I thought I would share this post we put up on our Urkai website:
We love biking through the winter (most days) and so do many of you. We often get questions when we are out and about in the winter, especially when we are out with our son in the bakfiets (cargo bike) about riding in the winter. Contrary to what most people believe it is very enjoyable when your bike has been properly set up for the winter.
Our bikes are often left outside in the winter.
So, is your bike ready for winter riding? Consider the points below.
1. Braking – traction is important but stopping when you need to is even more important! Most common braking systems on bicycles perform sub-optimally at the very least or not at all at the very worst when braking surfaces are covered by rain, snow, salt, slush etc.. Sealed braking systems, like the shimano roller brakes that we use, are really one of the few reliable solutions for consistent braking power in all weather conditions.
Shimano roller brake ready for winter!
2. Winterized Cables – If any moisture builds up in the cable housing especially when bikes are left outside, the cables can freeze impeding both braking and shifting. Often, less knowledgeable bicycle technicians try to spray lubricant from both ends of the cable housing to prevent this; however, this is rarely an adequate solution. If you want the job done right, you need to remove the cable – treat the cable in its entirety so there are no air gaps remaining in the housing that can build up moisture.
3. Traction – Having good brakes and lubricated cables only goes so far, you need to get grip to slow down or speed up. A good quality tire is the way to go, for example the Schwalbe Marathon tires we equip on many of our bikes and cargo bikes perform very well in the snow (keep a lower tire pressure) but to get the best traction in icy conditions the best way to go is studded tires.
Marathon winter tires. Photo credit: Schwalbe
4. Lights – The short days during the winter mean you will often find yourself without any day light. Make sure you have working lights both in the front and the rear – so you can see the road and people can see you! I cannot believe how many times I see cyclists biking without lights at night. We even recommend to all of our customers (all of our bikes come with front and rear lights and most have automatic – battery free – lights) that they keep their lights on in the day time too – this is especially true when it is snowing or raining. Day time running lights for cars are standard, we believe the same should be true for bikes.
5. Drive train – This is where it gets incredibly nasty if you have an exposed chain and derailleur – they get clogged with ice, snow salt, sand. If it turns you on to clean and lubricate your chain every night you will be very satisfied. For everyone else who does not have the desire, time, energy or know-how the only practical solution is a fully enclosed chain and sealed “gears” such as the shimano nexus or NuVinci. With these systems, everything stays clean and well lubricated – that is one of the reasons we love them so much! Note: a partially enclosed chain case is like a condom with a big hole in it…
Fully enclosed chain case
Ideally before the winter your bike will have a professional ”winterizing” service, like we offer, to lubricate everything (yes, even every nut, bolt, screw should be taken out and lubricated to prevent seizing). In the spring, give your bike a nice gentle bath, a spring safety check and tune-up and you will be ready for the beach…until then…happy riding!
Our Opafiets is right at home in the winter