In some localities there is a definitive off-season for riding your mountain bike on trails. This is usually demarcated with the onset of consistently below freezing temperatures and the first big snowfall. In these areas, the bikes are hung up in the garage and the skis/snowboards are dusted off for a different type of riding. Fortunately for us, those bikes never get stored away for the off season. In my mind, there is NO off season for riding my bike. A Richmonder can ride well into the fall and winter months with the passion to pedal, awareness of changing conditions, and the proper gear.
Fall has long been my favorite time of the year to ride. Summers in Richmond get downright nuclear, sometimes making it difficult to breathe much less pedal a bike for hours on end. Fall ushers in some cooler temps and a longing to pedal as many hours as you can before the sun falls below the horizon. The dirt picks up some moisture changing it over to the perfect tacky consistency. This little bit of moisture in the ground allows you to rail corners you would otherwise wash out on as you ride through. The leaves falling from the trees add an element of surprise making certain portions of trail more difficult as the layer of slick cover compromises your riding technique.
This is a great time to go back and revisit your body position and balance when riding. Remember…weight equals grip. Keeping your body low over the seat and centered will help you attain maximum control as both wheels will have roughly the same grip. Another general tip is to be mindful of keeping your arms relaxed and slightly bent (elbows out). This will help keep your upper body more towards the front of the bike, keeping your weight more centered for bike control and front wheel grip (helps eliminate washing out on loose leaves). Lastly, remember to breathe and keep your legs, torso, and hips relaxed while riding. Riding over a trail that feels ‘loose’ and is almost completely covered in leaves can lead to feeling nervous and unsure of your usual confident riding abilities. When you are relaxed, your ability to balance and react will be greatly increased enabling you to absorb the trail better, be more in control, and have more fun!
Another component to riding in the fall and winter is having the proper riding gear to be comfortable. You can certainly get by riding without all the new-fangled outdoor gear or top of the line Patagonia jackets. However, there are some critical pieces of clothing that one cannot live without during the colder months. First, a helmet liner or balaclava is not only functional but necessary. Second, having a good pair of leg/knee warmers comes in handy when pedaling into the fall and winter months. Some people don’t mind riding in pants but this option gives you a little less restriction in maneuverability. You can find these items at any local bike shop in town. There are also some online dealers that offer cold weather riding gear. Check out Price Point http://www.pricepoint.com/thumb/1-Clothing-2-Cool-Weather-Gear-False.htm and Jenson USA http://www.jensonusa.com/ for great online offer deals.
Unfortunately, daylight savings time makes riding seem impossible as the sun sets right when you are getting off from work. If the dark cannot keep you from riding, then pick up a light and get back out there. This equipment can be quite expensive and sometimes unreliable. Talk to your local bike shop or riding buddies to find the best fit for your riding needs. Two years ago I purchased a light that has performed great. I didn’t feel the need to spend $300 on a light I was going to use 2 dozen times in the winter. So, I purchased a MagicShine MJ808 light that puts off more than enough light to have fun riding at night http://www.magicshine.hk/Product.aspx#cp12 .
The last component to riding in the off season is to respect your local trail closures and get involved in the mountain bike community. During the off season, many trails are in poor shape due to the heavy traffic during the spring and summer. It is important to respect trail closure signs to avoid further damaging our beloved trails in Richmond. The fall and winter months also allow for some much needed trail work. If you are not a member of RaMORE, then I highly recommend you join. Your modest donation goes a long way to keeping the trails we love. Visit their site to join and to get info on upcoming trail work days http://richmond-more.org/. If you like the social aspect of riding (including night rides) then get hooked up with a group of riders not afraid to get out on the trail. The Richmond Bombers http://www.meetup.com/RichmondBOMB/ offer an outlet for group rides and help strengthen the riding community in and around Richmond.
As you can see, the off season is not an accurate term for riding in Richmond. There are plenty of people and resources out there to ‘fuel’ your fall and winter riding. Thanks for taking the time to read this post…now, get out there and ride!!!