In theory it’s still summer here in Canada, but it’s been getting dark enough at the end of our evening mountain bike rides in the forest that I’ve started mounting up a bike light. After investing in some powerful bike lights last year I’m not particularly fussed by the fact winter is on it’s way. Our lightly used mountain bike trails are essentially deserted in the dark winter nights which start around 430pm when November rolls around. I like being alone in the woods so that’s awesome as far as I’m concerned.
Although it has been known to rain a bit on Vancouver Island during the cold part of the year it is quite sporadic so it’s not hard to get out for a couple trail rides a week without getting wet from above. The trails themselves drain well and don’t hold much water. So riding conditions are pretty nice most of the time. Traction is the challenge with slick rocks and roots aplenty. That’s why my mountain bikes tend towards fat grippy rubber. I’ll probably ride my Pugsley and Scandal more often than I do in the summer. They don’t have rear suspension and are equipped with IGHs which means I won’t need to do much maintenance on them and won’t be trashing my expensive FS bike as much.
I was surprised by how little my MTB riding clothing changed between seasons. In summer I wear shorts, t-shirt and elbow/knee pads. In winter I only change the t-shirt to a long sleeve shirt. The forest is always several degrees warmer than the parking lot temperature and riding keeps the core warm. Every time I convince myself I really need warmer clothing I end up stopping after the first climb to stash it in my hydration pack. So I try and just accept I’ll be chilly for the first 5 mins of the ride and save myself the hassle of stopping.
Even urban riding gets better in the winter here. We don’t get snow and the rain infrequent enough we can ride most of the times we want to. The big influx of summer riders has died off leaving only 25% of the year’s peak bicycle traffic on the roads and bike paths. Sadly a lot of those fair weather cyclists ride like idiots so life gets a lot less “exciting” when getting around on our bikes once winter sets in. Of course we have powerful bike lights which take care of the short days and long nights. Both of us are sick of the battery charging routine which always seems to leave us in the dark once every week or two. I’ll be installing a dynohub + light on Sharon’s Cross Check in September and will also put one on my Long Haul Trucker. That way we’ll each have a reliable all weather day or night rig to ride.
So although I can’t say I am excited by the first hints that winter is on its way to Vancouver Island I don’t dread the dark and damp part of the year. Being a cyclist here means a 365 day a year riding season on the road and in the dirt without resorting to studded tires and parkas. That’s pretty awesome!