Why Winter Ride?
Cycling to in the winter can be a daunting task. Not only do you have to layer up to stay warm, the conditions are slippery, and finding a safe place to ride can be difficult. However, winter riding can be offer a very rewarding experience. You will feel more involved in your daily commute, feel your heart pump as you get great exercise, and save money as well as the environment! To begin, some may want to start slowly. Combining your trip with public transportation can ease some of the burden. You may also try driving half way to work, parking, then riding the rest of the way there. For tips on how to stay warm, check out our Winter Warming Guide!
Before You Ride
Preparation is key for Winter rides. Consider upgrading for the weather by outfitting your bike with fenders, lights, reflectors, and possibly some aggressive tread tires. Another important thing to keep in mind is the condition of your bike, heading into the winter. A tune up before the season will assure you are off on the right foot.
Well functioning brakes and shifters is important when the weather turns for the worse. Sometimes it helps to set your tires to a lower PSI than usual to improve grip. Throughout the winter, water can easily find it's way into your cables, potentially rusting. This will cause major braking and shifting issues. Replacing cables is relatively inexpensive, and are readily available at any local bicycle shop. Another option to consider is riding a single speed bicycle, or an internally geared hub that is unexposed to the elements.
While You Ride
When on your bike there are a few important things to pay attention to. Gears can get filled with slush, and unfortunately there's little that can be done other than knocking as much as you can off of it, and waiting for the rest to melt. Another important thing to pay attention to is your hydration and calorie intake. It's easy to forget that you are dehydrating when it's cold, but cold weather is just as effective at exhausting your body as warm weather. Make sure to bring lots of water, eat a meal before you ride, and bring a couple small snacks in case you need some more fuel.
Trails can be a lot of fun in the snow, especially with a fat tire bike. Trails also tend to be slightly safer than riding the roads, because there is no traffic. Typically snow piles up on the side of the road, where cyclists are normally expected to ride. Debris and slush are pushed to the shoulders and pile up, often becoming icy and slick. When this happens, don't be afraid find the driest spot in the lane and hold your position. Generally cars will give you more space in the winter, so ride where you feel the most safe. Never compromise your own safety for anyone else's convenience.
After You Ride / Storage
The first thing you should do after riding is to wipe off any moisture. Knock the snow off and take a rag to soak up all the water to avoid rusting. The colder and wetter the weather is, the more important it is to clean and check your bicycle's lubrication, as the lube will dry out faster.
When storing your bicycle, try to find a dry area with a constant temperature. Somewhere moist and temperature variable like an attic may cause slow erosion of parts. Hanging the bike allows the weight to be off the tires, to avoid flats. Buying a professional bike cover can also help prevent moisture, dust, and other contaminants from reaching your bike.
Only the most dedicated riders pedal outside all year long. Winter riding is challenging, however it is also great exercise that is very rewarding. Every winter, review the tips and tricks you learned in this article. Keeping your bike dry, servicing it regularly, and knowing how to stay safe while riding are the key. Apply these tips to your own cycling habits, and you will have a safe and successful winter riding season! Don't forget to visit your local bike shop if you ever have any questions.