What kind of bike do I need for winter cycling?
Your bike will experience some wear and tear while cycling in the winter, but with proper maintenance and care it will take you from home to destinations across the city.
The five changes outlined below can help you continue cycling during winter weather conditions on most bikes.
What type of tires you choose will depend on your route.
- Regular tires will work, but can be challenging to use in icy conditions or deep snow.
- Mountain bike or knobby tires will offer you more stability in winter conditions.
- Studded bike tires grip icy surfaces better. You can install one studded tire on the front of your bike, or you can install them on both the front and back of your bike. Studded tires can be purchased at a local bike shop or online.
Attached to the front and back of your bike, they will keep dirt, mud, snow, slush, and water off of you. Snow and slush tend to build up under traditional style fenders, because they sit close to the tire, so consider using clip or strap-on fenders that prevent this.
Panniers will help you carry any extra layers of clothing you might need, your lunch, groceries, work items and more. They are easy to attach to the rack on the back of your bike, and can be waterproof too. Backpacks, baskets and other types of bags will also work.
They have two main purposes: to help you see and be seen.
- It is a legal requirement in Calgary to have a white headlight and a red tail light when cycling before sunrise and after sunset.
- Consider selecting a bike light that has a higher number of lumens, the amount of light emitted, so you can see obstacles in the road or on the pathway. These lights are typically more expensive and can be adjusted depending on how much light you need.
- Bike lights with lower lumens allow other road or pathway users to see you when it is dark out, but do not provide enough lighting to show you obstacles ahead of you. Many bike lights are rechargeable and can be plugged into a USB outlet when the battery runs out.
Similar to using high beams when driving a car, your light may make it difficult for other pathway and roadway users to see. Please be considerate of other pathway and roadway users when installing and positioning your lights.
Consider carrying the following items with you in the event of an emergency:
- spare warm layers, such as a light down jacket and an extra set of mitts,
- tools to help you remove your tire in case you get a flat,
- an extra tube,
- small bike tire pump,
- multi-tool for bicycles,
- extra bike lights,
- a bike lock
- money for transit or a cab, and
- a cell phone.
When riding your bike in the winter you may want to ride with a friend or co-worker. You may also want to tell someone when you leave and when you arrive safely at your destination.
Your bike will work best if you maintain it regularly throughout the winter. Snow, dirt, and slush can damage the moving parts of your bicycle over time. If you wipe down your bike using hot water or a bicycle specific cleaning solution, you will wash away any dirt or grime before it has the chance to settle in.
If it is particularly wet and slushy out, try to clean your bike more often.
All moving parts on your bike should be lubricated using a bike grease or lubricant. A dry lubricant will keep parts from accumulating dirt and grime. Oil based lubricants will keep your bike functioning in the winter but they accumulate dirt, so you will have to clean your bike more often to prevent added stress on moving parts.
When you are greasing or lubricating the parts on your bike make sure to apply it to the:
- pivots in the derailleur,
- brake levers, posts and pivots,
- gear shifters, and
- cable housing ends.
'Bicycle Typogram’ by Aaron Kuehn'
Your bike will function best if it is not exposed to freeze and thaw conditions. If you are able to, bring your bike into a warm area, do not forget to wipe it down and let it dry completely before taking it back outside.
To learn more about how to take care of your bike consider taking a bike maintenance course. They are invaluable and are offered at a variety of locations across Calgary.
Another option is to take your bike to a local bike shop for a winter tune-up.