The Chainlink

Because we all need to share triumphs and disasters with other people!

This morning's chilly ride went well, although I'm starting to wonder how I'll keep my face comfortable in January when I'm already wearing a balaclava over my cheeks right now. Gloves kind of failed: I was testing out some Garneau wind-blockers, and my pinky fingers went numb partway through. Looks like I'll be back to the Bar Mitts-and-gloves combo soon, unless I can figure out something else without dropping too much cash.

Also: I'm not sure about anyone else who's doing this for the first time, but I'm gonna have to invest in fleece bike pants. The snow pants shell + heavy capilene tights just aren't doing it for me.

Random winter experience: using my bike like a crowd control device to move a squirrel out of the traffic lane. I think he'd been grazed by a car; no visible injuries, but not interested in moving, either. It was a very gradual procession to the sidewalk. I'm pretty sure I amused/confused more than a few motorists who passed me on Oakbrook by MLK.

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This is the fact that non-winter riders don't seem to get. The assumption that we ride through snow and muck all winter long discourages people from deciding to ride year-round. The other assumption is that it is too cold, when most of the time it just isn't that cold.

Kevin C said:

...The vast majority of winter riding is done on dry pavement. 

Good call.

 

With that said, do you find that weekly sponge baths have helped keep your drivetrain clean? Did your bike emerge from winter no worse for wear?

 

I'm not absolutely opposed to taking 10 minutes to wipe down the bike every other time I ride. It's just that some places will tell you that it's futile; that you'll end up with a bucket of rust by the time mid march rolls around.

Kevin C said:

Fenders go a long way to prevent problems. Depends where/how you store your bike overnight. This'll be my fourth winter with the same year-round commuter and I give it a sponge bath every week or so with warm soapy water when it's sloppy. Clean the drive train and lube every couple of weeks. I also store it inside every night in 40-50 degree temps. The vast majority of winter riding is done on dry pavement. 

I've used the same bike for 2 winters now and when I started someone at a bike shop told me to take a small bucket or a large cup filled with warm water and rinse the drive train each time I came back home to get rid of the salt and slush. Of course, this is only useful if you store your bike indoors or somewhere where the bike can dry overnight without freezing-luckily we have a basement to store our bikes in that is not really warm but warm enough to keep water from freezing.  It seemed to do the trick as I would just rinse the salt and goo off once I got home, do a quick once-over with an old cloth to get it semi-dry, and then use some chain lube on the chain if it seemed I rinsed too much off. My chain and drivetrain has survived two winters with this daily treatment and is still going strong.  The 10 minutes it takes to wipe down your bike is well worth it in my opinion and as long as you wipe most of the salt off and don't let it build up, your bike shouldn't become a rust bucket, especially if you can store it indoors or shelter it.

I wonder if those of you who don't have indoor storage ever use a tarp on your bike for overnights or in inclement weather such as rain and snow, and if that would protect it from getting rusty?   

+1 on the sponge bath, though I tend to wipe down the drivetrain less often. As mentioned, I store the bike indoors overnight in a cool but not cold environment, and I don't even bother to dry it after its sponge bath. It's always dry the next morning. I'll lube the chain between cleanings, but just run the chain through a chain cleaner every couple of weeks (when it looks dirty), and relube. When the chain is properly lubricated, it seems less prone to collecting salt and/or grit.

Melanie said:

I've used the same bike for 2 winters now and when I started someone at a bike shop told me to take a small bucket or a large cup filled with warm water and rinse the drive train each time I came back home to get rid of the salt and slush. Of course, this is only useful if you store your bike indoors or somewhere where the bike can dry overnight without freezing-luckily we have a basement to store our bikes in that is not really warm but warm enough to keep water from freezing.  It seemed to do the trick as I would just rinse the salt and goo off once I got home, do a quick once-over with an old cloth to get it semi-dry, and then use some chain lube on the chain if it seemed I rinsed too much off. My chain and drivetrain has survived two winters with this daily treatment and is still going strong.  The 10 minutes it takes to wipe down your bike is well worth it in my opinion and as long as you wipe most of the salt off and don't let it build up, your bike shouldn't become a rust bucket, especially if you can store it indoors or shelter it.

