Cold-weather cycling is fast upon us. Although we have not been complaining about the ~75 degree sunshine we have most days this Autumn! Being a bicycle tour and rental shop near one of Albuquerque’s most visited bike trails (ie. the Rio Grande Bosque Bike Trail), we have learned a trick or two to quickly get bicycles ready for cold-weather riding. Today we will share those tips with you.
Quick Note on Safety: When checking your bike before a ride, it’s important to always be thorough. Although these are the basic checks we conduct on a daily basis on our bikes, we are making the assumption that your bike has also been fully-tuned and checked on regular intervals – and as such, is in good working order before your ride. (We are always happy to schedule your bike into our award-winning repair shop in ABQ if you are in need of bicycle maintenance or a seasonal tune-up).
Quick Checks for Cold-Weather Riding – Your Bike:
- Check your brakes! So – we have to start here, with your brakes. The ability to stop your bike is – well, essential. This becomes especially true in cooler weather. ….and don’t forget to feather your brakes in cold/wet weather. Our quick check:
- Pull the levers with your normal braking force, then push your bike forward. The wheels should be stopped and effectively locked.
- Make sure both of your brakes operate with the same hand force, connect with the wheel at the same time, and return quickly to their off position when released.
- Do a quick review for wear/cracks of all cable housing and brake pads.
- Our next check is your tire pressure. Did you know that the pressure inside your tires can decrease up to 2% PSI for every 10 degree drop in weather? It’s not that more air is escaping your tires, but rather the air inside the tire condenses, taking up less space when it’s cold. For the most part this won’t be noticeable along your ride – unless you keep your bicycle indoors overnight or there are dramatic drops in weather. We recommend to check your pressure and bring it up to the manufacturer’s recommended max before riding in cold weather. Those numbers can (usually) be found right on your bicycle tire. We tend to do the opposite during the warm New Mexico summer months, and inflate about 5 PSI less than the max as the heat expands the air by the same 2%/10 degree ratio.
- Maintain your chain and ride a clean bike. Our last autumn bike check brings us to the chain and frame. Riding in cold weather often means riding on surfaces covered in salt or clay. Throughout the season, check both your bicycle frame and your chain for signs of rust. A little rust on the surface of a chain can usually be cleaned and re-lubricated, but if there is extensive rusting, your chain needs to be replaced. Spin the cranks backwards to observe if the chain moves freely over the cogs without any skipping, binding or kinking. It should also be mostly quiet with no grinding or squeaking. If it does any of those, clean and re-lube the chain.
- Install fenders/mud guards. One of our favorite bicycle accessories during the Fall and Winter months, are fenders. Fenders or mud guards help keep the rest of your bike (and you) dry. Staying dry = staying warm. Even if there is no precipitation, the mud, dirt, and salt on the roads/trails quickly corrode your bicycle frame and components. Fenders can guard against that.
- Layers, layers, layers! Here in New Mexico, you never know what you are going to get weather-wise (sunny in the morning, snowing in the evening – it happens!). But the same can be said for most places during the Autumn months. How do we combat that? With layers. By wearing multiple layers that can be removed or added throughout your day/ride, you can all but guarantee a comfortable body temperature while cycling. Choosing your materials and layers carefully is crucial. Try to have a moisture-wicking base layer closest to your skin, an insulating mid-layer, and an outer shell layer to protect you from the elements.
- Wear waterproof shoes or carry an extra pair – it is NO FUN to have wet feet all day because of a rainy commute. Try to wear waterproof shoes or grab a pair of all-weather shoe covers. Add to that wear warm, wool or synthetic socks, too.
- Keep your hands warm and dry with a good pair of full-fingered cycling gloves. The physical activity that keeps your core warm does not always translate to your extremities. They are more exposed to the elements, so it is important to keep them insulated. Opt for warm and weather-proof gloves and for cycling on the coldest days – look for “lobster claw” style gloves that keep some of your fingers together for added heat sharing.
- Stay visible – We are huge fans of bright clothing and reflective gear and during the autumn months when the light starts changing, it’s extra important to stay visible! Looking to add some of your own personal style? Check out our custom reflective and neon vinyl that can be added to your bike frame, your helmet, and more!
- Stay visible – This tip is so important we added it TWICE! With the seasons changing and shorter days ahead, we need to remember to be more visible than ever. On Routes bikes, we always include front and rear safety lights, as well as a high lumen headlight. You can even get festive with holiday frame and spoke lights that are not just fun to look at – they make you visible from almost every angle.
- Watch for slick spots on the road/trail. Always be aware of where you are riding and what is upcoming on the bike path. Any type of metal surface can become very slick when wet, a pile of leaves can be a trap for gunking up your tires, and even road lines can slip you up in the rain.
- Skip splashing around in puddles. Yes, we know – puddles are fun to play in – but it is especially dangerous when doing it from a bike. Oftentimes a puddle may look shallow or unassuming, but our customer maintenance department has seen many bikes that took an unfortunate nose-dive into a shallow hole or bent a wheel on a hidden bar in the ground. We ask that you literally steer clear of puddles.
- Stay hydrated. Although the weather is colder, your core is staying warm causing you to still perspire. Stay warm from the inside out by bringing hot broth or coffee along for the ride. A double-insulated mug flask will keep your liquids hot, in turn keeping you warm even in freezing conditions. PRO TIP: traditional water bottles can freeze if housed in your bottle cage. We recommend keeping it in your pack or jersey pocket instead.
We hope you enjoyed our 12 tips for cold-weather cycling. After 10 years of renting bicycles in New Mexico, we are happy to share our tips and checks to keep guests safe, warm, and happy during the cooler cycling months. Admittedly, it’s easier here in Albuquerque, with our 300+ days of sunshine, but we are no strangers to snow, rain, and cooler temps. Have any tips to add? Let us know in the comments!
Need help getting your bike ready for fall and winter cycling?
We’d love to help! Be sure to visit our award-winning bicycle maintenance shop in Albuquerque Old Town. We are open year round and have over 70+ years of combined wrenching experience.