Viking Biking: Preparing Your Bike for Winter
The temperature outside drops. While local wildlife takes time in winter to prepare for hibernation, that doesn’t mean you have to do the same with your bike. Many people choose to continue cycling through the winter. As Gil Penalosa from 8-80 Cities has said:
Just as driving habits change in winter, so does cycling. It’s a good idea to do some maintenance preparation before temperatures reach freezing. You might not want to in the cold!
If you have any questions about being active in winter, or need any help with maintenance, visit your local bike shop for advice and service.
Check your brake pads or disc calipers for evenness of wear. If you see any ridges forming, or if they look uneven, they might need adjustment or replacement. When applying the brake lever, brake pads should touch the rim at the same time.
Brake and shifter cables should be free of crimps and cracks. If you find any, consider replacing the cable. Slack on the brake line can be adjusting using the barrel adjuster.
Wheels and Tires
Inspect your wheel rims for dents or scrapes. Spin each wheel to check for wobble. If your brake pads rub when spinning your wheel, your wheel might not be true. You can try adjusting the spokes yourself, or take your bike in for service. Check your tires for correct inflation pressure. Check the tread for cracks, cuts, punctures, uneven wear. Replace your tires if you find any.
Consider reducing the pressure in your tire to slightly above the minimum recommendation. This will help increase contact with the ground. The increased contact will also increase friction, so you might find it takes more effort to maintain speed. But, you’ll likely not travel as quickly anyway when there’s snow on the ground. Also consider whether you want to change your tires for ones with knobs or studs for better grip on snow and ice.
Degrease and re-lube your chain using wet lube. Make sure to wipe off your chain with a dry rag when it’s snowing, and try to re-apply lube every month.
Lift the rear wheel or put the bike on a stand and run through the gears. Shifting should be smooth and easy through all gears. Make any adjustments to the derailleurs and cable tension if necessary.
Before riding, pick your bike up about 4-5 inches and drop it. Listen for rattles or anything that sounds loose. Double-check the brakes and tire pressure. Make sure your quick-release is tight.
Winter Riding Habits
Be mindful of changes to day-to-day sunrise times. Keep your lights on for up to 30 minutes after sunrise. Consider keeping your light on for longer if you are riding into the sun, for the courtesy of those approaching from behind you. Check the weather forecast for snow and temperature. Wear layers that you can remove as needed, rather than thick clothes. Remember that you might still break a sweat when you ride, and you might want to adjust your layers. A good target is to feel springtime chilly, not freezing, when you’re stationary. You’ll warm up again as you continue riding.