For many of us who take environmental protection into our own hands daily, a bicycle is an indispensible part of the dream. Throw off those winter blues… bicycling can make your winter green!
Bicycles are an efficient way to transport yourself daily for a number of reasons. To me, the most important benefit to using a bicycle is that it improves my health and fitness. Probably the next most important to me is a bike’s economy. You pay for occasional maintenance throughout the year, but on the whole, it is far cheaper than using a car, or even travelling by public transportation!
On the environmental front: unlike motor vehicles, bicycles produce no greenhouse gases from their use. Their parts can often be manufactured from recycled materials. Overall, while not perfect, bikes make for a significantly smaller footprint than any other existing mode of efficient, long-travel transportation out there.
The distance from my home to my work is 1.8 miles. (Another good way to think green: move close to your essentials!) Walking, that might take me 40 minutes! But on my bike, I am there in 9-12 minutes. As the nights get longer and the air gets crisper, however, I am reminded that unless I take certain measures, I will soon be prevented from using my bike to get to work by the “elements.” Common enemies to the bicycle include: snow, slush, ice, gravel, and salt.
But if you’re like me, you strive to think green in all seasons… not just the warm and sunny ones. Surely, winter is the least popular time to ride bikes–it’s cold and difficult, and just plain inconvenient! However, who doesn’t need to keep fit in the winter months? And with a few quick steps and some basic knowledge, you can equip yourself and your bike with the necessities to keep it sturdy and rideable throughout the winter months.
1. Studded Tires
Combats: ice, snow, slippery surfaces
One of the most important steps you may want to consider when winterizing your bike is making it capable of sticking to the ground when you are riding or turning corners. Just like getting studded tires for cars, you may want to invest in studded tires for your road bike! Typically road bike tires have very little traction and are fairly smooth. Winter tires will have many more substantial nubs, usually with little metal studs in each (Phattire.com and Penn Cycle give you an idea for these essential winter accessories.) Before you order or buy them, make sure they will match your tire size by checking the measurements on the rim of your tire (usually 27?, 26? or 700).
2. Regular Cleaning
Combats: corrosion and griminess due to salt, dirt
It is extremely important that you clean your bike regularly during the winter. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour a week to thoroughly degrease, scrub, and re-grease your chain (and you may want to consider cleaning your hubs and bottom bracket too). You’ll probably be surprised at how much faster black gunk builds up in the wetter winter months!