Cycling in the winter can be exhilarating and fun, but many of us shy away from it because of the cold temperatures and potentially treacherous road conditions. So how do those riders do it? You know what I’m talking about: the ones you see commuting back and forth to work every day in the 20-30 degree temperatures?
They probably have the right gear, which is critical for riding in this time of year. Not only wearing the proper clothing, but more importantly, setting up your bike properly for the weather. With a little effort and preparation on your part, you can be a winter rider. The following steps will show you how to set up your bike properly for a safe winter ride.
Use good-quality lubricants to thoroughly lubricate your bike. You can use either 30wt oil or thick chain lubricant combined with a little bit of WD40 to help spread it around. This is important because aluminum and steel frames can erode from the inside out, and oxidation can spread from eyelets and braze-ons.
When you’re lubricating your bike, you can make it easier to handle and access all the parts by removing the cranks, wheels, and the bottom bracket. You can then spray or sprinkle the fluid into the tubes, making sure you plug the bottom bracket and seat tube with paper or rags. Next, gently move around the bike to cover the insides. Once the lube has settled in, wipe away the excess.
This is a must. The last thing you want to get is a flat or slip on wet, icy surfaces. In addition to snowy roads, winter brings thorny hedge clippings, sharp icicles and jagged road grit, which can wreak havoc on your tires and cause accidents. It’s worth investing in high-quality tires that are specially designed for winter bike riding in addition to using polyurethane protective strips or slime-filled tubes. Reducing the pressure on the tires can also help provide a bit more traction in icy conditions.
In general, the softer the rubber compound of a tire, the better grip it will have, particularly on wet surfaces. However, soft rubber tires wear out much faster. If you’re aiming for longevity you may want to invest in good-quality tires that are made out of hard rubber.
A good set of lights is crucial in order to keep you riding through the winter, when the days are shorter and drearier. For maximum light in darker environments, you’ll want a total of three lights – two at the front and a third light on the back of the bike. Some riders also wear lights or reflective gear around their ankles to alert motorists to their presence. When you’re looking for lights, you’ll want them with sufficient brightness to be seen from far away (at least 500 lumens).
While this won’t make your ride any safer, it might make it more enjoyable. Applying generous amounts of car wax to your bike, especially in the bottom bracket compartment and below the down tube, will help prevent dirt and grit from getting into your bike parts. Before applying the wax, make sure your bike is clean and finish it off with a polish.
It’s important to get your bike ready from a safety perspective; and it may take some time and effort, but that shouldn’t stop you. It’s worth it to be able to get outside and ride during the winter.
Happy winter riding!
December 21st, 2016
February 22nd, 2017