a solid group of mates and a positive attitude and you’ll have a blast! Those after riding hot chocolates taste so good.

Pay it Forwards

Join your local MTB trail association/group of local volunteer trail diggers and get out there and make new friends, learn new skills, and contribute to the maintenance of your local trails. Sadly, I have to break it to you but, there’s no such thing as ‘trail fairies’ or ‘pixies’ its real people who give up their time and put in a huge amount of graft to ensure your local or favourite destination trails are kept in good shape throughout the winter. Taking care of drainage issues in winter mean the trails will be in great condition by the summer. Even if you’ve never lifted a mattock before, there’s always something which can be done to help on the admin, fundraising or advocacy side of trail management. Check out Trail Collective North Wales @trailcollectivenw our local group of volunteers.

Volunteering with Trash Free Trails and doing a clean-up of your local trail head carpark is also incredibly important PR for us as a mountain biking community. It’s incredibly important that the public see us as a positive asset to the forests rather than a bunch of ‘entitled, selfish, environment destroyers’, yes, that’s a direct quote from a National Land Manager!! Embarrassing eh…??!!

Diversify

Do another sport which gives you a similar buzz to mountain biking and, as a bonus, will help develop you riding in some way when you get back to it. Some examples are rock climbing or bouldering indoors. These will help you build upper body strength, balance, and coordination. That grip strength will help you manage arm pump come your long-anticipated summer alpine riding trip!

Many riders will hit the gym or the turbo trainer or both and there’s some great MTB specific training programmes out there such as MTB Fitness, The Strength Factory and Becci Skelton – MTB Training. Having the motivation to stick to a programme is dependant, I believe, on having a definite goal. Maybe you’ve entered a race like Ard Rock Enduro, or you’ve got a big trip planned?

My own personal favourite winter alternative activity is ski touring which is remarkably similar to going on an MTB mountain adventure. You get a workout trudging uphill for a few hours and then, oh joy, you have an exciting, challenging and whoop inducing descent. However, this does require previous ski ability, specialised kit and a very good knowledge of avalanche danger. I’m lucky – I have my own, tame Mountain Guide to take charge of our winter fun in the big hills!