Shoulder Season Slump

moody forest mountain bike
moody forest
Shoulder season in British Columbia. Photo: Steve Storey

In the fall short days make for long nights, and low temperatures. Not an ideal combination of conditions for mountain bikers. The end of the summer is often punctuated with an autumnal exuberance that has us exclaiming, ALL TIME FALL TIME.

Bikes and bodies are tired, but the summer days that came before have formed a bond so strong between body and bike that they navigate terrain as a single entity. And then like a worn-out hub bearing, the season comes to a grinding halt. The days are too damn short, conditions on the trails start to get sketchy, and the snow line starts to creep down the mountains. Some riders persevere and dig deep for the motivation to travel to more temperate climates. Some live in climates where the riding season never ends. Some accept the end of the season and retire the whip until longer days return. The shoulder season is a transitional period that gives us time to look back on the past season’s riding adventures, while simultaneously getting stoked for the winter shred that lies ahead. 

In this transitory period, known to most riders as the shoulder season, we spend our time in different ways. Our levels of OCD ebb and flow as does our motivation to get out and ride or do something other than succumb to the natural urge to hibernate.

The thought of washing a sloppy bike after a wet ride combined with a short, often cold and wet, window of opportunity is usually enough of a hindrance to significantly reduce the number of weekly rides. So why not spend the time cleaning your bike and addressing some nagging mechanical and maintenance issues? Well, that also depends on OCD levels and motivation. Because, let’s be honest, as soon as you finish washing your bike and put it back together, even though it’s late October or even November, the sun will pop, and so will the message alerts. “Trails are running so good right now”, “Road trip to Coast Gravity?” And then we’re faced with a choice: go ride knowing all that cleaning and maintenance will need doing again, or, decline the invitation to ride and deal with the inevitable FOMO.  Realistically, at this juncture there are 3 options: 1. Go ride, come home, clean your bike, inspect it and perform the maintenance it deserves. 2. Go ride, come home, delay cleaning your bike until it gets so cold your hose freezes, and you completely forget about it until the spring. 3. Select option one or two, and then go for a gravel bike ride.

For the sake of this article, let’s pretend we are responsible bike owners and we opt to clean, inspect, and maintain our bike(s). Cleaning your bikes is a lot easier with the addition of a couple tools. A bike stand, a variety of brushes and cleaning solutions, and a hose with an adjustable nozzle go a long way. If you’re still recovering from the cost of riding a high performance bike multiple times a week and trying to save up to pay off your ski season’s pass, a bucket, an old toothbrush or dish scrubby, some cut up t shirts and a bit of laundry detergent will get you where you need to go. Fun Fact: if your bike has been wrapped with RideWrap, the low surface energy and hydrophobic properties of the film will help shed the dirt and speed up your cleaning job.

Start inspecting the bike and take note of the small parts that are either worn out or nearly worn out. Take the time to do that brake bleed you first thought about doing in August, but subsequently forgot about because vert doesn’t bag itself. Replace grips, brake pads, and tires or any of those other things that will surely come back to haunt you in the spring.  Strip down your bike and check out all your bearings.

Headset, bottom bracket, linkage, hubs, all these bearings get shit-kicked in a season of riding. If they’re rolling rough, do your best to replace them or have a shop take care of replacing them if the process requires special tools. Inspect the frame from heatube to drop-out. Look for damage/, scratches, or pieces of RideWrap that are worn. RideWrap is a wear part that takes the majority of the abuse so your bike frame keeps looking its freshest. You can purchase and replace individual parts of your RideWrap kit that are in high wear areas.  Contact our customer support team to place an order for the specific pieces of your kit you’d like to replace.

Once your new pieces arrive, use heat to warm the existing film before removal. This heat will soften the adhesive. Don’t rip off the kit like a band-aid, slowly peel it back. If there are places where the frame has been damaged, be extra cautious when removing the film in these areas. Apply your new pieces and start rebuilding your bike. We’re not trying to tell you how to live your life, or cast shade on the way you treat your bike, these are aspirational suggestions. For a lot of people, giving a mountain bike the meticulous attention it deserves to operate at its peak is as much fun as riding the damn thing. For others we do our best to keep the wheels rolling so we can maximize our time on trail berm-slapping and high-fiving.  All that to say, a little love goes a long way in the shoulder season.