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A couple years ago I rode through the winter (took last winter off) and am looking to resume. My bike got hammered during the New England winter though, especially the hubs. Other than a regular rinsing before putting the bike away what should I be doing specific to winter-proofing my bike as much as possible?

Update: To address the duplicate flag, I'd like clarify that I'd like answers to be focused on maintenance - NOT on winter products. I have everything I need to ride safely and comfortably to 0° F but I'm looking for help and suggestions on how to keep my bike running smoothly in this weather.

Thanks

  • The best thing to do is have a beater bike. Rinsing can cause water to get into places you don't want and freeze. – Batman Nov 17 '14 at 3:50
  • @Batman Good point, I hadn't considered the freezing, thanks. ...and it is my beater, but I'm hoping to avoid an annual new set of wheels of possible. :) – mattsolar Nov 17 '14 at 3:56
  • It should not be necessary to rinse unless there is salt on the road, and even then one needs to be careful to never direct water spray into bearings. I find it strange that your hubs "got hammered" unless you were spraying water into them. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 17 '14 at 12:15
  • @DanielRHicks There's a lot of salt and I def. didn't spray water into them. I didn't do any hosing off after rides (well, very minimal) so I think I'm suffering from the opposite problem. – mattsolar Nov 17 '14 at 14:38
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A couple of tips I learned when winter commuting in Calgary:

  • Depending on how much salt gets used on the roads where you live, using a good quality car wax on the frame will go a long way towards rust prevention.
  • A squirt of WD-40 on your chain, cable pivot points, etc. will displace any water that's collected there.
  • Keep your chain well lubed with a good quality wet lube (not a dry lube – dry lube is useless in the winter).
  • Always always always make sure your rims are clean after a ride. You collect a lot more road sand and grit on your rims during the winter, which will shred your brake pads quickly.
  • Fenders are a godsend for keeping both you and your bike clean.
  • Make sure you have good, strong, bright lights. The sun goes down early this time of year!
  • Not maintenance releated, but: when it gets really cold, layered clothing is your best friend.

Bike commuting through a cold winter is a badge of honor. Wear it well!

  • That's more than a couple, but a fair list. One should go easy on WD-40, if you use it at all, since it will tend to wash away lube. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 17 '14 at 12:16
  • Counting has never been one of my strengths. ;) – Scottie Nov 17 '14 at 12:38
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    If you are going to wax the outside of the frame, you should consider getting a rust preventative treatment and doing the inside of the frame (for steel frames) as well. Carbon, Ti, and to some extent aluminium will not have this problem as much. As for dry lubes being useless, it's all I use here. Because any time it gets actually cold (below 0F), it also tends to get quite dry as well. Also, colder temperatures tend to stiffen up oil based lubricants and degrade chain performance. – Deleted User Nov 17 '14 at 16:22
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Hubs/Bearings

Clean and repack your bearings every fall. Most bicycle greases are fine for low temperatures, but if you are biking in sub-zero temperatures you may want to look at a product like Lubripate Mag-1 which is rated for use in temperatures down to -60 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are biking in wet conditions as well as cold, you may want to clean and repack the bearings in the middle of the cold season or more frequently.

This would include hubs, headsets bottom brackets and pedals if any of them have serviceable rather than sealed bearings.

I have heard that freehubs can be winterized too, but I have never ridden in conditions cold enough to freeze a free hub.

Suspensions

If you have an oil-damped suspension you will likely want to talk to the mechanics at your local bike shop about winterizing the shocks. Low temps will impact the viscosity of the oil and could damage the shocks. If your shocks use elastomer suspensions they will likely freeze and stop working as you approach 0 F, but the bike should still be ridable.

Chains

If you use dry or wax lube, you will want to switch to a wet lube for the winter. This will protect your drive train from salt and water a little better, but will require you to spend more time cleaning and re-lubricating the chain.

Tires

For snowy conditions, wider tires with widely spaced knobs will give you the best traction. On a MTB you are probably fine with your normal knobby tires. On a road bike you will likely want to switch to cyclocross tires if you have sufficient clearance between the tire and the frame.

If you are frequently biking on ice, you will want to look into studded bicycle tires, which I know are available for mountain bikes, but I haven't seen in my area for road bikes.

Hints

These are a couple of things I do to prepare for winter ridding.

Cover tool handles with foam or electrical tape to insulate them. Few things are worse than taking your gloves off to manipulate a tool and having it freeze to your fingers.

Pack extra tubes and a CO2 inflator so that in the case of a flat tire you can change it quicker.

Anything plastic will get brittle and break very easily. So when looking for parts, water bottle cages and toe clips (if you use them) look for metal ones.

If you can, leave your bike in a cold area. If you take a bike out of your warm house into a cold and snowy area, any snow kicked up will melt first on the warm frame and components, then freeze to the bike causing ice buildup. This is particularly annoying on the drivetrain. By the same token, when you bring the bike inside after riding, take care to dry it completely, or any remaining moisture will re-freeze as soon as you take it back out on a ride.

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