Riding your electric bike during the winter may be scary for some people. The cold weather can be intimidating, but if you stow your bike at the first hint of snow, you're missing out on the many benefits of riding during the winter.
With the proper preparation and mindset, winter riding can be quite rewarding. It is entirely possible to substitute a car commute for a bike commute. You'll avoid traffic jams, increase your heart rate, and burn a lot of calories. You'll also arrive at work energized, with the smug satisfaction of having accomplished something before your workday even begins.
Here are tips for riding your electric bike into winter
1. Ease into it.
Cycling in the winter is not an all-or-nothing situation. Start slowly to help you gain confidence, refine your skills, and break in your gear. Overextending too quickly can lead to disappointment, whereas short, enjoyable rides can inspire motivation to continue.
If your commute to work is too long, you can take public transportation or drive part of the way. You can also alternate riding days.
2. Ride the bike you already know.
Bikes intended for use on both pavement and gravel are better choices in slippery weather, but any bike you use in other seasons may be adjusted for winter riding.
You can prepare your bike for winter conditions regardless of the model you own. The most critical factors to consider are lighting and tires (covered below). Add fenders to protect against tire-sprayed snow, water, and muck. Take an insulated water bottle into your bottle cage and fill it with a warm beverage (even warm water) to help you fight the chill.
3. Gear up to see and be seen.
In the winter, daylight is scarce, so be prepared to ride in the darkness. Make sure you have bright lights and reflectors installed on your bike. Batteries drain faster in cold weather, so fully charge batteries before any ride and keep additional batteries on hand for non-rechargeable lights.
4. Layer your clothing.
Clothing is, of course, the most obvious and perhaps significant aspect in winter weather riding. Windproof, thermal, and waterproof gear can keep you dry and warm on long rides, so you won't even notice how chilly it is.
A full set of winter clothing may appear to be an expensive purchase at first, but smart selection and layering may provide you with a variety of clothing to suit a variety of temperatures.
It's tempting to bundle up in thick fleeces and waterproof clothing to keep warm, but keep in mind that they'll make you sweat even if the temperature is below freezing. Sweat might accumulate under your clothes, leaving you feeling wet, cold, and clammy.
Use cycle-specific clothes because clothing designed for other sports may not fit well for your riding position or have the required moisture-wicking characteristics.
5. Check your tires and adjust the pressure
Tires should be inflated to the low end of their pressure range. Every tire has a list of allowed pressures (usually on their sidewalls). Riding on tires inflated to the extremes of their range increases tire surface contact with the road, enhancing traction. A "softer" tire absorbs bumps as well, allowing you to keep control if you strike a pothole or rough surface.
Before each ride, check the tire pressure. This is possibly the most underappreciated routine maintenance task in cycling. Tires lose a tiny amount of pressure with time, and low conditions decrease air pressure as well. Make it a practice to check and adjust tire pressure before each ride. If your tires are at the low end of the pressure range, this chore is more vital than ever; a small amount of pressure loss might put you on tires that are beyond the allowed range.
6. Clean and cover your ride.
Snow and road grit can cling to bike parts, notably the chain and drivetrain, even with fenders. Reduce muck buildup to keep things running smoothly. So, while regular maintenance is always a good idea, it is especially important in the winter.
Clean and lubricate: After a particularly filthy ride, wipe off your chain, drivetrain, and other bike parts (at least once weekly if you ride regularly). Every few weeks, you should also perform a more thorough cleaning and lubrication. When you've finished wiping down or cleaning your bike, lightly recoat the chain and transmission with a "wet" lube (one designed for wet/dirty conditions). In the winter, you don't want a faulty chain.
Clean your brakes: After a snowy or dusty ride, always wipe off your brakes and ensure the contact surfaces with the wheels are clean.
Keep your bike indoors. Rain and freezing temperatures are tough on a bike, so keep it indoors if at all feasible. The next best place, sheltered from rain and snow, is under a carport, a building eave, a covered porch, or a garage. You may also buy a bike cover or, in a pinch, make one out of a tarp or an old BBQ cover. If you must leave your bike outside and it freezes, make sure to thaw the moving parts before riding it. Bring your bike into a warm indoor environment to speed up the thawing process.
7. Keep your ebike batteries warm.
E-bike batteries drain faster in cold weather, therefore limiting the amount of time the battery is left outside. While you can't control the temperature outside while riding, you may remove the battery each night and store it in a heated place.
You may even purchase a separate cover for some batteries to assist keep them warm throughout a ride. Whether you have a cover or not, consider your range will be reduced in the winter and ride gently to maximize battery life. This means spending more time in eco mode and less time in turbo mode.
You and your bike can ride joyfully all year if you plan ahead of time. Who knows what will happen if you combine that with a sense of adventure and a little perseverance? You can even find yourself counting down the days until next winter's riding season in the summer.
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