How to Keep Your Mountain Bike Spares Clean and Dry in Winter
Greg Hilson, Apidura teammate and mud-loving cyclist, shares his tips for keeping your mountain biking gear clean and dry in winter.
As the days grow shorter and colder it quickly becomes less appealing to regularly spend long days in the saddle and consecutive nights sleeping outside. There’s still a time and a place for winter adventures but they require a greater level of planning and commitment and once the clocks change my riding traditionally pivots to a ‘short and often’ approach.
I’m fortunate to live close to an expanse of woods that hold a clandestine network of cross country trails that lack somewhat in elevation and technicality, but have an abundance of mud for several months of the year. A thick, slimy mud that seemingly appears almost overnight once the leaves have started to fall and hangs around long into the following spring.
Many years of enduring this annual ebb and flow means that I’ve had plenty of time to perfect a lightweight setup for short mountain bike rides that I can be confident will keep everything secure, accessible and dry – without being cumbersome or reducing the fun of a short, sharp winter shred. Helpfully, this setup also keeps everything off my body, avoiding excessive wear on my waterproof jacket and pants (thick mud can easily destroy the waterproof coating on clothes when a bit of friction is added into the equation).
Greg's Winter Mountain Biking Pack Choices
With my winter rides being generally much shorter, proper hydration in cooler temperatures is something that can be easily overlooked but I find that a 500ml bottle is enough for a couple of hours of XC shredding.
It fits snugly in my Backcountry Food Pouch Plus, the bungee pulling the cloth closure tight over the cap and ensuring the lid is kept free from the worst of the forest floor that gets thrown up by my front tyre. The mesh pockets on the side of the pouch provide just enough room for a bar or two and make it easy to store the wrappers until you find a bin. It’s also easy to fit a second food pouch on the other side of the stem if you need another bottle or some more space.
An Enduro strap is ideal for racing, or carrying a tube, lever and multitool in the drier months but over winter the gritty mud creates a paste that can make light work of a delicate inner tube, and anything metal turns an interesting shade of orange as it rusts. The geometry of my XC mountain bike means Top Tube Packs attached to the stem get in the way of my knees, so my multitool, levers, a tubeless repair kit are stowed in a Backcountry Rear Top Tube Pack, at the other end of the top tube and attached at the seat post junction. Out of sight and mostly out of mind, the best-case scenario is that the packs contents aren’t required and are promptly ignored for the duration of the ride.
Rounding out my winter setup, the 4L Backcountry Saddle Pack is perfect for storing an inner tube, a high-volume mini pump and an insulated jacket that again is only called upon in the event of a mechanical or a restorative resupply break.
Large capacity Saddle Packs are the classic bikepacking signature product; however, the Backcountry Saddle Pack offers a more compact solution, designed to be compatible with dropper posts. Alongside its low profile which means it doesn’t bottom out on my tire, it’s the only seam welded VX21 pack available, guaranteeing that my stuff stays dry, no matter the conditions.
Now if only we could find a way to develop self-cleaning packs….