I wonder if those of you who don't have indoor storage ever use a tarp on your bike for overnights or in inclement weather such as rain and snow, and if that would protect it from getting rusty?   

if you're in Chicago, this might not be a bad clinic to attend: http://bikewinter.org/node/247

"We'll cover all of the basics that will keep your bicycle running smoothly throughout the winter months along with tips that every rider should know in order to make on the fly repairs"

 

also, this website seems to be a great source for being over prepared: http://www.icebike.org/

 

based on what i've read, and seen on the roads, salt and sand are what ruins your drivetrain. i don't have anywhere to store by bike inside nightly (other than carrying it up 4 flights to my apartment every night), but i do typically have sundays to myself and i plan to give the drivetrain some TLC on a weekly basis once the streets gets gross. a scrub and lube only really takes an hour or two. and cleaning is a great way to get familiar with the workings of the bike. 

In regards to regular maintenance and cleaning, Dug can confirm this but I'm sure Rapid Transit (and likely other shops too) is running it's winter special where you can pay a single price for a tune-up and unlimited washes and lubes. It's reasonably priced and a great option if you store your bike outdoors or are laissez faire about doing your own service.

 

ETA: Details pulled from their site.

Winter Tune-Up ($179) 
This service was custom-designed for our customers who depend on their bicycles for transportation throughout the winter. It will keep your bike tuned and serviced throughout the winter season,

  • Includes all the services that are part of our regular Deluxe Tune-Up, plus:
  • Free Bike Wash, adjustments and lubrication as often as needed
  • Free labor on fixing flats
  • Free installation of parts and accessories purchased at Rapid Transit
  • 10% discount on parts and accessories purchased at Rapid Transit

The ongoing maintenance and discounts included in this service covers the entire cold riding season through March 1, 2012. Keep on riding!

 

+1.


Tony Adams said:

This is the fact that non-winter riders don't seem to get. The assumption that we ride through snow and muck all winter long discourages people from deciding to ride year-round. The other assumption is that it is too cold, when most of the time it just isn't that cold.

Kevin C said:

...The vast majority of winter riding is done on dry pavement. 

I rarely bother with much more than shaking the bike off after a ride, and applying winter-specific lube to the chain a little more often than usual (usual being way too seldom.) It probably results in replacement of drive-train components more often than if I was more diligent, but having been car-free for close to 10 years now, the few hundred I spend a year on bike maintenance is barely felt.

 

Jim S said:

Good call.

 

With that said, do you find that weekly sponge baths have helped keep your drivetrain clean? Did your bike emerge from winter no worse for wear?

 

While there might be some lasting effect to the components (look at what salt does to cars over time), as long as you clean the drivetrain often during the winter you should be able to get through the winter wo your drivetrain being too felched up. I usually cleaned mine 1-2x per week. Getting all the crud out of the derailleur and cassette are key. Keep them shits lubed.

 

If you really want to avoid this sorta thing, but want to ride year round, I'd recommend either a single speed winter bike, or better yet, an internal hub. Chicago is basically a flood plain, so a SS will work just fine. I have an internal hub and I fucking love it. Little to no maintenance required, and no external parts to get felched by salt n other winter scum. An internal hub will set you back ~$250 (alfine 8 speed or similar). You should be able to have a rear wheel built up + shifter for $400 or less. I don't know if that's a lot of money to you or not, but for $400 you'd have a rear wheel setup you can transfer from bike to bike, that will last for quite awhile, and will destroy all 4 seasons. I'm a big dude and I've rocked it for 3+ years solid w no problems. The SS is obviously the cheaper option, but man, I can't say enough good things about my internal hub.

