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Wintertime and the bike riding is easy

With autumn here, winter around the corner, and the impending time change coming soon, we at Cycle California! Magazine and Found by Bike have some easy ideas to help our year-around bike riding readers to start prepping their bikes for cold weather riding.

Winter riding? Start prepping!

Some of these tips are useful for riding year around, while others are part of an ongoing program of small maintenance steps.
All are simple, easy ideas for extending the life of your best riding companion: Your bike.

See & be seen

Change out the batteries in your head- and taillights. By making it a habit to put fresh batteries in when the seasons change, you will always have lights for riding in dim, low- or no-light conditions.

Consider installing fenders

Fenders are a practical solution for water and road grit spraying up from the road as you ride in inclement weather. There different types of fenders, some that clip to the bike frame, making for easier installation and removal, if your bike didn't originally come with them.

The importance of a clean bicycle drivetrain
A clean drivetrain is a happy drivetrain!

Wash the drivetrain

Riding in wintery conditions (rain, snow, ice) can beat the drive train to death with the grit that accumulates from the road. That road grime acts like sandpaper and wear down the components if it is not cleaned off. The drivetrain includes the chain rings, cogs, derailleur, chain -- all of which should be cleaned and then lubed for smooth riding and shifting as you ride through the hard winter months.

Use a toothbrush to clean your chain
Prep for winter riding: Scrub road grit off that chain!

Check the chain

This goes with the above tip. If you don’t have the time (or want to make the time) to clean the drivetrain, at a minimum, clean your chain and lube it. A clean chain is a happy chain, and the happier the chain is, the happier the drivetrain is and the longer they last for years of riding.

Need to know how to put lube on your chain? Pink Bike has a video to show you exactly how to do it.

Reduce tire pressure

This increases the surface area of the tire which is believed to increase the tires' grip on the road, a good idea if you ride in wet and/or slick conditions.

Check brake pads

Road grit from riding in wet conditions gets stuck to wheel rims and brake pads and will eventually wear down the rims if not cleaned off. Brake pads do wear down after a lot of use, so now is a good time to look them over. Of course, having brakes that stop you efficiently is important in all conditions, but is especially so during the winter.

One drop of lube to slide down the exposed cable
Use a drop of dry lube to protect exposed brake cables from rust

Check exposed cables

Like the drivetrain, exposed brake cables are subject to rusting. Keeping an eye on them and keeping them clean and greased is a must. Dab a little light chain lube and let it run down the cable. Use a rag to pat off any excess.

Keep a plastic bag handy

Nothing is more uncomfortable than siting and riding a wet seat. A plastic produce bag is a simple low- to nontech approach to cover your saddle while you’re not riding. Simply take the bag off when you're ready to ride.

Change your clipless pedals for flat ones

Because winter conditions, even in temperate California, are sometimes icy. You don't want to be trying to clip out of your pedals when you hit a patch or piece of black ice and start sliding.

Carry your supplies

Make sure your bike has all the supplies you need for minor repairs on the road. Ideally, your bike bag should have a patch kit, small multi-tool, spare tube, tire irons, just the essentials for minor repairs. A small pump clipped to the frame or stored in the bike bag is also a must for getting enough air in a newly-changed tube.

Not a winter rider?

If you hate, hate, hate riding in the winter and usually hang your bike up when the weather turns wet or very cold, we have an idea for you: Take your bike into a bike shop and get a tune-up. Why?

  • Bike shops are generally slower in the winter months; this means you can bring it in and get it out quickly and efficiently.
  • Your bike will ready to ride when you do feel like riding it beginning in the springtime.
  • Your bike gets the yearly maintenance it needs, important if you ride a lot during the season.

Your best riding companion needs and wants attention if you're planning to ride it through the winter months. Implement these easy maintenance tweaks and you’ll give your bike the love and attention it deserves. Your bike will reward you with years of trouble-free riding.















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