Ride Through Winter The Hard Way

The Hard Way to Tackle Winter Riding
A Winter’s HardTail

There are many reasons to own and of course ride a hardtail.

As a second bike (assuming your first is a full suspension MTB of some description) it makes perfect sense. We all know the N+1 rule – so why not get a hardtail as your second bike?

They are very fashionable at the moment and in the UK in particular we have a particular taste for them and often in steel. Maybe its the simplicity, maybe its our riding style or maybe its the marketing!

There are a bunch of UK manufacturers making a tidy living out of hardtails – Bird Cycleworks, BTR fabrications, Stanton, Charge, On One etc all have a great line in hardtails and do well in the UK.  I think the profile of XC racing and the 2012 Olympics has also raised the awareness of how capable a 29er hardtail can be and us cyclists do like a new bike.

Hardtail geometry is changing too.  Longer and slacker bikes are turning what was once a tame trail machine into an aggressive trail machine and with right set up a half decent all mountain or trail centre rig.  650b wheels and 140mm forks and I think you have a very capable all year round steed that can cope with most you can throw it at.

So the landscape is changing and hard tails are getting a new lease of life – but that’s not really what I was here to discuss. But it does mean that the list of reasons to ride or even advantages of riding a hardtail is now getting longer.

  • Cheaper – With no rear shock, suspension linkage, bearings etc the set up become simpler and less costly.
  • Lighter – For the same reasons above the bike is simpler and therefore lighter.
  • Quicker – Yes they can be quicker. Shedding the weight and having a direct drive to the rear wheel with no suspension bobbing, acceleration and speed can be increased. They is a point where the benefits of suspension can be a drag – sucking you into berms, absorbing jumps for instance.  Take a hardtail to a trail centre and watch those personal best times pop up on your popular training app – oh alright Strava!
  • Easier to maintain – Now we are getting close to the winter angle I was leading with.  With less frame complexities you have less bearings and frame to clean and maintain.
  • 1 by x – The growing popularity on 1x set ups combined with a hard tail means the simplicity and weight reductions just keep on coming. No front derailleur, one less cable and shifter results in less weight and a few less items you need to look after.

Combine all these benefits with Winter riding and you have a winner!


So as the UK trails get wetter and muddier you want a bike that’s easier to clean and maintain then you should consider riding a hard tail.

Mine took almost an hour to clean after Sunday’s ride around the soggy, claggy soil of Wiltshire.

If you go down to the woods today

Why not? An invite to ride one of my favourite locations on a slippery and muddy afternoon in January with a bunch of like minded fools – couldn’t turn that down.

It also gave me chance to try out the Hero Session for the first which I thought worked great – proper review coming.

Anyway, a great few hours were spent in the Forest of Dean, away from the trail centre on secret (no so) trails that are fast becoming very popular among riders other than the locals.

We only rode about 20km but managed to find around 7 or 8 descending tracks and had plenty of fun.

Just watch the video!

The Ponds, The Pit and the Punch Bowl (Part I)

G-Line, Ty Shon and CochyRecently I went back to Wales for the weekend to spend time with some friends and ride my bike. Friday night was curry and a few beers and Saturday was a school reunion. This meant that both my bike rides took place with me in a slightly fragile and hungover state. This also meant that hydration was going to be an important factor on both days! Anyway that’s not so important, let me tell you a little about the rides.

The ride on Saturday was going to be about going down hill: an old friend of mine was going to show me some downhill runs close to where I used to live with my parents – about 4 miles away to precise! This area of Wales, close to the Brecon Beacons, is where you will find the Cwmcarn Trail center and many, many not so official down hill trails. I love riding in this part of Wales as I have some friends who know the area very well and there are treats on just about every hill side! The newly opened Bike Park Wales is only 30 minutes away too.

