Winter cycling is possible with careful planning to make sure you have the right bike, ready to ride in the cold weather. Here is a complete guide to help you get your bike ready for winter.
Choose the Right Bike for Winter
First, choose the right bike. Don’t use an expensive road bike that you plan to use in criteriums or races. It will just be destroyed. Steel bikes are especially vulnerable to damage from wet conditions. Use an older bike, properly kitted out with fenders and lights. Fat bikes are also an excellent choice, thanks to their chunky tires and wheels – as you can see in this video:
Of course, cycling in these conditions leads to a lot of maintenance work to clean all the moving parts of your bike. A single speed might be a good choice, if your commute does not have serious hills, as there are fewer moving parts to get clogged with mud and snow. Alternatively, consider getting an internal geared hub.
Internal geared hubs: If you can afford one, these are great for safe winter cycling. The moving parts of the gears are inside the hub, so they are not impacted by winter’s harsh elements – keeping you safer and saving a lot of back-breaking maintenance. Unless you are super handy, your best bet is usually to consult with your local bike shop about your options.
Make Sure All of your Bike Parts are Suitable for Winter Cycling
Tire Rims: Aluminum rims are better, as steel rims ice-up more quickly and don’t brake as well as aluminum.
Brakes: Brake pads with curves in them are better in muddy and wet conditions. Of course, disc brakes are ideal for winter cycling. Bottom line though is to have good brakes and maintain them well.
Fenders: Fenders are essential for winter cycling – no one wants water or ice squirting up their back! They must be full wraparound. They should not be too close-fitting, as they can clog up with mud, slush, ice, and snow. Did you know you can get clip-on fenders?
Tires: Inflate your tires a little less than you would in summer to improve traction.
Pedals: Because boots are best for winter cycling, get some platform pedals with aggressive treads for good grip in all conditions. A solid connection between your boots and pedals will go a long way towards keeping you safe as you cycle in winter.
Use the Right Tires for Winter Cycling
Studs: Consider investing in carbide-studded tires. On the one hand, no matter what you do, you will still be on skinny tires compared to cars. But some cyclists swear by studded tires. Studded tires may have between 100 and 300 studs, depending on price. If you can only afford one studded tire, make it the FRONT one, as this one is the key to staying upright in slippery conditions. You can also consider low-pressure knobby tires. Some seasoned winter riders use hardened steel spikes and a wide tread pattern.
Bike Maintenance for Winter Cycling
Service your bike to make sure it is in perfect shape before you venture out to cycle in the winter. Do it yourself if you can, if not, take it into a bike store. It should cost less than $50, and it will be the best money you spend this winter!
Truly dedicated cyclists might want to wax the underside of their bike frame with car wax to resist mud, snow and slush build-up. It sounds extreme, but it only takes a few minutes and is well worth the effort. And bike wax is CHEAP!
Here’s a video about waxing your bike to protect it:
Also, once a week, take a rust-resistant aerosol lube and spray all drainage holes and the seat post hole. This will prevent water from freezing inside your frame. Give most of your bike’s moving parts a blast of the same lube. A good one is Sunlite Lube.
At least once a week (but preferably after each ride), give your bike a rinse and wipe-down to remove dirt, salt and grit. Pay special attention to the chain, gears, brakes and wheel rims. Then dry it all off carefully. Paper towels can work well for this.
Related: How to Clean Your Bike
Ride safely and stay warm!
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