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Riding the Welsh MTB trails in autumn – The Cognation guide to happy riding

Posted: 1 November 2013

So autumn is well and truly here and without getting you all too depressed this means rain (LOTS of rain it seems!) and dark nights but once again we’re here to save you. This blog will stop you from deciding to put your bike away till spring and keep you riding and might also help you stay on your bike when the conditions get ‘challenging’.

muddy mountain biker at bikepark wales
Bikepark Wales - storm weekend! With the Garw Valley MTB club. Picture kindly provided by Ian Davies

Night riding

Some of us can’t wait for the weekend or have to go and visit our Gran or something so that means we need to ride after work and that means one thing… night riding. Here’s what you need to know. Words from Ben at the Afan Valley Bike Shed:

“One of the best things about night riding is the difference it makes to riding a trail you've ridden a hundred times in daylight. When you ride at night, that trail you've ridden over and over feels faster and much more exciting. Best pieces of advice I can give regarding lights is to wear two, one on your bars and one on your helmet and to buy the most lumens and longest battery life you can afford. Also, ride with friends for safety as it wont be fun if you crash by yourself at night. We'll be starting our night rides as soon as the new Penhydd trail opens in Afan and will have a selection of lights to hire or buy.”

Autumn riding skills

Wet muddy conditions can be quite daunting for even the most experienced riders but following a few simple tips can help you navigate any terrain.

  • Firstly it is essential to stay loose on the bike making no sudden and exaggerated movements that will need further correction on the trail.
  • Make sure you let the bike do the majority of the work and use it to its full potential, there is little need on wet trails to add any extra force as normally you will be riding slower than the dry.
  • Keep your knees out to aid your balance and help keep you riding position relaxed
  • Try and maintain as much momentum as possible by pulling up and pumping the bike to help if you encounter any standing water or mega puddles, this will also help over wet roots and rocks if you do make a mistake as you will still be rolling to correct it later down the trail.
  • Stay off you brakes as much as possible and plan you braking as far ahead as you can so the tyres can concentrate on gripping in the corners not dealing with sharp braking inputs
This section was kindly written by Don Skene Cycles of Cardiff

Tyre choice
Maybe it just becomes more urgent this time of the year, but tyre choice seems to have loomed back into the forefront of peoples’ minds.So with the weather and specifically some of the local riding in mind we thought we’d go through some of our favourites.

The three brands we find to prove themselves time and time again are Maxxis, Specialized and Schwalbe.

3 tyre choices for mountain biking the Cognation South Wales Mountain Biking Trails
3 tyre choices for mountain biking the Cognation South Wales mountain biking trails in autumn

We’ll start with Specialized and the tyre that we rate when the rain becomes a prominent feature of riding. The Storm tyre doesn’t fail to hook up in South Wales and is a nice confidence-inspiring tyre.

Maxxis, reliably as ever, have their Highroller II, proving to be a tyre not to be ignored whatever the local trails have to offer. They don’t stand to slow you down to a snails pace or stop you getting your drift on, but do feel sure-footed when needed.

Schwalbe come in with their Hans Dampf tyre that, in the Evo Pacestar configuration, has proven to be a winner all-round. Be it bike park use or long winding trails on loose stuff the tyre seems to be comfortable on it all.

These three tyres have been the tyres that we sell consistently and get great feedback from all ability levels, riding styles and preferred conditions. All available in store now.

Kindly written by Sam Price-Hunt of Wheelies Bike Shop in Swansea

Coping with the rain!

7 tips for how to DRESS in Autumn/Winter for happy MTBing! – Tips kindly provided by The Bicycle Doctor in Porth, Rhondda

  1. WATERPROOF SHOES – If you can afford them get them! Nothing worse than cold feet on a long ride! Northwave and Shimano make some excellent waterproof shoes that will keep your feet warm and toastie!
  2. WINTER GLOVES! Make sure these are not to bulky as this will give you arm pump. A good waterproof material is essential
  3. SKULL CAP! For the cold winter nights especially if you haven't got much hair up there!
  4. WATERPROOF AND BREATHABLE JACKET! Don't fooled by some jackets that claim to be waterproof! Breathability is just as important! Get the best you can afford. Some things to look out for are drop tail that covers your rear end, Hood is always handy, and Zipper Vents under the arms
  5. KNEE WARMERS! Keep your joints and Leg Muscles warm in the cold and help prevent injuries.
  6. BASE LAYER! One of the most important pieces! A good base layer will wick the sweat from next to your skin and prevent you from getting cold after a good climb!
  7. CLEAR GLASSES! Keep your Vision clear and protect your eyes from the elements. Try and go for glasses you can change the lens that way you can use them all year round!

Suzy from Reg Braddick Cycles, Cardiff also gives her take on clothing choice as a girl who doesn't like to be cold:

“The right clothing is essential for winter mountain biking in Wales. The weather can and will change several times during one ride. Wet feet will make you miserable and cold instantly so look to invest in waterproof socks, shoe covers or goretex boots and keep the water out. Always layer up so you can adapt as you go. A quality base layer is a must as a starting point, consider merino wool for the coldest days, use your normal jerseys in the middle and finish with a breathable waterproof jacket. Most of all enjoy it, winter riding is great fun.”

Here's some more photos from our Cognation Facebook Page, many thanks to those that submitted them… the muddier the better we say!

 Click the pictures for details
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