A warmer-than-usual winter has been bad news for ski bums, but great for cyclists who have so far seen little reason to hang up their wheels. Still, even snow-deficient conditions don’t negate the need to winterize. Some easy to execute instructions below.
Reinvent your wheels
A lot of people assume knobby mountain bike tires are best for slushy conditions, when in fact the opposite is true. Jon Carroll, a bike mechanic at The Bike Joint in Toronto, says that slick tires are always best for city riding, particularly in winter, when they cut through slush or snow rather than riding on top of it. Plus, the lack of grooves means they won’t get clogged up with salt and gravel, which can diminish life span.
If your current wheels are best suited to off-roading, Mr. Carroll recommends a swap, and a second set of city wheels is a relatively cost-effective investment. You should also be equipped with front and rear fenders, to minimize slush spray soaking your duds.
Give yourself a brake
When tires are wet, which is generally the case in winter, braking can take a few extra milliseconds, which might not seem like a lot, but anything that makes the ride safer is obviously worth your attention.
Mr. Carroll suggests ensuring that your brake pads are not in need of replacing (most pads have a wear point that indicates it’s time for a new set). This as well as all other upkeep-related issues should be addressed at your annual tune-up, a springtime tradition for any serious cyclist.
Be a rust buster
The chain is one of the most common casualties of winter riding, thanks to damp conditions and corrosive salt. Ensure that your bike’s life-force stays well oiled and rust-free by applying cycle-specific winter lube (available at any bike store) once a week. And don’t try to save a buck by using the WD40, because it’s not the same thing.
To protect the frame, get in the habit of wiping down your bike after every ride and if possible store it in a dry, indoor environment. If not, pick up a bike cover or let your summer barbecue cover pull double duty: “It’s cheaper and just as good,” says Mr. Carroll.
Use bright lights in the big city
Even an unseasonably warm winter doesn’t protect riders from the early nightfall, which makes biking home from work significantly more perilous. Canadian law requires that all two-wheelers be equipped with a light on the back and on the front, but not all bulbs are created equal.
Mr. Carroll advises bikers to invest in the brightest light possible (this will set you back less than a case of beer). Lights on your helmet and reflective wardrobe options such as vests and leg bands are also a great way to make sure that your presence on the road does not go unnoticed.
And don’t do this: Take ridiculous risks to prove how hard core you are. If there’s four feet of snow outside, consider four-wheel transportation.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Special to The Globe and Mail