Evergreen and Sweet Pete’s Winter Riding Guide
Important dos and don'ts to help you stay safe and have fun on winter rides.
Cycling is one of the fastest and healthiest ways to get around the city – even in winter. But there are new elements - in addition to snow, ice and salt - that riders need to stay safe and have fun during the colder, darker cycling season.
- Slow down. Try to choose a route you’re familiar with that is well maintained and plowed throughout the season.
- Check your bike frequently for salt and ice build up and remove it to help prevent rust and seized parts.
- Ride a bike that fits. Make sure it is easy to dismount should you hit a patch of ice. Tip: Consider using cruiser style handlebars and a step-through frame. The handlebars will keep you in an upright position for better sight-lines and visibility, and a step-through frame will let you hop off easily.
- Choose the right brake. Bikes with disc brakes are excellent for their stopping power in wet conditions. Fixed gear bikes are best for their simplicity and will reliably allow you to slow down even if your brake cable lines freeze. For coaster brakes, keep in mind that you may lose traction if your rear wheel starts skidding on ice.
- Consider investing in a winter bike, like one with an internal gear hub, which will lessen the damage to your shifting system caused by salt and slush.
- Wear water and wind proof items such as gloves, ski goggles, face and ear covers and warm boots. Your extremities will be the first to feel the cold. Tip: mittens and lobster gloves utilize heat generated by your hands to keep your circulation going.
- Oil your chain. This is good year-round maintenance. If you get it on your rims, remove it immediately with rubbing alcohol. Tip: Use a bike-specific lubricant. WD-40 is not a bike lubricant. Your chain will stop squeaking for a couple of hours but then turn bright orange with rust.
- Ride regularly. Frequent movement of all parts will help keep them from seizing.
- Don’t wear dark colours. Reflective and fluorescent clothing are best for winter and gives other road-users a better chance to see you.
- If possible, avoid steel rims as they are very slippery in wet weather.
- Don’t forget fenders. They keep you and your bike clean from salt stains. Ensure there is ample clearance between the tire and the underside of your fender for good slush-shedding action.
- Don’t stress too much about tires - studded or stud-less are fine. On trails or irregularly plowed roads, studded tires are great. (You can make your own or you can buy them pre-made.) If you’re on well-maintained main roads, try slightly knobby or smooth tires.
- Given the limited hours of daylight, never leave without your lights. The more the merrier for your helmet, handlebars, front, back and side. A wide beam is great for the city while a more focused brighter beam is key for rural roads and trails.
- Don’t forget your helmet. Tip: in winter a full shell with less ventilation will help keep your head warm and works well with goggles.
- Don’t skip maintenance. Re-grease all components from pedals and seat posts to stem and quick-release skewers. Not sure how? Ask for winter-specific tune-ups at Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop or drop in for one-on-one instruction at Bike Works.
- Don’t leave your bike outside all winter. If you do, keep it under a covered porch or in a garage. Bring it inside once a month to let snow and ice melt then wipe the frame down with dish soap and water to prevent rust and corrosion. Tip: rinsing off your bike is great, but avoid spraying the bike with a high pressure hose, as this can allow water to get into your bearing systems.