Bike maintenance – Keeping your bike on the road
Winter riding is a rewarding experience. However, the conditions of winter can be hard on bicycles. Here’s what you need to know to keep your bike going throughout the season.
Metal parts can suffer from being exposed to salt, dirt and wet roads. By minimizing rust and dirt accumulation you’ll have a much smoother and more comfortable ride. Spending a few minutes giving your bike’s drive train (the moving parts of a bicycle such as the chain, the crankset and the derailleur) a wash down and dry will prevent some wear and tear. A chain cleaner, rag and a soft brush (or toothbrush) work well. Clean and re-grease occasionally with a chain lube designed for wet/dirty conditions. Wipe down your brakes after snowy or dirty rides and make sure the contact surfaces with the rims of the wheels are clean.
If you use your bike frequently, it may be best to leave it outside covered with a tarp or in a cold garage throughout the winter months. The constant freeze/thaw cycle is when salt does the most damage. Only bring your bike indoors if you can let it dry out fully and wipe it down completely.
Lubricant is a liquid that is used to keep your drive train running smoothly. If you’re commuting every day, washing your bike after every ride may not be practical. At the very least you should clean, dry and lube your drive train a few times over the season. Doing this will only take five minutes or so and will prolong the life of these parts.
TIP: Wait until the bike is completely dry before applying lubricant.
TIP: As a general rule, wet lube should be used in winter and dry lube in summer.
Checking for Wear and Tear
Small problems can remain small if addressed promptly, avoiding larger and more expensive ones later. Check your chain regularly. Dirty chains can grind down the teeth of cog sets and rear cassettes causing gears to slip and frustrating rides. Replacing a chain is an inexpensive way to extend the life of your drive train. Tires should be checked before each ride. Proper air pressure will keep you rolling smoothly. (During winter, the low end of the PSI range is recommended for better traction.) Check your brakes daily throughout winter. Snow can accumulate and may need clearing before setting out on a ride. Be aware that the increase in dirt and grit on the roads can wear down your brake pads more quickly and not only damage your wheel rims, but could cause the brakes to lose effectiveness.
Small problems can remain small if addressed promptly, avoiding larger and more expensive ones later.