Despite being the official start of the biking season, spring is not particularly MTB friendly, especially during its first half. The winter hasn’t yet entirely retreated from the mountains, there might be pockets of snow, and while the days are getting progressively warmer, the nights remain cold and unforgiving. All of this makes riding in the spring a bit more challenging, and almost every rider tends to fall into similar traps that spring riding is so full of. So let’s discuss the six mistakes every MTB rider makes during spring so you can avoid them.
Just keep your winter gear on
I know that it may come as a shock but spring is not winter. Even in the mountains, the conditions change drastically when the first warm sun rays hit the ground. The ground becomes softer (meaning muddier), and the weather is somewhat more favourable. This means that just like the conditions, your gear should change as well. Keeping your winter MTB setting on your bike is not ideal, and while it will do the job, it certainly won’t make your ride more pleasurable. You need to clean your bike thoroughly, lube it anew and check every component whether it needs changing.
It’s best to give special attention to your suspension, fork and most importantly, your breaks. It would be best to change your brake pads as a whole. Not preparing your bike for the spring won’t affect your riding style much. Still, it will shorten your components’ durability, leading to more extended and more complex repairs down the road.
Change to summer tyres
Speaking of getting ready for the spring, you should note that spring is not summer as well, so putting on the slick tyres or changing to the summer rubber is risky. While there are probably no more snow patches on southern slopes, and the ground might be dry enough to support such a bike setting, the spring season is not particularly known for having prolonged droughts. The soil is still wet enough to become muddy, and even on the southern slopes, there might be some muddy spots in forest sections.
So, while heavily spiked tyres may be a bit overkill, some mild mud tyres are a must, even if there were several sunny days in a row. Your speed may suffer a bit, but at least you will stay on your wheels and not on your shoulders, head, neck or another part of your body that’s not recommended to be on the ground while moving. If you only have summer and winter tyres, the better bet would be to go with the winter ones, at least for the first three-quarters of the spring.
Over-trusting the weather forecast
Trusting the weather forecast during the spring months is like trusting a stargazer to tell you whether you should put your life savings on 38 red in a roulette game (which, by the way, has only 37 fields). At this point, it would be much better to just try to read the clouds themselves and decide if it’s OK to go for a ride. Spring is like that – it changes its opinion in a matter of hours. The morning could be chilly. At noon, it could be like summer, and just a couple of hours later, it could be snowing. Yes, this is the spoilt child among the seasons, and unfortunately, we have to deal with it.
This means you need to be prepared for all weather. Don’t go on too long mountain bikepacking trips, especially if you are new to the sport. Even if in the city the temperature is warm, in the mountain the weather changes rapidly, and it can start snowing just like that. So instead of over-relying on weather forecasts, just dress in layers and be prepared to retreat as fast as you can in the event of a surprise thunderstorm.
While we are on how to dress, a common mistake many MTB riders make is to dress lightly when they see the sun outside. As mentioned above, the weather in the mountains is very tricky during the spring months, and it can change from good to bad in a matter of minutes. So, dressing in your favourite shorts and putting on a light shirt, as if you’ll be riding under the scorching sun, is one thing you should avoid at all costs. Instead, it’s a good idea to take a waterproof jacket, some light blouses and a change of clothes to keep in the car for after the ride. That’s generally a good idea since you will probably be all muddy. Making this mistake may have some dire consequences for your health, so don’t be stubborn.
Going blind on a trail you already know
Even if you know a trail like the back of your hand, don’t rush down on it after the winter. That’s one mistake that usually ends up in the hospital since, over the winter, the trail might have changed drastically. Of course, if it is a paid bike park, the track is probably maintained. Nonetheless, you should be aware that there might be some changes. In the wild, paths change all the time during the winter. There might be fallen trees, landslides, fallen rocks or the water might have eroded the trail into a ditch.
Before you speed down any trail after the winter season, be sure to make one slow descent to make sure everything is in order and make a mental note of all the dangers ahead. This will save you a lot of headaches – proverbial and literal.
Push yourself from the first ride
This is one mistake even experienced riders make all the time. Thinking you haven’t lost any of your stamina while lazing around all winter is just laughable. Still, even if you haven’t stayed on your couch over the snowy months and you kept riding the trails, you still have lost some of your endurance. It’s not a great idea to start your season with a lengthy overcomplicated ride with lots of climbs. Instead, make your first ride a bit more relaxing. Enjoy yourself for a while. There will be time to push yourself past your limits and achieve new records on Strava.
Most importantly, try to enjoy the rides as much as possible. It’s the start of the season we’ve been all waiting for, and avoiding mistakes is the cornerstone behind having one truly inspiring season filled with MTB bliss. See you on the trails.