Tips for winter bicycling
Bicycle riders in the Heights have wintertime challenges to overcome. One is keeping themselves warm and safe in cold and snowy weather, and another is protecting their bikes from harsh elements. Luckily, our neighborhood bike stores have a wealth of knowledge, and a quick visit can provide good advice on how to keep rolling during winter.
Both Mike Bednarz, of Cain Park Bicycle, and John Reinker, of Cycle Fitness and Sport, agree: salt, grime and moisture will harm your bike.
Reinker suggests that people who commute by bicycle year-round may benefit from using an inexpensive bike and keeping the bike chain clean and lubed so it will be functional as long as possible. Yet some of his customers opt for the opposite: riding higher-end bicycles that have fewer components exposed.
For the occasional or recreational rider, Bednarz recommends cleaning the bicycle as soon as possible after each ride. A light wax coat on the bike frame and main components will keep moisture away, and a dry lube for the bicycle’s chain will reduce the amount of grime it collects. Reinker recommends having a designated space for cleaning the bike, especially since there will be grime and gunk coming from the bicycle during maintenance.
For those who want to ride in the snow, Cain Park Bicycle carries studded tires. The metal studs in these wider tires increase traction in the snow, especially when there is ice. Fat tires are another option that facilitates riding in the snow, and they have become popular in recent years. A visit to one of the local bike shops could help riders decide whether these options are appropriate for their needs.
Winter is harsh on the rider as well. Andy Bielski of Cain Park Bicycle suggests layering to stay warm throughout rides. Bielski emphasizes that riders should keep in mind that they will warm up as they ride. When layering, it’s important to decide whether they want to be colder at the beginning of the ride, or if they are OK getting somewhat too warm as the ride progresses.
He also recommends protecting exposed skin from the cold by wearing gloves, a hat and, if it’s really cold, a facemask.
To stay safe while riding, Reinker suggests taking advantage of Heights bike lanes, such as those on North Park Boulevard and the one on Cedar Hill. Bike lanes give the rider more space, especially when roads are narrowed by snow.
Both back and front lights are needed for visibility in winter, as shorter days mean cyclists may find themselves riding in the dark. Bright, reflective clothing will also make bicyclists more visible to motorists.
For those who opt to store their bicycles for the season, Reinker, Bielski and Bednarz all recommend storing them in a dry place. Bednarz recommends storing the bicycle in the house, if possible.
If that’s not feasible, and storing the bike in the garage is the only viable option, he recommends keeping it elevated, away from moist floors. While there are nice racks to keep bicycles elevated, Reinker said that any large hook will work as long as the bicycle is elevated, even if it hangs by just one of the tires.
Heights Bicycle Coalition
Heights Bicycle Coalition is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to educating and encouraging Heights community members to use bicycles as a sustainable and healthy form of transportation and recreation. This article was written by Ángel L. Reyes-Rodríguez and members of the coalition's Communications Committee.