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Winter Cycling Tips

Don't let the winter months take advantage of you. With a few simple modifications and clothing considerations, you'll be that person everyone marvels at as you ride through the winter with ease.

Winterize your bike

Any steel surface of your bike will have a tendency to corrode, so pay close attention to your chain and exposed areas of the frame. Winter is especially rough on cable systems (brake housings can fill with water and freeze solid), so be sure to lubricate all brake and derailleur housing junctions with an ultralight, non-freezing oil. Lubricate the chain and rear cogs. Mount fenders over both wheels to minimize slush and snow splatter. Always clean and dry off the whole bike as soon as possible after a ride, and then lubricate everything again.

Tires (the right ones) are key!

Tires are the biggest modification you can make to your bike for winter riding. The best tires for riding on snow-covered trails have a wide footprint and generously spaced lugs that throw off packed snow. Use a lower tire pressure for better traction on slippery surfaces. For icy riding, studded tires are a must.

Create your own studded snow tires. Get a rechargeable screwdriver and a couple hundred Phillips head sheet-metal screws, preferably 3/8" #6. Place screws through each knob of the tire, working from the inside out. Ideally, you should have a screw protruding from each and every knob, but if you aren't that ambitious, 100 screws in each tire will suffice. Once you've completed your ice-carving work of art, line it with Slime or Stan's No Tubes.

Winterize yourself

To provide the warmth and protection you need, dress in layers of stretchy, sleek clothing (like a Nordic cross-country skier). Always keep your head covered with a wicking skull cap, balaclava, or (at minimum) a headband worn under the helmet. Invest in an insulated pair of lobster gloves - designed with 3 fingers, your hands stay warmer, and you can still shift and brake without difficulty.

Your first layer of clothing should be cycling shorts with a chamois and a fast-wicking, body-hugging layer of wool or synthetic fabric to help keep you dry. Next comes winter riding tights, a long-sleeve jersey, and a winter cycling jacket that not only blocks wind but also breathes.

Keep your feet warm

This is a challenging task! Start out with a pair of wool cycling socks, your cycling shoes, and then a pair of winter cycling booties, which will quickly become your new best friends. There are different types of winter booties, but spending a little extra time finding the right ones (with enough warmth) will make those last few miles possible.

Think extra visibility and safety: let there be light

The weather gets colder, and the days get shorter, and it is essential to have a great lighting system on your bike to see where you are going, and for motorists to see you. Go with lights for both the front and rear of your bike. There are some great lighting systems that mount to your handlebar or your helmet.

Swap out your pedals

Use platform pedals instead of clipless pedals. Clipless pedals can be very difficult to clip into when they're cold and packed with snow and ice. If you insist on clipless, go with pedals designed to easily shed mud and snow. Or try pedals that offer a platform on one side and clipless on the other, then you have the freedom to choose what works best in certain riding conditions.

Explore new and old

If you have never ridden in the snow and ice, then start out on the trails you are familiar with during the summer, and see what they have to offer in the winter. If those trails get no pedal traffic in the winter and the conditions are too harsh to make it enjoyable, then go find snowmobile trails, fire roads, or unmaintained town roads.

If there are frozen lakes, ponds, or even stream beds in your area, explore those. Of course, you want to be sure they are safe to ride on, but getting out on a frozen pond on a bike can be a blast.

Always be prepared

Carry a trail tool with you at all times, as you are more likely to have things go wrong in the winter, and it is miserable to have to fumble around in the wet and cold weather to repair your bike. A frame pump or CO2 pump and a spare tube is also key.

Choose the bike

If you don't want to get your beautiful mountain or road bike all beat up in the winter, find another rig. With versatile features, cyclocross bikes make great winter riding bikes. Then there is the simplicity of single speeds (or fixed gear) bikes. With only one speed, they have no drivetrain parts to break or get filled up with ice. Riding a single speed bike also trains your muscles in a different way, which improves your bike handling skills, spin, and fitness.

Ride in your living room

Get a stationary trainer for the days it is just too miserable to go outside. Trainers are great because you can take them with you anywhere. Put on your MP3 player and it's better than that spin bike in the gym

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