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 compound. 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.
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)
- 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.
The most important thing 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!