Winterizing Your Bike (for Nanaimo)

Hello, Nanaimo cyclists!  Is your bike ready for the winter?  Is it lubed, greased, and tuned?  Here’s some suggestions for winterizing your bicycle, Nanaimo style.

Fenders

It’s a rainforest; fenders should be your homeboy.  Fenders prevent mud from spraying in your face and the dreaded skunk stripe from parading up your back.  We sell new sets for $20-$30 or you can dig in the back for some used ones at the bargain price of $5 each.

Wet Lube

We have a ‘wet’ lubricant for bicycles that is just the thing for the winter weather.  ‘Wet’ refers to the fact that the lube is designed to stay on longer – it has a thicker consistency that fights tooth and nail to stay on your chain and moving parts.  It retails for about $13 for a bottle that should last you for a couple of months at least.  Don’t just lube the chain; lube the drivetrain as well.  It will help keep things moving and will also make it easier to clean.

Grease

In this environment, your bicycle’s moving parts should be swimming in the stuff.  Even your exposed nuts and bolts could use a thin layer of it.  If you repair or adjust any part of your bicycle, you should grease or lube it up.  (Everything except the disc brakes – grease and oil are bad)  Even your brake and shifter cables will benefit from a glob of grease dabbed where they enter the housing.  It keeps dirt and water out and can aid in smooth working.

***NO WD-40 on your drivetrain!  It gums up the works and disappears faster than a cheap ‘friend’ when the restaurant bill comes.  There is only one exception to this: WD-40’s bicycle line of products.  These are specifically formulated for bicycles and are labelled as such.  Now, WD-40 sprayed inside the frame to keep water out isn’t such a bad idea, but keep it off the moving parts of your bike.***

Frame

Hopefully your frame is free of rust and dings, but if it isn’t, you might want to remove the rust and repaint it.  For scratches and dings, nail polish works well.  Bicycle frames are also full of holes made by well-meaning manufacturers who think we want things like fenders, racks, water bottles and other accessories.  They’re right, but it means you should grease up every little hole, preferably popping bolts into the ones meant for them and covering them with a blob of grease.

Chains and Drivetrains

Salt, grit and oil are going to do a number on your chain and drivetrain during the winter months, especially if more freezes hits.  Nanaimo, like many Island communities, panics at the thought of actual winter invading our shores and frantically spews out salt, sand, and noxious chemicals at the slightest hint of a boreal wind.  While these can help drivers not hit cyclists, they don’t help cyclists maintain their bicycles.

Some people just ride through the winter with the same old chain on the same old drivetrain and replace the lot come spring.  If you don’t like that idea, make it a point to check your chain’s wear every couple of weeks and scrub/lube your drivetrain at least once a week.

Wheels

When riding on ice or frost, it can be difficult at first to know whether the wobbling is the result of you frantically trying to stay upright or a broken spoke.  Give the wheels a spin every now and again to see if they’re reasonably true or not.  If you regularly scrub the hubs and add some protective grease, they’ll love you more.

Tires

Studded tires are admittedly champions when it comes to black ice, but when the ice is all gone by 10 AM, they seem a little like over kill.  Plus, studded tires can be expensive.  You can make your own for cheap, but that sounds a lot like work.  Also, it’s kind of like buying a cross country ski set here: you use it once a year and the rest of the time it sits in your closet, wondering what it did wrong.  Of course, while the rest of us are gingerly pedalling at 10 km/hr, you can be speeding down the E&N Trail at 25.

My solution is to let some air out of the tires, say 10-15 PSI.  This makes more tire contact the ground and slightly improves one’s traction.  Slightly.  For suggestions on how to maximize ‘slightly’, go to Get Out Cycling!  Many people are under the impression that knobby tires are better for winter because the knobs theoretically give a bicycle more traction.  They would be wrong.  The more tire that actually touches the ground, the more traction.  So, a slick tire might make for a better winter tire in the long run.  Or, at least one meant for urban commuting.  We have them – sometimes we have used tires that fit the bill for $10 or new ones for $25 and up.

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