You have made it through another Minnesota Winter and it is finally sunny out again. TIME FOR A BIKE RIDE! (finally one that doesn't include 7 layers plus goggles)
But there are a few things you should take with you to make your first summer ride a bit more fun.
It is easy to forget, but helps you go the extra mile. A water bottle is great for hot days, but also washing your hands after you fixed a flat.
There is nothing like bonking during a long ride. What is “bonking”? It is when you hit the wall, it's more than being tired, it is your body telling you it literally does not have the energy to make it up that hill. So bring some fuel! Granola, energy bars, heck, a whole picnic!
Even if you don’t get a flat or break a chain, it is always good to be prepared so you can help someone else in need. Cycling is a community. Be safe.
Winter riding can be a fun experience. Whether you are commuting every day or just going out for a spin, there are a few things to keep in mind when you get back before you make yourself a hot cocoa and relax.
After each ride, you should wipe the salt and slush off your bike. The extra five minutes each day will ensure you have a bike once spring hits. Keeping your winter steed as clean as possible will keep it safe and reliable. The salt from the frozen roads will destroy your bike if left unattended. Don’t use pressurized water when doing this, a wet washcloth will do just fine. Plus then your bike will be nice and sparkly and make you want to ride it again!
Once a week you should clean the gunk off the chain and re-lubricate it. Doing this will help your bike shift better (if you have gears) and keep your chain strong as you push through the frozen ruts. No one wants to deal with a popped chain in 10-degree weather!
After every winter you should always tune up your bike. The cables that hook up your brakes and pull your derailers will often times need to be replaced. Plus this is a great time to change the cable housing color to customize your shred sled. Venture North offers a discounted basic tune-up at $50 until the end of February!
This week, temperatures in Minneapolis, Minnesota plummeted to the -20s (colder than Mars!) and in between throwing boiling water outside to make snow and huddling around my radiator, I went for a bike ride. This ride was just for fun since my job (as well as half of Minneapolis) closed up shop due to the extreme temperatures - and I know you might be thinking “HOW COULD SUB-ZERO BIKING BE FUN?!” - but it was.
Now that you are dressed appropriately, you have a decision to make: Fat or Skinny? I’m talking about tires!
Any bike will do after the streets are plowed, but when it comes to getting to work on time, you can’t always wait until the roads are clear. Regardless of how many fat bikes you see slowly rolling up a hill, they are not the end all, be all. Skinny “Pizza Cutter” tires find their grip by cutting through snow banks and packed snow. They are great for most days but can lack traction on ice or very deep snow, as opposed to fatter, more aggressive tires that seem to “float” over snow and ice. But when things get really slushy out there, it can be hard to keep a straight line as bigger tires struggle when they sink into the slush. It is really all about your riding style and the bike you choose to use.
The most common bikes used for winter can be broken down to four categories:
(1) The Old-school 26er Mountain Bike - It brings your center of gravity lower to the ground and is an inexpensive machine that shreds through the salt and grime because of the aggressive grippy tires.
(2) The Fixed-Gear Beater - fixie-fools will attest to the fact that the retro-tech of yesteryear gives you better traction-feedback than any other kind of bike. That, coupled with the simplicity of these bikes (less parts to go bad), makes for a winter monster.
(3) Cross/Hybrid Bike - The medium sized tires of these “anything bikes” can be the best of both worlds when the streets aren’t plowed. They cut through lighter flurries and dig through deeper snow when they need to.
(4) The Fat Bike - They are slow and sometimes very expensive, but these bikes were literally made for Minnesota winters (no, really. Check out the Surly Pugsley). It comes as no surprise that their 4+ inches of grippy goodness can get you through any blizzard Minnesota throws at you. If you are leaning towards the fat bike option, the Momentum Rocker 3 ($615) offers a light and supple ride-over-anything goliath.
I am serious when I say any bike will do for winter commuting, but a studded tire, such as the Schwalbe K-Guard Winter tire ($54.59), eats up black ice for breakfast. I personally use it as my front tire and I highly recommend it. Studded tires are an investment, but they can be used for several seasons before they need to be replaced. If you can only afford one, put it on the front. You can usually pivot your weight if your rear tire begins to slip, but it is hard to correct your front end from slipping.
Always wear a helmet and always have front and rear lights on your bike. Drivers have a hard enough time seeing us cyclists on a sunny 80 degree day, so help them see you by adding some lights like the Giant Numen Mini HL (only $4.99)!
The best “winter bike” is a clean one. Regardless of the bike you ride through the winter, there is no denying the decay salt-infused grime can cause to your steed. To prevent this, clean your bike after every ride. It only takes ten minutes and it will insure less mechanical mishaps will happen when it is cold! Always keep your chain lubed and free from salt as this is the main reason your bike will stop working after a hard winter.
The final tip for winter riding is to have a good mindset. Riding over ice and bumpy-frozen ruts can be scary, but calmly reacting and correcting the steering will make you a better rider and help prevent you from falling. When you are rolling over ice, always keep pedaling and steer in a straight line. This will increase the traction and keep you from slipping out. But listen… Everyone falls. So when you do fall, try to roll towards the right (away from traffic) and laugh it off. Yes you look silly (crazy even), but falling in the snow hurts a lot less than when the snow is not there, so have a good laugh, brush yourself off, and keep pedaling!
You don’t have to be crazy to ride through the winter, you just have to be prepared. Ride safe!
Venture North Bike-Walk-Coffee is excited to announce a $400 donation from Utepils Brewing Co. and the birth of a collaborative, community-driven, inclusive partnership between Venture North and Utepils.
Utepils Brewing’s first annual Fat Bike Fest on March 3, 2018, for which Venture North provided technical support, was a wild success, hosting twice as many riders as anticipated to Harrison neighborhood. In coming years, Venture North will serve as both the technical support for cyclists and their bikes and as featured coffee supplier.
We’re stoked about what’s ahead for Venture North + Utepils!
Deeqa is 19 and currently a freshman at Normandale and choosing between a business or psych major. Her favorite things to do in her spare time are hanging out with friends and family, me-time, and watching Rick and Morty. She is also really interested in photography, painting, singing and designing clothes.