The Hafodyrynys Colliery coal washery building
Hafodyrynys Colliery was located east of the village. The mine was actively worked from 1914 until 1966. It was redeveloped by the NCB in the 1950s, including the creation of new drifts. However, it never fully lived up to production expectations. Today the remains of the washery are a listed building and mark the site of the mine. The mine continued to process coal from other collieries following its closure.

We set off from Hafodyrynys (now you know it was in Wales for sure!) and rode up the hill to Mynydd Llwyd keeping the valley floor and road down to our left. After 6km and about 250m climb we came to our first descent. By now we were getting a little concerned about the state of the trails and John was debating which of the lines to take; we opted for G-Line and it was great.

The twisty rooty trail descended through the damp forest quickly, reminding me a little of the top section of the Gorlech Trail at Brechfa. Commitment is required when negotiating wet roots and nothing but a straight line will work no matter what tyres you have opted for. There were one or two slides to say the least as many parts of the descent were also off camber making it a really technical and challenging ride. At the bottom of the trail, 250m below we crossed the road and headed slowly up the steep fireroad climb to the next trail at Ty Shon.

I must have accidentally paused my GPS or something as the curve looks impossibly steep on the graph – while it was a tough push up at one point it certainly was that steep! Before descending I noticed a few sights from the view point that it took me a while to recognise. We weren’t far from my old comprehensive school and I could see a local beauty spot a place we used to drive (and er park) to – LLandegfedd Reservoir. It was quite a nostalgic view point, I only wish I had taken some photos.

The Ty Shon descent took us into the neighboring valley and Plas-y-coed village. To be honest I didn’t enjoy this at all. After a sketchy and slippery start I noticed my friend fall in front of me at the bottom of a pretty steep drop in. It wasn’t the steepness or roots or a rock it, it was simply that fact that the ground was slippery that your brakes were of no use whatsoever. I had no choice but to follow – and I also fell, face first into the bracken and sodden leaves and pine needles. No pain or damage to me or the bike but a severe set back in confidence. The rest of the way down was spent trying to avoid similar accidents. This wasn’t possible and in descending less than 150m I must have dismounted the bike in various ways about 6 times. Time to move on!

Mynydd Llwyd

We pedaled up the road to Pantygasseg (are you loving these names or what?) and eventually our final descent of the day known as Cochy. This was surprisingly dry compared to Ty Shon running off the same hill. Flowing and dropping through the pine needles we finally got our real fix for the day. Some of the locals do this under 2 minutes. With some caution as it was wet, being new to the trail and having just had a few offs I did this in just under 4. Really steep in places and some big drops to finish at the bottom this was by far the best bit of the day.

Wet, muddy and a tiny bit battered by Ty Shon we rode back to the car thankful that no one got seriously hurt!

Hang on for Part II – where the title of the blog post makes a little more sense!

Autumn is almost here

Its almost Autumn as we call it – not Fall. I am happy with and like the word Fall, but we call it Autumn and as this is my blog mostly about mountain biking I would like to avoid using the word Fall if I can help it! Its not something I like to associate with biking!

Fall or Autumn – What does this mean? Well it means some changes to your bike set up, lubes, tyres, cleaning, clothing etc Here’s a few things that I will be changing over the coming month or so.

Mud tyres – Last autumn/winter I barely rode my full sus bike so never changed the tyres and have been running wider rubber more suited to downhill and trail centres. My hardtail has Specialized Storm Control fitted and these worked really well to cut through the mud and wet. I have just bought some Maxxis Beavers for the Giant and will see how they work for me.

Lube – Time to start thinking about the wet lube now. As the mud and rain becomes more regular its important to have lube that is designed to operate and keep the chain moving freely in this sort of weather.

Cleaning – Wet lube and wet weather will mean a stricter cleaning routine of the bike, in particular the chain, cassette etc.

Clothing – Might sound obvious but wrapping up a little and getting some waterproofs on is a must. My SealSkinz gloves and socks will be out soon enough. Keeping the fingers and toes warm are top of my list! And a good base layer!

Do you have any tips or routines for winter riding?