Category Archives: How To

Riding In the Rain: Tips and Tricks

So far in this series of blog posts I’ve highlighted some winter riding gear to make winter riding more comfortable. In this post I’ll go over some tricks to make your winter riding safer and nicer on your bike.


Have you ever wondered what the best tire for wet weather conditions would be?  If it would be knobby or smooth? What advantages do “nicer” tires give you? These are all important things to think about. I’ve personally found my favorite commuting/touring tire to be Panaracer’s Pasela PT at the perfect width of 28mm.

This tire is pictured below on the left. Pasela’s are nice because their both puncture resistant and are made of a super supple, super grippy rubber winter riding 006compound. What this means is; a) your tires will not pick up as much glass from the roads, and b) the riding surface of the tires grip the road better so you are less likely to skid out. I want to emphasis “less likely” because skidding has a lot to do with how you take corners and braking technique. Don’t use your rear brake too heavily… especially in the rain while going around corners, you will skid out. It has happened to me. Sheldon Brown has an excellent article on braking and turning if you want to read more about this.

Riding on wider tires (a 28 or 32 mm width as apposed to the 23 or 25 mm you see on most road bikes) is nice because it is more stabilizing, less bumpy, and you have more tire surface to cling to the road. Another great all weather tire is Continental’s Touring Plus tire. Unlike the Pasela, Bike Works bike shop carries these tires for both Mountain and Road bikes (700c and 26”). The Touring Plus tire has an insane amount of flat protection and also a reflective strip around the circumference of the tire for visibility making it another great tire option. Having a lightly treaded tire is ideal for riding over wet pavement as it will provide the most contact. Sheldon Brown has some more to say on this subject too.

Brake Pads

Have you ever wondered why brake pads come in different colors? The colors represent different rubber compounds that correspond to different weather conditions. The 2 colors you’ll see the most often are black for dry conditions and salmon for wet conditions. Salmon brake pads have more stopping power in the rain; however, they are also more prone to squealing. Luckily, there are quite a few tricks for issues with squeaky brakes. They are:

  • Brake Pad Toe– adjust the alignment of your brake pads so that the front of your pads touch the rim before the rest of the pads. (pictured below)1399067434512
  • Cleaning– Use rubbing alcohol to clean off the grit and grime from the rims of your wheels as well as your brake pads. This is a good idea to do every couple of weeks. I’ve seen many squeaky brakes stem from not doing this. Cleaning your rims will also prolong the life of your brake pads as there will be less metal grit transferred to them from your rims.
  • Sanding– If all else fails you can use a light grade sandpaper to sand your rims. Using a cheese grader also works excellent for clearing off brake pads of metal gunk.


Quick side note: It is important to know when the appropriate time to change your brake pads is. Most pads will have a wear line marked on  the sides of the pads. Another way to tell when a pad is worn down is if there is no more tread left on the pad as pictured on the left.

General Maintenance

The most important tIMG_0676hing you can do for your bike during the winter is keeping your chain clean and lubed! I hear far too many scratchy chains on the road. Every week or so put a few drops of chain lube on the links of your chain, and then wipe off the excess with a rag. Be nice to your bicycle your bicycle will be nice to you!

Riding in the Rain: Tips for Staying Warm and Dry

bellwetherRiding all seasons in Seattle can be a challenge. Between the blustery rain, mischievously hidden muddy, potholes, wind storms, and slippery, wet leaves, it becomes a bit more of a challenge to stay enthusiastic about bike commuting. For those of you who are first time all-season commuters, or those who are sick of having an uncomfortably cold and wet commute, this post is for you.

The most essential piece of winter riding wear is, of course, a breathable, waterproof rain jacket. These two things seem like they would be contradictory… However- just know you should be looking for a jacket with vents for breathability. There’s no point in having a waterproof top layer if you are sweating so much you still get wet. The shop is offering Bellwether’s Aqua-No Alterra Jacket for $150 as a suitable winter riding jacket. The jacket also features reflective accents  to help keep you visible to cars, as well as adjustable vents and a removable hood.

rainlegsAs a commuter, I’ve never enjoyed the idea of riding in rain pants as they are often way too cumbersome, and overly expensive. Rainlegs, however, offer a less expensive, a little bit sillier, more efficient way to keep your legs dry while riding in the rain. As long as you are riding with fenders, your thighs are really the only part of your legs that are at risk of getting soaked in the rain anyway. The coolest feature about these waterproof chaps is that you can wear them rolled up around your waist and pull them down once it starts raining. At $50 a pair, Rainlegs are a great addition to any winter riding wardrobe.

lgonWhat’s worse than running into the grocery store to grab a few items and coming back to find your saddle completely soaked? For those of you who ride with a leather saddle, it’s pertinent to protect it from the rain. For those of you who ride with a synthetic one, it’s still an annoyance when it gets rained on. Brooks offers a $10 solution to this problem with their waterproof seat cover. A great winter riding accessory, the Brooks Rain Cover can easily be rolled up and stored under your saddle while not in use.

winter wool capIf you’ve been by the shop lately and haven’t checked out our selection of Toast Tea Threads caps, I highly encourage it. Locally made by Ricky Rodriguez, Toast Tea Threads caps offer a way to keep your ears warm while riding in cold weather. These wool caps are designed to be worn under a helmet, or all day long.   Find out more about Toast Tea Threads at or stop by the shop to check out our Toast Tea Threads caps in person.

winter riding 002GL4720Another essential winter riding accessory is gloves. I avoid riding with cold and numb hands at all costs. Even if it means buying 2-or more pairs. At Bike Works, we have 3 glove options. High-Vis Cordura Nylon Defeet gloves feature visibility and durability for $20 (picture above left). Wool Defeet gloves are slightly warmer, and will stay warm even when wet. These go for $25. Both Defeet glove styles also function in addition as glove liners and can be paired with the Louis Garneau Monsoon Glove to make an extra warm, and waterproof glove. The monsoon glove goes for $40 and is totally worth it.