Winter Riding and Commuting in the City

Its been pretty remarkable watching the increase in the number of riders these past couple of years. During the current pandemic, the volume of commuters in the city have been remarkable. Add to this the increase in bike lanes and bike paths and its easy to see why so many people choose their bicycle over other means of transpiration.

As we move into the cooler months, many will consider putting their bikes away until the warmer weather returns in the spring. But this doesn’t have to be. If you are prepared to face the elements, you can ride through the cold, wet months. All it takes is the right attitude, some proper clothing and a proper prepared bicycle. We’ll talk about clothing another time, today, let’s focus on the bicycle and a few things you should consider, both for safety and for comfort.

Fenders

Remember when you were a kid, and you never wore a hat in the winter, no matter how hard your mother tried to convince you. And then when you became an adult, you realized just how right she was. Well, fenders are kind of like that. Until you’ve been caught in the rain or slush, you never know just how valuable a good set of fenders can be. They are pretty much the number one accessory you should consider if you are going to ride thought the winter months.

Tires

When the roads get cold and wet, tractions can become a massive challenge. Lucky for cyclists, there are some very good winter tire options available. These tires have been designed very similar to what you would get for a car. The tread patterns have been optimized to give you greater traction on the snow, as well as the rubber compounds are much softer. This allows for a more pliable tire when the temperatures dip bellow zero. If you find that you’ll be riding over frozen roads and ice, you may even want to consider a tire with metal studs. These are not cheap, but wow… are they amazing when having to deal with slipper conditions.

Lights

With the lack of daylight, much of our commuting in the winter months is in the dark. Being able to see as well as be seen is of vital importance. In recent years, we’ve seen huge growth in the reliability, and brightness of lights for cycling. Gone are the days of those little turtle lights with a single tiny blinking LED. Today’s lights are bright, efficient and great value. We’ve also gone away from the use of wasteful batteries with the instruction of rechargeable systems. Many of which can be plugged into a USB port. In fact, lights are so good these days that many cyclists also run then during the daylight for added visibility.

Saddle Bag and Spares

There is nothing worst than getting stuck on a cold night half way home with a flat or mechanical. Having a well-stocked saddle bag with a spare tube, multitool, and mini-pump, frame-pump or inflator can give you some pice of mind and help get you home. But be sure you know how to use this equipment before you have an emergency. All too often I’ve come across a cyclists stranded on the side of the road with a simple flat. They have all the gear to work with, but they have not experience every having to change a tube.
BTW: if you have a CAA membership, they will come and pick you up and help get you home. Just be sure to have your CAA card with you.

Keep your Bike Clean

Nothing does more damage to your bike than riding on wet and sloppy winter roads. With the salts used to try and keep the roads clear, nothing is more corrosive to your bikes drive train, frame and components. For any apartment and condo dwellers in the city, keeping your bike clean can be a really challenge. If possible, a good bucket of warm soapy water is all you needs to wash down your bike and then rinse it off with some clean water. You may also find it convenient to drop into a self-serve car wash. Just be sure to advise high-pressure spray into you bicycles bottom bracket, hubs and other areas that need to keep spinning. After washing, please be sure to wipe off all the excess water and re-lube your chain.

Maintenance and Lube

Remember, prevention is the key to keeping your bike running smoothly and safely. Take the time to review your bike’s moving parts on a regular basis. Make certain your brake pads and drive train components and in good working order and that your chain is properly lubed.
With regards to lubrication, get yourself a good wet-lube for the winter riding months. Chains take a real beating with the added moisture and grit on the roads. Keep the chain clean, but also properly lubed. And remember, a little lube goes a long way. All too often we see chains with far too much lube that ends up gumming up the derailleur and other components. When this happens, dirt and grit becomes attracted to the chain and results in premature wear to the entire drive train.

Your eBike Battery and the Cold

Looking to commute in the winter on your eBike. No worries. While the battery on your eBike is robust and built to take the day to day effects of riding, it is susceptible to the cold and can easily loose capacity when used during low temperatures. The the temperature drops below zero, it is highly advised that you remove the battery (when not in use) and store it at room temperature – ideally between 15° and 20°C.

When charging the battery, the same rules apply – Lithium-ion batteries should be charged at room temperature.

This covers the basics to help you overcome many of the challenges of winter riding and commuting in the city. For more tips and too chat with experienced riders who know what it takes to survive winter commuting, drop by any GEARS location and speak to the staff.

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