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A few tips to make sure you have the smoothest, safest ride possible all winter.
Alright we said it, “winter.” Winter is coming. Though the leaves may still be a brilliant orange in some places, in others they’ve long since fallen and chilly residents are pulling their collars up against a biting wind. With the right gear and the right attitude, winter riding can be a (cool) breeze, but is it that easy for your bike as well?
Maintaining your bicycle properly through the winter is crucial to having a safe and enjoyable season. With salt, snow, slush, and various debris on the roads, your bicycle is going to need a lot more attention than it does through the summer to stay in top working order. And it’s going to take a little more work to keep your bike storage spot clean as well when all that snow melts off your tires. Here are a few quick tips and tricks on how to maintain your bicycle through winter so your ride stays happy and your place stays clean.
A minimalist fixie is a fun, zippy ride through the breezy of days of summer, but you’re going to need weigh that thing down with some brakes and fenders to make it through the winter in one relatively clean piece. Give your bike one thorough tune-up before winter really begins to make sure you’re starting out on the right foot (or should we say wheel), and make sure you’re outfitted with fenders, a good set of lights and reflectors, and well-working brakes and shifters.
It’s worth replacing your brake and shifter cables at the onset of winter, as water can get into the cable housing and reduce your braking and shifting performance over time. Cables are fairly inexpensive and available at any bike shop, and changing them somewhat regularly – but especially heading into winter – is a good idea. You can fill your cable housing with grease to prevent water and grime from finding its way in.
I know that seems like a lot, but put it this way, being diligent from the get-go is going to save you from requiring a professional tune-up (or a new crankset) once all the gunk of winter builds up and clogs your gears. Once a week, thoroughly clean your chain with a chain solvent such as Simple Green and a chain scrubber, available at most bike shops for $10 – $15. If you don’t have or don’t want a chain scrubber, an old toothbrush will do. If you don’t have or don’t want chain solvent, warm water and any degreasing dishsoap will do. Fenders also come in handy here as they not only eliminate the stripe up your back, they help keep your bike protected from road grime and slow down the build up of dirt. The right fenders do a great job stopping road shlock from being kicked up into your chain, bottom bracket, and drive train. Look for a set that has a mud flap.
When cleaning make sure to get into the hard-to-reach areas between the cogs to get stubborn bits of grease that will have picked up road grime. If you really want to get into it and have some time, you can take the chain off and soak it in solvent, but a good scrub usually does the trick. Once it’s all fresh and clean, re-grease the chain with an oil-based lubricant and shift through the gears.
All of this is going to be a lot easier to do if your bike is lifted. Feedback Sports has work stands for home and professional use ranging from $129.99 to $284 USD. If you don’t want to spring for the work stand, you can also double up on bike storage with any of their bike columns or racks, and work gently with the bike on the rack.
Every. Single. Time. You wouldn’t come home from a day at the pool and throw a wet bathing suit back in your drawer, so don’t put a wet bicycle in your hallway. Just keep an old towel where you store your bike and make it a necessary part of your homecoming ritual. Wipe the frame, rims, spokes, chainrings, cogset, chain, brake cables, and cranks to prevent rusting and stem the tide of water trickling down your hallway as the snow melts.
Your bicycle and your floors will thank you.
Brake pads wear out much more quickly in wet, grimy conditions than they do in the summer, so it’s worth checking them with some regularity to make sure they’re not disappearing altogether. Most brake pads have a wear line indicator which you want to ensure you don’t go below. Use your handy old toothbrush to get between the brake blocks and rims to remove any bits of grime which might be stuck in there.
If you didn’t replace your brake cables and you find your brakes aren’t working very well as you move through winter, taking them out, cleaning them and re-greasing them will go a long way to breathe new life into tired cables.
Seriously, despite requiring that bit of extra effort, winter riding is really a blast. Stay warm, ride safely, and have fun!
You love your bike. Feedback Sports can help you keep it clean and happy until your next ride. From wash and work stands to bike storage, they’ve got you covered. Check out their sleek, yet functional products and you’ll feel like you have your very own bike shop right at home…only without the neon “open” sign (although technically, you COULD roll that way…).