5 Tips for Winter Biking

Photo by Jena Karmali

Maintain Your Hardware

1) Grease moving parts at least once a week. Be sure to put a few drops on your chain, as well as some on your brake levers, brake calipers, shifters, and derailleurs where the cable attaches. Be careful not to get grease on your brake pads —it’ll reduce your braking power. If this does happen, clean the brake pads with rubbing alcohol.

Park It In The Driveway

2) Leave your bike outside. The salt on the roads will cause rust much faster if you constantly bring your bike from your warm apartment out onto the cold street and vice versa, because the metal will expand and contract, allowing the salt to work its way in.

DIY De-Icing

3) Carry a lighter or alcohol-based hand sanitizer to defrost your lock. If water gets into the lock mechanism, you need a way to get the ice out and your key in.

Photo by Jaime-Kristal Lott

Be a Wind Warrior

4) Dress appropriately. You’ll sweat, so you can wear less than you’d need to if you were just standing around at a bus stop, but you’ll be moving faster, so you need to protect yourself from the wind. The combination of ski goggles, a toque, and a face mask works well.  Rain pants made from a breathable material are a good idea too, because there’s a lot of crud on the ground at this time of year.

Choose Your Ride Wisely

5) Ride a single-speed or a fixed-gear; the less moving parts the bike has, the less you need to maintain.  A single-speed bike has one chainring at the front and one cog at the back. The cog is attached to a freewheel, allowing you to coast. Even better for winter, however, is a fixed-gear, where the cog has no freewheel and is instead directly connected to the rear hub, which means that as long as the wheel is turning, the pedals are turning.

One benefit is that you can slow down by resisting the forward motion of the pedals with your legs if your brakes get jammed up with snow or ice. Additionally, you are directly connected to the rear wheel, which gives you better traction in the snow.  That said, it takes a while to learn to ride a fixed-gear, because you can’t coast, so practice on a quiet street. On the plus side, if you fall, snow is soft!

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