Editor’s Note: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia Policy Manager Randy LoBasso writes the monthly “Bike Talk” column for Grid Magazine, a Philadelphia-based print magazine about sustainability. Randy wrote about how to get through the winter on a bike for his winter column. In so doing, he reached out to a bunch of cyclists who’ve been doing it for a while. One of those people, Michael McGettigan, owner of Trophy Bikes in Northern Liberties, offered a lot of great tips, only a couple of which were able to fit into the column. So, with his permission, we’re offering *all* of McGettigan’s winter riding tips. Happy trails!
Trophy Bike’s Winter Riding Tips
By Michael McGettigan
1) See Me/Hear Me. Remember that everybody’s bundled up, drivers may have fogged windows, etc.–and so keep an EXTRA sharp watch to make sure others actually see you. If you’re using a hoodie, or scarf, etc. you can “wrangle” them to fit better and not block your side vision by using med-size binder clips to gather up extra fabric. Make sure all your lights are fully charged, or with fresh batteries, as cold weather hurts their efficiency. Run them even in the daytime to help you get seen through dirty auto windows.
2) Road gunk and salt can corrode your bike’s chain and components. At the very least… bounce your bike (about 6” from the floor) a few times before you bring it inside. Better still, give your poor bike a weekly rinse by pouring (never spray bikes with a hose) warm water to rinse it off… then remember to wipe first, then lube your chain. Ask your local bike shop about their favorite cold-weather lubes, especially wax-based lubes like Boeshield. Have them inspect your bike’s cables and housing, as bad weather finds cracks and can make your brakes/shifting sticky.
3) A VERY small amount of dry lube inside the keyhole of your U-lock can help stop it from freezing. Try to position your lock so that rain/snow doesn’t go into the keyhole, use the rotating cover if your lock has one.
4) Remember to SLOW DOWN a few blocks from your destination, and maybe start unzipping jacket and/or removing layers, to avoid the dreaded “Baked Potato in the Elevator Effect” when you rush inside a warm building.
5) Day one of a storm can be beautiful, with few/no cars. But in days 2 to 5, beware of narrowed paths in the snow, and the polished stretches where cars have been sliding up to the stop sign. Don’t be afraid to lift your bike out of “the river” and “portage” it, walking it on the sidewalk to get past a bad patch. In restaurant districts, be wary of the water they dump into the bike lanes, to freeze on cold days.
6) If you’re on a budget, remember that just one studded snow tire on the FRONT wheel can keep you upright. Consider putting it on a cheap or used old front wheel, so you can just pop it on when there’s a snowfall. Studded snows are a little expensive, but a pair will probably last a Philadelphian a lifetime of winters.
Through advocacy and education, the Bicycle Coalition leads the movement to make bicycling a safe and fun way to get around for anyone in Greater Philadelphia. We’re a member-funded organization, and we can’t advocate for building out the region’s bicycle network without your support. Join or donate today to partner with us and make your ride better.