Three Things Everyone Should Know About Winter Cycling
By Nate Kortuem
When riding during the winter months this year it is important to remember these three things.
1. Road Chemicals. If you like to ride outside and you live in the north then road chemicals are used everywhere you cannot avoid them. Even if you are riding on a dry day the roads are covered with dry chemicals. These chemicals can lead to corrosion and pitting on all metal surfaces of your bike. Almost all bearings and all chains are made of metal so these chemicals bond to all these surfaces. This means it is very important to clean your bike after every ride. The same goes for the spring months in the north when it is raining and the salt spray covers your bike. If you have ever looked closely at a piece of aluminum after road chemicals have been sitting on them, the surfaces get pitted. These pits can weaken and destroy aluminum bike parts. Weakened parts on a bike can be very dangerous for reasons I do not need to explain.
The easiest way to clean your bike is with a rag and a bottle of glass cleaner. The important thing is to wipe down your bike after every ride and remove all of these chemicals. This goes for your drive train as well; use bike lube and a rag and run through your chain and cassette. Remember 10 minutes after every ride can save you a huge headache and a lot of time and money in the end.
2. Lights. During the winter months in the north it tends to get dark much earlier than during the summer months. It is important to get lights for your bike. Even during a sunny day the sun is much lower in the sky. There can be shadows covering the roads in unexpected areas. Drivers could have difficulty seeing you in these areas. Also the roads can be narrower because of snow or ice on the sides of the road. It is important to have a blinking red light on your seat post and a light on your handle bars. If cars cannot see you, then they cannot avoid you. Remember the off-season is the time to heal injuries, not get new ones.
Go to your local bike shop and ask them for lights. They vary in price and even the most expensive lights are cheaper and less painful than a night in the hospital.
3. Tires. In the winter months there can be debris in the roadway that is unavoidable. Ice, gravel and snow are common. When ever possible try to avoid these areas. To keep your rubber on the road, get bigger tires. If you normally ride 23c tires try riding a 25c tire with more tread on it. The best thing to do is figure out what the maximum size tire that will fit on your bike and use that. A wider tire means more surface area. More surface area means more traction.
Slow down when turning. It is not the time of the year to practice your cornering skills by bombing through turns. With gravel, ice, and snow on the road, it is much easier for your front wheel to slide out from under you. The tires that I recommend are Maxxis Detonators 700x25c or Maxxis Re-Fuse 700x25c. Ask your local dealer if they carry them.
By following these three tips, you can have a safe off-season that will prepare you for great performances in 2010 and beyond.