Winter cycling is fun and it definitively separates hard-core cyclists from chickens. To enjoy riding when the temperature drops below zero, you not only need to be fit but also have your bike ready to plough the snowy streets. If you don’t want to lose a big part of your cycling year just because the outside conditions are way too arctic, this article may help you to get your bike into good winter shape.
Prepare it in advance
Prevention is better than cure. The main issue in winter is not possible corrosion of the frame, but dirt, slush and corrosion making brakes, cables, derailleurs and other moving parts stick. Mating surfaces such as seat post, stem or bottom bracket cups should be greased or treated with anti-seize compound before the winter season starts so they don’t rust together.
Keep it clean
There are two unavoidable facts about winter riding – your bike will get dirty, and it will not like it. All those moving parts suffer from being exposed to salty, wet roads. If left uncared for, the salt will begin to corrode and rust your nice bike. It’s surprising how quickly a chain can turn orange in winter. A good old-fashioned bucket of soap and water will do the job too, but there are plenty of bike-specific cleaning products on the market to help you a lot better. A degreaser and chain bath will make short work of mucky components. If you don’t have a garage and you don’t want to wash your bike in the shower, you may want to try some of the NoH2O cleaning products.
Lubricate the chain
In the winter months, it’s advisable to clean and lube your chain ideally after every ride depending on where you have been riding. Use a rag to dry off your chain and the spaces between the cogs on your rear cassette, then spray some lube onto the chain, turn the pedals and as you do so change up and down your rear gears allowing the chain to move up and down the cassette distributing the spray. Wipe off any excess with a cloth.
Put the winter tyres on
The roads in winter are wetter, dirtier and hold a lot more debris than any other time of the year, which can turn your ride into a nightmare. Winter-specific tyres will typically be a little heavier and have a higher rolling resistance than tyres more typically used for summer riding but in return, they’re likely to be more durable and offer increased puncture resistance. Preferred tyre width depends on conditions. Narrow tyres carve into soft, new snow and rest on the surface underneath. Wider tyres ride on top of packed snow and are less likely to be diverted by an uneven surface.
Love them or hate them, mudguards are a winter riding essential. They’ll keep your bum, lower legs and feet dry making things more comfortable for you. And if you’re riding in a group, they’re important to protect your riding buddies from the cold and dirty water sprayed from your tyres.
Keep the lights on throughout the season
Darker nights make for a more dangerous commute. But, with increasingly innovative bike lights on the market, there’s no excuse not to stay safe. It’s recommended to keep them on your bike throughout the winter for a good visibility even in the middle of the day. Even if you’re unlikely to ride when it’s dark, a small set of emergency lights is a worthwhile investment to get you out of trouble when necessary.