Make no mistake about it, winter riding requires extra work and a strong level of commitment. Until you get the hang of it, winter riding takes more time to get ready, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Winter riding dictates that you be alert to, and better prepared for, hazardous road conditions, unpredictable traffic, and lower visibility. Finally, winter riding demands that you be even more disciplined about caring for your bicycle.
Sustainablog recently posted a piece on “winterizing” your bicycle. The second of three recommendations is regular cleaning to combat corrosion and griminess due to salt and dirt.
It is extremely important that you clean your bike regularly during the winter. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour a week to thoroughly degrease, scrub, and re-grease your chain (and you may want to consider cleaning your hubs and bottom bracket too). You’ll probably be surprised at how much faster black gunk builds up in the wetter winter months!
Simple Green is the standby for any bike mechanic for degreasing. You’ll want to use chain lube only for re-greasing your chain, while thicker, turquoise-blue poly lube will work for repacking your bearings in the hub and bottom bracket.
Some people may think the biggest threat to the “well-being” of their bicycle is snow, ice, or freezing in the winter months. Actually, the culprit that can cause the most serious problems is: salt! Make sure you do not skip this step when keeping your bike “winterized” for the cold season.
Setting aside 30-60 minutes each week for a cleaning this thorough may be excessive. It really depends on where you’re riding, the frequency and duration of your rides, and the conditions in which you’re riding. A quick wipe-down two or three times a week can go a long way toward minimizing the season’s effects on your trusty velocipede.
There are some great resources available for those who are new to riding in cold, wet, snowy weather. The Bicycle Tutor has three excellent how-to videos that deal with cleaning and lubrication:
- How to clean and lubricate a chain;
- How to choose the right lubricants (WD-40 is not a lubricant!); and
- How to tune-up your bike (which covers cleaning the wheels and frame);
Tri-newbies offers a basic “Bicycle Cleaning 101” guide. The Park Tool website has an article on bike cleaning that features excellent pictures illustrating each step. And Jim Langley’s outstanding “Wrench” page has a guide on washing your bike as well.
Any of these will provide you with the information you need to do the job correctly and efficiently. Your bike will perform better as a result, and you will be a safer and happier rider.