Moab is not known for its winter season but it can be a great time for outdoor recreation and cycling —if conditions permit and you make necessary preparations. Most Moab winters see fairly cold overnight temperatures, but mid-day highs can often climb into the 40’s or higher.
The biggest factor that can impede winter biking in Moab is snow cover. Some years have seen snow on the ground that sticks around for a month or more. But many winters are very dry, with few if any “snow cover” days.
For those with the right mental attitude and solid cold weather gear, Moab’s 150 miles of singletrack are wide open during the off season. If that sounds attractive, here are a few tips for riding Moab’s off-season.
Protect Your Extremities
- Hands: Bring at least two pairs of gloves. If one pair gets soaked with sweat, you’ll have a second pair. The hands are the most vulnerable to wind chill.
- Head: Your helmet is designed for cooling. Buy a thin-fabric stocking cap to wear under your helmet. Most stocking caps are too bulky to fit under your helmet or will be too warm. Having this extra warmth on your head is key, but you also don’t want it too warm or you’ll be shedding it mid-ride. And, on super cold or windy days, consider a balaclava face warmer.
Pro Tip — When dressing in the morning, after you put on your socks, wrap some thin plastic wrap, or even the corner of a plastic shopping bag, over your toes. Then put on your mountain biking shoes. This extra layer of wind resistance will keep your toes from freezing.
Upper Body: Employ Layers! Start with a thin, wicking layer with long sleeves (merino wool is excellent). Add a medium weight long sleeve layer like a 1 /4 zip poly fleece pullover. Wear a wind-breaking outer layer with some insulation like a soft shell jacket.
Lower Body: Knickers with knee socks are an excellent choice. Depending on temperature and wind expected, full length tights might be appropriate. Some riders prefer leg warmers to full length tights for better flexibility.
Start Uphill: When possible, plan your ride to put the majority of the climbing at the beginning, in order to build up body heat.
Remember to Drink Water: Even though the temperatures are cold, the air is still super dry! It’s easy to forget to drink enough when riding in winter. If it’s below freezing, hydration tubes might become iced up so consider an insulated water bottle inside your backpack.
Know Your Limits: For some folks, this is a no-brainer, but for others, it will pay to be aware of the extra toll the low temps take on your body and to perhaps shorten your ride. Also, be aware of the potential for ice on north-facing slopes, where the sun fails to shine.
And if cold weather riding isn’t your thing, consider, as an alternative, one of these options, from Rim Tours, Moab’s Original Mountain Bike Outfitter.