Until the streets are covered in icy slush or my eye lids freeze shut I am determined to ride my bike to work. It’s great exercise, I save $5 on commuting to Midtown, plus I don’t have to touch those nasty subway poles during flu season.
This morning I thought twice about riding, with the temperature below freezing but I followed the professional advice from the guys over at Silk Road Cycles, and I was on my merry way. Once you get riding you get really warm up and it’s a great way to start the morning.
Here are some helpful tips for winterizing your bike and cycling gear during the cold months:
GP: Is there anything specifically you can do to prepare your bicycle for winter?
It’s nice to stay clean, especially for us working commuters. I use fenders, because who knows whether that puddle is melted snow or dog pee. And finally, it gets dark earlier! Use lights!!!! Front and rear.
GP: It is ideal to store your bike inside? What are the effects on your bicycle if you leave it out in the cold and snow?
SILK ROAD CYCLES: Yes! Rust is no friend of your bike. The cold isn’t an issue, but moisture and snow is. But to be honest, having your bike outside for extended periods of time at any time of year is no good. Bike theft is no joke! Either way, (and this is probably obvious) if you’re riding through winter, your bike will end up being outside. Make sure to clean it regularly – once or twice a month, maybe even more depending on how much you love your machine. On the drivetrain use a mild cleaner like Simple Green or a more heavy duty, citrus based degreaser, then reapply a synthetic lubricant. Road salt can be very harsh on steel parts, so cleaning your whole bike is a good idea.
GP: Are there storage facilities for bikes in the winter?
SILK ROAD CYCLES: Not that I know of. I’d open one, but I’d rather see all you folks on the road, riding through the winter!
GP: Is it safe to ride in snow and slush? Can you make your bike safer in these conditions?
SILK ROAD CYCLES: For sure, you need to be careful about the condition of the roads. The bridges get icy in winter and that can make for a very slippery kind of scariness. I personally love to use a studded tire on my front wheel – it makes even the thickest batches of ice feel like pavement. But in the end, it comes down keeping your bike in good riding condition and just going slow sometimes. There’s no substitute for smart riding.
GP: What is the best gear to wear if you are riding your bike in the cold?
SILK ROAD CYCLES: Not cotton! I break this cardinal rule often, but on those really cold days, I pay for it with the half hour it takes me to warm up once I get home. Moisture wicking clothing is the best. Sticking to softer wools like merino and synthetics is a good place to start. Covering your neck, head, hands and feet is key. These spots on your body, where large blood veins are close to the skin need to be insulated. If they get cold, you’ll feel it in the rest of your body quicker than most would expect. On those extra cold days, keep your face covered too.
GP: How can you layer so you don’t get too hot, but can stay warm and not be bulky?
SILK ROAD CYCLES: Use three layers for your torso – a base layer, something that wicks moisture away from the skin if you begin sweating. A mid layer for insulation, and an outer layer that is wind and water proof. Again, focus on your neck, head, hands and feet! Keeping extremities warm is hard, but riding with cold feet or hands is the worst.
SILK ROAD CYCLES: For your face there are a lot of different options – masks that cover the whole face except for the eyes, but are porous enough to breathe through, or just a scarf over your face. I don’t have much of a preference one way or the other. When it comes to gloves, having something that is windproof is great. For those extra cold days, a “lobster” glove is the best, in my opinion. It’s a mitten with a split in the middle, allowing your index and middle fingers to move independently of your ring and pinky fingers. This is a nice balance between dexterity, helping you shift and brake easily, while doing a great job of insulating your fingers.
GP: Is it okay to wear a hat underneath your helmet?
SILK ROAD CYCLES: Keeping your head warm is key, but having a hat that compresses (one that is thick and padded) is a bad idea in terms of protection – it reduces the effectiveness of a bicycle helmet in case of a crash. I prefer to use merino wool cycling caps, while others use a wind breaking polyester hat.
SILK ROAD CYCLES: Yeah! Bern makes a great warm winter insert for their helmets. They’re a great looking helmet and the insert makes them super cozy in the cold. The inserts are about $40 in store, the helmets run from $50-80. Others will buy a helmet cover. They’re less expensive and look a little goofy, but they work.
GP: Do they make heated seats?
SILK ROAD CYCLES: Not that I know of. You should get on that! There is money to made and butts to warm.