Michigan winters are a sight to behold – with beautiful snowfalls, bracing winds, and out of towners making the roads a true joy to navigate. All of those tend to convince the casual bicyclists to put their bikes away until the first blossoms of spring burst through. However, bike riding during winter is possible… just be aware of a few simple precautions while commuting on the snowy roads.
Finding the Right Bike for Winter Riding
Modern bikes must tackle three challenges in order to be genuinely useful during the winter months: keep the rider dry, visible, and in an upright position!
Look for bikes with fenders over the back wheel. This will help keep slush and water from being thrown onto your back during inclement weather. Just make certain that the model you choose can be easily cleaned – ice, snow, and road salt can build up inside the fender leading to decreased performance and street curb appeal.
It gets dark quick this time of year – and stays that way until well after the morning commute has started! The bike you choose should include numerous reflectors, a paint coating that will more readily reflect headlights, and lights on both the front and back. This will help you see what is in front of you while making certain that others can spot you well in advance.
The right tires and brakes can go a long way to making certain that your ride is safe and comfortable. For tires, we recommend using the larger and wider varieties in order to maximize traction across a wide variety of terrain. Snowplows don’t often care where they leave piles of snow, and wider tires will help you over those obstacles.
Tire pressure should be checked frequently, especially if you keep your bike indoors and then ride outdoors during cold weather. The temperature changes will cause the air inside your tires to expand and contract; and it may also cause cracks in the valve stem. This could leak air, causing a low tire pressure while riding.
Brakes are something that must be carefully considered based upon your route, the bike you use, and how well you maintain your bike.
Traditional disc/hub brakes are useful in the widest variety of circumstances, though they can fail if it gets cold enough to freeze the grease.
Hydraulic brakes go a step further – providing extra power in situations in which traditional brakes may fail. The best setup is known as an open reservoir setup. This version enables you to swap the liquid with a free-resistant variety and can handle the expansion/contraction that comes with the temperature difference between the hot bike and crisp, cold, outside world.
Keep Comfortable When Bike Riding in Winter
Wind chill and snow are the winter biker’s enemies. It is important to consider clothing that can keep you dry, protect your extremities from frostbite, and keep just enough warmth in to keep you from shivering.
We recommend multiple layers, starting with a wicking shirt and pants that can draw sweat away. From there, concentrate on clothing articles that best tackle the conditions you expect to encounter. For gloves – try to find pairs that you can insert warming packets into. Avoid mittens – they reduce your access to the gear shifter and brakes.
Stay Safe Biking in Winter
An ounce of caution is essential whenever you hop on a bike – regardless of the time of year. Beyond lighting, clothing, and brakes, there are two vital things to consider before heading out: knowledge and communications.
Make certain to follow the local news, especially traffic and weather, before heading out. You may find that the local government has ordered safety precautions that preclude riding. Perhaps the lack of prompt snow removal could make it nearly impossible to use the route you are most comfortable with.
Life happens. Tires go flat, car accidents happen in front of you, someone steals your bike… without a phone you will be stuck hoofing it until you find help. Make certain that your phone is fully charged, secured, and accessible before heading out the door. Consider it an insurance policy that you may never have to use.
Adrian Locksmith and Cyclery has proudly served bicyclists throughout Southeast Michigan for many years. Visit us to see the finest local selection of bikes, bicycles accessories, maintenance, and more – including locksmith services.