This winter has definitely been different, in many ways then one. More of us are getting outside and we’re getting more questions about how to enjoy riding a bike in the winter. The two big obstacles to winter riding are dealing with cold temperatures and keeping traction over snow and ice.
The benefits of winter riding certainly includes physical health (because the gyms are still closed) and mental health (because we’re stuck inside watching other people have fun on our screens).
Here at Northern we’ve got a variety of winter riding experience from Fat Biking in the wilderness to urban commutes. The challenges are similar but we are confident that you can stay active, safe and smiling while you pedal outside this winter.
In this blog we will go over a few tips and tricks to keep biking year round.
Plan your route based on accessibility and pleasantness
Did you know that it is a myth that temperature and weather conditions do not largely effect the level of winter cycling participation in a city?
A negative factor is not having well cleaned, sectioned off bicycle paths. When planning your route to the park or work, try to plan a route with dedicated cycling paths that are plowed of snow. Check out the video below that looks at some of the challenges you will face when biking in Winnipeg during the winter. You may want to talk to your local city counselor about this.
Studded tires, or non studded tires?
What are studs?
Nooo they aren’t “that guy” at the gym who maxes out the bench press.
Studs are little metal spikes that are attached in little holes on specifically made bike tires. You may find a winter tire with the possibility of inserting your own studs (like our Norco Bigfoot). These studs cut into ice and hard snow to really dig in and give you the grip you need when you are on ice.
In the cold snaps of a Winnipeg winter studs are a great idea. Studs are going to help you start and stop on ice and really help you stay upright in those slippery corners. Even if the temperature is closer to freezing, the studs will give you confidence as you ride over ice or through the spots susceptible to freezing and thawing. The con is that they are heavy and slow when things are dry and cold.
Does everyone need Studs? Are there other ways to increase traction?
Just like your car, you can get studded winter tires for your bike. But just like drivers, not everyone gets studded tires. Why is that?
Honestly, not every bike needs studded tires to ride in winter. Many mountain bikes with an aggressive tread and 27.5” or 29” tires will often do just fine in the winter. The increased surface area from a wide 2.4” or 2.5” tire and the larger diameter of a modern bike wheel will help you keep from sliding around. A knobby mountain bike tire that digs into mud may also dig into snow.
One thing you can also do to aid your traction, is lower your tire pressure to the lowest recommended PSI. This will further increase the amount of contact you have on the snow and increase your floatation over the snow.
Take a look at our tire section using these tips and choose the tire that is appropriate for your ride.
What can I do to avoid rust?
We all know how messy and sloppy the streets are. It’s quick for a city to throw down salt and sand, but it can cause trouble for your bike. We are also dealing with temperature changes which causes condensation. What do you do with this wet messy bike?
- Keep your bike clean. Sand and salt in your drivetrain will wear it out quickly so wipe down your frame and chain often - every ride if you can. Do not use high pressure water as it will blow past bearing seals and replace grease with water and dirt. Using a chain cleaner will help get into the little nooks and crannies of your chain.
- Get rid of moisture. Let your bike drip dry or wipe dry and use a water displacer on a rag (like WD-40 or MO94). Even if you keep your bike outside, it’s the moisture that will invite rust so have a place for it to drip and spray on the water displacer (being careful to avoid brakes, rims and rotors. Oil plus brakes equals crashing)
- Lubricate the moving parts. After you clean and dry your bike, ensure that you have lube in the places where metal rubs against metal. Lube your chain rollers and spoke nipples using a wet lube. After lubing, get a cloth and wipe off the excess oil so that you do not attract more grime. Less is more.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time, but you will enjoy your bike longer with these simple care tips. To summarize: Ride, wash, lube repeat.