 

I'd also say keep the bike inside. Even if this means lugging it up flights of stairs. Regardless of theft chances, you're taking years off the bike if you don't keep it inside. The winter will screw w everything metal on the bike, as well as tires n stuff. Not a good idea.


Jim S said:

Good call.

 

With that said, do you find that weekly sponge baths have helped keep your drivetrain clean? Did your bike emerge from winter no worse for wear?

 

I'm not absolutely opposed to taking 10 minutes to wipe down the bike every other time I ride. It's just that some places will tell you that it's futile; that you'll end up with a bucket of rust by the time mid march rolls around.

Kevin C said:

Fenders go a long way to prevent problems. Depends where/how you store your bike overnight. This'll be my fourth winter with the same year-round commuter and I give it a sponge bath every week or so with warm soapy water when it's sloppy. Clean the drive train and lube every couple of weeks. I also store it inside every night in 40-50 degree temps. The vast majority of winter riding is done on dry pavement. 

Oh Wonderful Wool!!!  As winter is setting in I am so excited to have discovered wool.  I went to a thrift store (The Ark on Milwaukee) and bought three wool sweaters ($5 each): one I kept (I'm wearing it now) and the other two I turned into leg warmers, a smaller sweater and a lovely neckwarmer.   Merino wool is soft, not itchy and so warm!  It insulates and absorbs sweat, keeping you dry and warm! Because it is so warm you don't need to wear many bulky layers.

In particular I am loving the neck warmer I made from a the merino wool sweater.  I can cover my face with it while I ride and it is so soft and warm! 

 

OK so it is the end of November and its starting to get cold.  So far these are the lessons I have learned on my first Bike Winter:

 

1) Don't overdress!  

2) Avoid cotton. Cold air seeps through it, it gets soaked if you sweat. Wool and fleece are Godsent.

3) A wool hat keeps you very very warm even if you are dressing lightly because of that heat moderation through your head 

4) My heavy winter coat is bulky and too warm to ride in, a lighter wind-proof coat on top of other layers seems to work better so far.

5) Wear behind the head earmuffs to avoid cold wind in your ears.

6) A neck warmer is much better than a scarf for covering your face because it stays in place.

7) I've been using my rain coat as a top layer because it is wind/rain proof, really brightly colored and contains reflective strips.  I've wanted heightened visibility lately since it gets dark so early.

8) Tuck at least one of your shirts in to avoid a cold draft on your back.

9) Don't forget the lip balm.  Winter wind is rough on lips! 

 

I have yet to look into winter bicycle maintenance but its on my to-do list.  I'm a little intimidated. I may be attending that class at Get a Grip.   

 

I've ridden my bike through 6 winters and haven't found a need to sponge my bike. Never had any negative impact on my drive train. Seems a bit excessive, and somewhat creepy (lol). You can prevent rust by limiting the amount of humidity, which can be done by bringing your bike in every night. That should be sufficient for rust prevention.

 

I do agree with lubing the chain occasionally. Good times to apply is after a storm, and the aftermath which can include wet salty roads and slushy salty roads. Otherwise, I wouldn't sweat it.

 

Another thing to consider lubing (with a light lube, even WD40 will do), besides the chain are brakes, since salt and dirt can build up and prevent the the smooth movement of them.

Good points.  

 

I found a decent marmot fleece with pit zips on sierra trading post at a good price (with a coupon), and if I wear a thin wicking layer under the fleece and my windproof/waterproof shell on top, I can see myself being warm enough down to really low temps.

 

I also just use a balaclava that pulls down away from the face easily to avoid overheating on milder days, because I haven't found a beanie that is warm enough, covers my ears well enough and is cheap enough to justify buying.  8 dollar balaclava from stp works awesome.

 

Lastly, I bought a pristine hybrid from working bikes today that I wanted to use for the winter, but it's so peferct I'm afraid to now.  Might stick with the old road bike unless it is too hard to handle.    

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