If you live in a place that experiences “seasons”, it’s cold out. Its that bone chilling cold that makes you cringe when you open the door and dread just the thought of winter biking. But thoughts are just fleeting and, in the Bike to the Beach world, we believe that you can conquer your thoughts … if you want to.
This time of year, there seem to be three types of riders:
1) Warm Weather Riders: Those who wait for warmth of summer
2) Winter Biking Warriors: Those who ride
3) Winter Biking Adventurers: Those who fly to the warmer weather
However, if you are the type that will conquer cold: this blog post is for you. If you are biking this winter, here are the top three things to do to get your bike ready for winter biking:
#1 - LIGHT IT UP
For winter biking, make sure your bike is outfitted with a working headlight, taillight, and reflectors. It gets dark early in the winter; it snows; and, drivers have to deal with fogged windows, moving wiper blades, and other winter hazards. You want to be seen.
Bike lights tend to range from 100 to over a 1,000 lumens. The lower lumen options tend to be pretty weak, leaving a motorist hard pressed to identify a cyclist. Conversely the higher lumens options can be eyeball-searing to drivers. A major consideration is the type of riding that you are doing. A general rule is, if you ride mostly in daytime or on brightly lit paths, you need lights to ‘be seen’. If you ride along dimly lit roads, you need lights to ‘allow you to see’ (see picture).
Here is a tip: Park your bike by the road at night with lights on and look at it from a block away. If you have any trouble seeing your bike, get more lights and more reflectors. There is not shame in being the brightest thing on the road. It may save your life.
We recommend that you do not mess around : Get a light that allows you to SEE and BE SEEN. According to Cyclinghacks.com, the sweet spot is 300-500 lumens for cycling in a city.
With its 400 lumen headlight and a blinding 500+ lumen linking pattern, the Cygolite Metro 400 USB Light is a solid choice. And its rechargeable, so you do not have to fumble with batteries.
#2 – Protect your Bum (and your bike)
While winter biking tires are guaranteed to throw slush, snow, and any type of liquid winter grime up at you. A decent pair of fenders will keep your bum, lower legs and feet dry making things more comfortable for you. Even if you’re covered in Gore-Tex garments, the cold liquid spray will weigh you down and pull body heat away from you.
Fenders will also reduce the amount of grime that will spray onto your chain, cogs, bearings, rims, pads, brake calipers and cables and reduce the amount of wear and tear on your bike.
For winter biking, you will want both front and rear fenders. Front fenders should reach a couple of inches in front of and behind your fork. Ideally, rear fenders will be full length. Here is a tip from REI: if you have opted for a shorter fender, make sure it has the ability to angle up to compensate for its lack of length.
#3 – Tire Time
If you have ever done a bike to the beach charity ride, you know that no tires are 100% puncture proof: our mechanics have seen (and fixed) it all.
With that being said, after riding all spring, summer, and fall, the best thing to do is to get new tires for your winter riding. Trust us: you want to reduce the amount of time you spend broken on the side of the road in sub freezing temperatures.
We recommend a tire that offers some kind of puncture resistance, such as those made from heavier duty compounds and or have a thicker sidewall. The Men’s Journal recommends Continental Grand Prix 4-Season for your riding pleasure.
In general, it is also a good idea to use slightly wider tires to offer more grip and run them at a lower pressure than you would in the summer. If you run your road tires at 120 PSI in the summer, shoot for to ride with your tires between 90 and 100 psi in the winter. The reduced PSI will give them more traction and make them less susceptible to punctures.
According to Pat Weiler and Dan Wynn from REI, you do not have to go with big, fat, knobby tires to gain traction. You can, of course, but the increased surface area may negatively affect your riding experience due to the increased friction with the road. Road tires (those in the 700×28 range) have the benefit of cutting through the snow and reaching the ground. Thinner tires allow you to concentrate your weight over a smaller area and push the tire down to the pavement.
If you have to ride in nasty conditions, you may want to opt for studded tires. Studded tires have little metal projections protruding from the tire every inch or so to provide traction on ice, mud, and slippery conditions. For more information, read IceBike.com’s studded tire breakdown for winter riding, which includes a DIY studded tire assembly guide.