Winter Riding: Welcome to the Dark Side

Welcome to the Dark Side

These frosty mornings mean that it’s winter is Nelson. For many people, this means mountain biking takes a back seat. Why? We hear excuses such as, “It’s too cold”, “It’s too wet”, or “It gets dark too early”.  In Nelson, we are lucky to have one of the mildest winters in New Zealand, so many times it is not as cold or wet as we imagine it might be…in fact, some could argue that the grip in winter is often better than the looser dustier conditions of summer!


It’s true that our body’s circadian clock slows a little during the winter, and we require a bit more rest since it takes energy to keep our bodies warm and healthy. Although it’s tempting to snuggle up to a warm fire and a cup of tea, that won’t really keep up your bike fitness or skills for the coming summer, will it?

Here’s why we encourage winter riding and some tips to help:

– It improves your mental toughness and willpower. This is our fancy way of saying “Suck it up”. We know it’s not the most comfortable thing to be cold and wet, but lots of things in life are a little uncomfortable. Through discomfort comes growth, new perspectives and new appreciations. The more you can get outside your comfort zone, even by simply going for a winter ride, the more you will improve your mental toughness and self-confidence, leading you to a world of countless possibilities. There are also plenty of small tweaks you can make to your bike set-up to make winter riding more enjoyable; the simple addition of some winter tires with more grip, and a Marsh Guard front fender can tip the scales from tricky and wet riding to tons of fun.


– Get a group together. There’s nothing like sliding around on trails, splattered in mud and laughing your arses off with a group of close buddies. Get a group of friends or fellow riders out to brave the chilly conditions together. There is strength in numbers and it can also be more motivating if you know a group is expecting you to turn up! (Gravity also runs a cruisie Pedal’n’Pint night ride almost every Friday. Check out our Facebook or Instagram for updates and details.)

*When planning a group ride in wet conditions, please be considerate of what trails you choose. Don’t ruin any of our beautiful Nelson trails that people have worked so hard to build and maintain. Plan your route wisely.*

– Dress appropriately. This is obvious, but many forget, and end up having a terrible experience in the colder temperatures simply because they are not ready for the conditions. Try to avoid cotton – instead, wear merino, wicking and quick dry clothing. Merino wool keeps you warm even when it gets wet. Layers are also your friend in the winter time. Try to take off layers when getting too warm and sweaty, and put layers or a shell on as soon as you stop moving to keep your body heat in.

– Night riding is a blast! Although the days are slowly getting longer now, it’s still hard to get an after-work ride in the daylight. First step and most important step: get a good light with strong lumens (we recommend the Glowworm X2 or Alpha – available in our shop). If you can, having both a helmet light and handle bar light is ideal. A head light on it’s own works a charm too though.


– Ever heard of Cold Exposure Therapy? It has been scientifically proven that cold exposure (outdoor conditions, ice baths, cold showers) can aid in fat loss, decrease inflammation, speed recovery, strengthen the immune system and even increase lifespan! The key to this is to expose yourself to the cold, but not get to the point where you shiver. Cold Therapy works by controlling your breath. If you’d like to know more, look up Wim Hof, the Ice Man.


– Remember your purpose. We all partake in this sport because we love it. Mountain biking is a hard and challenging sport, mentally almost more so than physically. The more time in the saddle, the more you will reap results.


– Okay, now you’ve earned your beer, or tea in front of the fire. You will feel such a stronger sense of contentment and pride after washing off all that mud and thawing your fingers and toes, and relaxing for the night. Rest is still important, but being able to balance your health and fitness over the winter will have huge benefits.


Did we miss anything? What motivates you to get out in the winter time? Let us know.