Biking in the winter has its own set of challenges: colder temperatures, more rain, hazards on the roads, fewer daylight hours, and the seemingly irresistible draw to stay under the covers a little longer in the morning. Winter biking also has unique rewards: sunrises and sunsets during peak commuting hours, less sweaty rides, and superhero status at the office.
We chatted with Bill from Trek Bikes Victoria to get his top winter cycling tips. We talked visibility, warmth, bike maintenance and – spoiler alert – there’s no cure for wanting to stay under the covers. Here are Bill’s top five.
Tip #1 Visibility! Follow the ABC’s of bike visibility to always be seen
A is for Always on…your lights that is
For visibility during the day: look for a flashing, daylight-visible light. Your daytime lights are actually meant to be brighter than you would use at night.
For visibility in dark conditions: use a minimum 300-lumen light, on steady mode, to see and a lower lumen (around 100 is fine) flashing light to be seen. A front light with a steady beam plus a pulse is ideal for night riding.
For rear lighting, a flashing pattern is better than a steady light, and a variable flashing pattern is even better.
B is for Biomotion
Sounds sciency right? That’s because it is! Humans have a remarkable instinct that allows us to recognize other humans by their unique movements. Bill recommends highlighting your feet, ankles, knees and hands with reflective or fluorescent fabrics so other people can recognize you as a cyclist. As if we needed another reason to wear awesome bright socks 🙂
C is for contrast
It’s simple: to be seen, you need to stand out from the environment. In short: black isn’t bright.
Tip #2 Stay warm, dress in layers
Bill reminds us about the importance of keeping our feet, hands, and head warm. The best way to have a comfortable ride: dress in layers. Layers allow you to be prepared for the worst and peel them off when the weather cooperates.
Tip #3 Be aware of poor road conditions, adjust accordingly
Winter brings more debris on the road and slick conditions. When commuting take extra care riding on painted surfaces – yep that green bike lane paint can be extra slippery – metal surfaces, trestles, fallen leaves, and on snow and ice. Route planning is important when conditions aren’t ideal.
Tip #4 Take the pressure off
Lowering the air pressure in your tires will increase your footprint and help maintain traction in the winter. Check your recommended tire pressure (look on your tire wall for the recommended PSI) and lower it by a few pounds.
If you’re riding on a road tire, try switching to a tire with more chevrons to help disperse the water.
Tip #5 Keep it Clean
When riding in the winter, all the dirt and salt on the road will make its way onto your bike and into your drivetrain, slowly deteriorating your bike’s components.
To prolong the life of your drivetrain, the most important thing to do is clean your chain. Trek sells a fancy chain scrubbing device (pictured right) that gives your chain a complete cleaning with a series of internal brushes and, presumably, tiny fastidious cleaning pixies. This is a great option for a deep clean. For regular maintenance, DIY chain cleaning is quick and easy!
- Lean your bike against a wall in a position that you can freely pedal backwards
- Dampen a rag with some degreaser – available at Trek or your local bike shop
- Fold the rag over the lower part of your chain and manually pedal backwards
- Depending on how dirty your chain is, re-position the rag to remove all the built-up gunk (a very technical term for chain lube plus road crud). Repeat until the chain looks clean.
Once the chain is clean, apply some lubricant to the drivetrain.
- Position the tip of the bottle over the lower part of your chain
- Pedal backwards with your other hand while squeezing the bottle to release a light stream of lubricant
- Once you’ve applied lube to the whole chain continue to pedal backwards for a few cycles until you feel that it’s evenly distributed
- Take a clean rag and wipe away excess lube from the outside of the chain
In the winter, Bill recommends that you clean the drivetrain every week or so.
It’s also a good idea to keep the rest of your bike clean. A warm and lightly soapy rag to the frame and rims will have your ride sparkling in a jiff.
If you want to know more about basic bike maintenance, Trek Bikes Victoria hosts repair workshops that are open to attend. The next workshop is Thursday February 16th, attendance is by donation as a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors Ride. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.