As I write this there are only 48 days to Christmas.
Oh my gosh. I had to look that up. That's it?? 48 days? Are you ready? I have a present purchased. Are you ready to get ready?
But today, we are going to talk about winter riding and how to do it properly. Personally, I don't like the word "properly". It implies that there's a wrong way to ride in the winter. There's not, there are simply the best ways to stay a reasonable temperature and to protect your bike. Let's see what they are.
How do we prepare for winter riding?
Tune your bike. You want to make sure that the brake pads you have on are going to stop you when it's cold and wet (sintering - or all metal - pads are the best for wintering with disc brakes). You want to know absolutely that your gears are going to change. And you want to do whatever you can to keep that moisture out of all of your bearing races and cages. A winterizing tune-up is the way to go. Make sure your helmet will fit over a thin toque. What shape are your tires in? Where are you putting bags? Wearing a backpack raises your center of gravity, which is not a good thing in slippery conditions. A pannier rack and bags or a basket is a better option. Do you have fenders? Are they in good condition? What kind of clearance is there between your tire and the fender?
That's the general, overall preparation. What to do before each ride:
Acclimatize your bike to the temperature, especially if you keep it indoors. Leave it outside 15 minutes before your ride, if you can. Just make sure it's secure.
Dress in layers. Moisture-wicking material against the skin, water-resistant or waterproof layers on the outside.
Make sure you are visible. Are you wearing reflective fabric? Are your lights working? Get into the habit of charging rechargeable lights at least every other night. (Cold drains batteries faster, keep an eye on e-bike batteries, too.) Does your bike have reflective strips? Remember, if you're riding from dusk to dawn, you are required to have both lights and reflective strips. Best way, have tires with a white stripe around them. If they don't, white reflective tape on the front, red on the back.
Overall, be smart about how you're riding. If it's cold, wear a scarf or balaclava that covers your mouth and nose.
There are things you're going to want to do post-ride, at the end of the day, when your commute is finished. Remember that salt will corrode a bike, just like it corrodes a car and other metal objects. Use cold water, warm and hot water hasten the corrosion.
Of course, dry the bike. Lube your chain every 3 or 4 winter rides.
Don't wear cotton as a base layer. It absorbs moisture and keeps it against your skin which will eventually chill you.
Removing the clipless pedals will give you a faster foot-to-ground response time and, sometimes, a second or two can save you.
For gloves, which you'll want to keep your hands warm, you can buy thermal gloves that have phone-friendly fingertips, but for the really cold days you'll want something like the lobster mitts in the photo. Something that will be warm yet offer the flexibility you need in order to brake or change gears.
There are places that rent fat bikes so if you're thinking that you want to try one, you can do that. There are a number of cottage country places. There's also a place in London: The Trek store. They rent out fat bikes. You can take them just about anywhere: Fanshawe, Boler. You can find these places on Ontario By Bike, Northern Ontario Travel
Just remember that it is rude to ride the bike in ski trails, as well, some places have fat biking paths and ski slopes that are separate and clearly marked.
Keep in mind that winter riding requires a slightly different skill set than riding in the summer.
Finally, we will be open through to Christmas. Though we will be closed from Christmas Eve to February first, we are dedicated to our customers. If you have an emergency with a commuter bike, give us a call or shoot us an email and we'll do what we can.
PS. Hey, did you know CAA has a Bike Assist program? I had no idea. I do think it's pretty cool, though.
Favourite quote this month: “The cyclist is a man half made of flesh and half of steel that only our century of science and iron could have spawned.” — Louis Baudry de Saunier, 19th-century French author