There are some seriously tough (and somewhat crazy) cyclists out there that brave the winter weather and ride outside year-round. If you’re one of them, you know slush, salt and general grime can be a big nuisance. Don’t let it take its toll on your bike and don’t let it stop you from riding in the colder months—read on for tips to protect your bike from winter’s wrath.
Before Winter Hits Hard
Taking your bike in to your local shop is the first thing you should do before the wet and cold sets in. They can tune-up your bike and check it over for any potential issues and they can also recommend some important winter gear.
Fenders are a major help in the winter, not only protecting you from the slush and mud on the roads, but shielding some of your bike from the damage too. Lights are far more important in the winter, as it gets dark earlier and poor conditions can make it tough for drivers to spot you. Also, depending on the pedals you use in fair weather, you might choose to switch them out for something more winter friendly—maybe mountain bike pedals?
You might want to consider switching up your tires, either to winter tires or wide tires. Keep in mind the max tire width your frame will accept, but wide tires can be ridden at lower pressures, which many cyclists like for improved grip and a more comfortable ride in the winter. Ultimately, this change is a matter of preference.
Clean, clean, clean—that’s the key. And whenever possible clean immediately after your ride. It may sound like a lot of work to wash your bike after every winter ride but that’s the best way to prevent rust and decay. Plus, all the grime will come off a lot easier when it’s still wet.
Pay special attention to the chain, sprockets, brake pads and wheels. Silicone spray will stop some of the mud and dirt from sticking to the body in the first place (but stay away from the brake pads, those should be free of spray).
How to clean your chain: Dirt, salt and moisture can wear on your chain making it hard to ride, or even ruining the chain entirely. First take a brush and some warm soapy water and remove the grime, wipe dry and apply chain lubricant (wet lube is a good choice for winter riding).
Carefully clean and dry brake pads (and wheels), as well, ensure that there is no greasy cleaning residue left that might impair braking.
The last important tip for protecting your bike in the winter is one that drivers should practice too—be prepared. Winter adds a dangerous element to everyday rides, so it’s especially important to ensure you have everything you need. To start, you might want to carry a lighter (to unfreeze your bike lock), extra batteries, money in case you need to get on a bus or take a cab and a repair kit for when you run over that piece of glass you didn’t see beneath the snow.
Do you have your own tips or routines for protecting your bike from winter weather? Share them below or tweet at us.