Depending on where you live, winter will mean different things to bike riders. In warmer climes where snow and salt are not factors, it may mean little more than a change in attire. But for riders who have varying amounts of snow, ice, and rain to deal with, winter is something that will require some bike prep.
What’s Right for You
Obviously, you will be the best judge of what your winter riding conditions are like. But you should also consider how you will be using your bike over the colder months.
If you have to deal with snow, for example, and your bike is your primary mode of transportation, you may need to identify alternative routes of travel that are frequently plowed and less likely to accumulate snow and ice.
On the other hand, if you ride a mountain bike, you may actually be looking forward to riding in the snow, and will remain undaunted until the inches of powder start piling up.
Or, it may just be best for you to switch to alternative transit for a few months and put your baby to bed for the winter.
Let’s look at both scenarios.
Snow Big Deal
If you’re determined to ride out the winter on your saddle, then it’s a good idea to prepare for whatever nature’s planning to throw at you.
You should probably start by adding some clip-on fenders to keep on-road moisture on the road and off of you. The great thing about clip-ons is that they are easy to remove to knock off or wash off any snow or mud that might accumulate.
Another key item you may need, or need to upgrade are lights. The winter days are short, and the likelihood that you’ll be riding in limited visibility conditions is very high. Make sure you stay visible on the road no matter how poor visibility becomes.
One of the most important items to consider is your tires. Are they capable of handling snow and ice? Not only are many types of road tires incapable of riding safely in poor weather, but this is also the worst time of year to have bald tires for ANY vehicle. Check to be sure that your tires are able to respect the winter.
You may also want to think about your saddle, which will likely be stiffer in cold weather, and your grips, which may be less “grippy” when you throw gloves into the mix. But for the most part, the biggest challenges of riding in wet, wintry weather (that aren’t safety-related) come from keeping your bike CLEAN.
For this, you may want to pick up a can of cooking spray. Apply it to your (clean) bike frame and cleats, making sure to NOT get any on your brake pads or rotors. This will provide a light, “quick release” barrier between road grime and your bike, making it easier to wash it down after a ride. Because, let’s face it, you’re going to need to wash your bike A LOT during the winter.
You will also need to clean and oil your chain regularly. It may be a good time to invest in a chain cleaning kit to help you accomplish this quickly.
It’s probably a good idea to think about how you will wash your bike down, and where you will store it when you are not riding it. Obviously, you don’t want to expose it to the elements, but you also don’t want it making your home all wet and dirty.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that it’s easy to neglect regular annual maintenance when you’re riding your bike year-round. Don’t be that rider. One of the best arguments for putting your bike away for the winter is that it gives you a great opportunity to keep your regular maintenance on schedule.
Putting Your Bike to Bed
If riding in the winter isn’t for you, then here’s a quick guide to putting your bike away for a few months.
First, remove any electronics or other accessories. Store your electronics in a plastic bag and stash them and other accessories (like water bottles) somewhere safe inside your home. This is especially important if you will be keeping your bike in an environment that isn’t climate-controlled, such as a garage or shed.
Next, thoroughly clean your bike. You don’t want whatever’s on it to sit there for months. At worst, any grime may cause corrosion, and at best, it will become much harder to clean later on.
Third, get a full tune-up now. If you are just storing your bike, it will remain “tuned” until you need it next, and you’ll be able to avoid the big rush of riders trying to get their bikes tuned in the spring. This also gives you plenty of time to order new bearings or other worn parts that you may need to replace.
If you choose not to do the full tune up then make sure you at least do the next two steps below.
Fourth, make sure your tires are fully aired up. You should actually check your tires occasionally during storage to make sure they still have plenty of air, and aren’t flattening due to slow leaks or changes in temperature. Leaving your tires flat for a few months is the best way to ruin them.
Finally, lubricate your chain and cables. During storage, lubrication will be your only protection against corrosion for these crucial parts. If you fail to lubricate them, you should expect them to be stiff or sticky when you’re ready to ride in the spring.
Treat Your Bike Right
Whether you choose to ride or to store your bike for the winter, proper care and maintenance will help you keep your bike riding optimally and help you get the most out of it.