Winterizing your bike takes a bit of preparation, but it will greatly increase efficiency and comfort. Follow these steps to ensure that your bike makes it to spring:
- Add fenders. Your backside, and anyone who happens to ride behind you, will thank you for it.
- Install puncture-resistant tires and tubes. Changing flats can be very difficult with frozen fingers!
- Have your brake pads inspected to ensure that your pads are thick enough to last a while. Gritty roads will wear brake pads down quickly, so check them often.
- Invest in a heavier lube for your chain. DO NOT use WD-40, as it’s actually a solvent, which will leave your chain bone-dry and susceptible to rust.
- If you ride a non-carbon-framed bike (steel, aluminum, titanium, etc.), make sure that the seat tube, head tube, fork, headset and bottom bracket are properly lubricated to keep rust and galvanic bonding from setting in.
Handle With Care
Rain, leaves, ice and snow all make for slick riding surfaces. The key is to stay relaxed: Avoiding tense arms and shoulders will help you react quicker and more fluidly to unexpected occurrences on the road. When negotiating wet or icy streets and trails, take extra care to slow down on descents and corners, and shift your weight back when braking to prevent the rear tire from losing traction. Allow more distance for braking and realize that cars and trucks must do the same. Invest in a helmet- or handlebar-mounted mirror to keep an eye on what’s behind you. On thawing days, beware of shadowed portions of the road; it’s likely that black ice may be lurking there.
| || | 1 If your bike frame is made of steel, paint over any nicks or chips to prevent rust. Clear nail polish works like a charm for this. 2 Depending upon where you live, there may be salt residue on the road from snow melting sprays. In such cases, it is even more critical to clean and re-lube your chain after every ride. 3 If you use clipless pedals, spray them with a Teflon-based lubricant to keep dirt or snow from clogging them up. 4 Carry a soft cloth or undershirt to wipe glasses. Rinse lenses with water to clear abrasive debris before you wipe them dry. 5 Chemical heat packs used by hunters and skiers work just as well for cyclists; use them in gloves and shoes. 6 Pre-open energy bars and place them in the pocket of an inner layer close to your body; they’ll be protected from the cold and easier to chew. 7 If your feet get cold, stop and walk for a while until they warm up. If this doesn’t work, cut the ride short and call for a ride. Don’t try to tough it out on this one.
After each ride on rainy or wet streets, lightly spray down your bike with a hose and dry it with an old towel. Be careful not to spray the chain, brakes or derailleurs too forcefully. Doing so can drive oil and grease out of working parts. Wipe down the bike and apply a fresh layer of lube to your chain and derailleur/brake pivot points. Once winter is over, have your bike tuned up: repack bearings, install lighter tires, replace the chain and check cables, bottle cages and other parts that winter cold might have stressed or cracked.
Dress Warm Like Your Mother Taught You
The right clothing mix can make all the difference between an exhilarating winter ride and a deep-freeze torture session. Wear multiple layers of clothing with breathable, wicking fibers to help keep perspiration away from the body. Select clothing that blocks wind from the front, but vents under the arms or through a back flap. This prevents sweat from dampening your clothes and making you colder. Multiple zippers on multiple layers of clothing allow for different levels of venting, providing more precise temperature adjustment.
Your outer layer should be as bright and reflective as possible. If there was ever a time for neon, winter is it. Depending upon the climate in which you live, the best outer layer could consist of a wind jacket that fits over other layers, or a light vest that you wear over a jersey. Arm-, leg- and knee-warmers provide flexible outer layer options, as they are easy to remove and stash in a pocket should outside temperatures increase.
No matter how well you insulate your body, if your fingers and toes are cold, you’re in trouble. Never skimp on gloves; look for a pair that will block cold and moisture from your fingers and knuckles, yet aren’t so bulky that you can’t operate your shifters or brake levers. Invest in booties or toe covers to protect your shoes and block the wind. Wear a thin hat, skull cap or balaclava under your helmet and over your ears, taking care that you can still hear traffic. If an extra layer doesn’t fit, try using thinner helmet pads.
Though the sun may not be out in full force, eye protection from UV rays, road debris, and splatter is as important as in the summer. Shades and shields for winter riding are offered in dark, amber, and clear lenses, and can be easily swapped-out to accommodate various light levels.
While colder temperatures may not make you feel like gulping down lots of water, staying properly hydrated and consuming adequate nutrition are just as important during colder rides as in the heat. Regardless of the outside temperature, your body is still burning calories and losing fluids which need to be replaced if you want to maintain your energy. Be sure to carry water bottles and enough food to fuel your time on the bike. Insulated-style bottles are ideal for keeping contents in a liquid state when you’re riding in sub-freezing temperatures. If your route allows for it, stop for a hot cup of tea along the way to warm yourself from the inside out. Stay away from coffee or hot cocoa, which may upset your stomach.