Bicycle guru and mechanic, Leo from My Ride, gave us these top tips for safe and enjoyable winter rides. Your body needs to be warm, dry, safe, and seen, and your bike needs to be ready for wintery conditions.
Let’s start with your bike.
Pretty much all commuter e-bikes come winterized with full mudguards, lights and a chain that isn’t rusty. After brakes, the most helpful accessory to make it through winter is some wet weather specific chain lube to stop rust.
Periodically servicing your bike to keep the gears, brakes and tyres in tune is also a big help. Every six months at minimum with other little services chucked in as and when required.
Check your tires have plenty of tread. Worn tires are more likely to slip when the road is slick with water or ice.
E-bikes are tough on brakes which is why most of them come equipped with durable, reliable disc brakes.
If you hear a grinding noise when you brake, or your levers are loose, it could mean your pads or discs need replacing, or you need brake fluid. Here are some pointers:
Generally the pad material on disc brakes should be at least 2 mm thick. Check for wear by taking a quick look at your brake pads. Look for signs like thinning or grooves. If the pads are worn down, it's time to replace them.
Clean any dirt off the rotors. It reduces their effectiveness. Use a clean rag and a mild solvent like isopropyl alcohol.
If your brake pads are worn but still have some life left in them, you can adjust the brake calliper to ensure the pads make contact with the rotor at the correct angle and with the right amount of pressure.
Disc brakes use brake fluid to transfer the force from the brake lever to the pads. Over time fluid can get contaminated and less effective. If you notice a decrease in braking power, it may be time to replace the brake fluid.
Make sure the bolts that hold the brake calliper, rotor, and lever are tightened to the manufacturer's recommended torque. Loose bolts can cause brakes to function poorly or fail.
If you have traditional mechanical brakes, check the rubber pads haven’t worn down and the brake levers are sound, and if your bike has any other sort of brakes you might need to visit a bike mechanic like Leo.
Your bike's battery won’t work as efficiently when it’s cold so keep an eye on your charging and make allowances to stay topped up when the temperature drops.
Lights usually come wired to your e-bike but it doesn’t hurt to have more illumination. New LED lights are super bright, easy on batteries and easy to attach to your bike or your clothing. The brighter the better.
Righto. Mudguards, a well lubed chain, fully serviced gears, tyres, brakes, battery, and lights — check, check, check.
The rest is all about you
Your bike doesn't have air bags, and your only collision avoidance software is under your helmet, so it’s up to you to protect your head and hands and stay dry, warm, alert, and very, very visible.
Let’s start at the top.
Wear a helmet. It’s the law. Make sure it fits nice and snug and it’s not beaten up so much that it’s less protective than your hairstyle.
Eye protection isn’t essential but it does help. There tends to be more grit on the road in winter that can flick up in your face. On the plus side, there are less bugs.
A good jacket is a must, even if you only carry it in your panniers. Weather changes and you need protection from wind and water coming from the sky and the road.
If you ride fast get a tighter less flappy jacket and if you have a more relaxed riding style go large and the extra fabric will keep the top of your legs dry too.
The brighter your jacket, and anything else you wear, the better. You want to be SEEN!
Having enough room for a layer or two of insulation is also essential. A long sleeved merino thermal underneath your jacket will keep you toasty, and on really cold days you might want to add another thicker layer.
Pockets and reflector strips are handy too.
Gloves are great. Windproof, waterproof winter cycling gloves will keep your hands warm and give you much more control.
Legs. If you’re crazy enough to wear cycling shorts in the winter you might want to invest in some knee or leg warmers for the days that make your skin turn blue.
There are plenty of warm cycling trouser options and, if you bought your e-bike so you could cycle to work without getting sweaty or changing your clothes, a pair of waterproof overpants will keep your outfit looking sharp and dry.
Lots of people have special shoes for cycling but one of the advantages of commuting on an e-bike is that you can ride with sandshoes, dress shoes or trainers.
Like the rest of you, it’s optimal for your feet to be warm and dry. You can get windproof, waterproof shoe covers for cycling shoes or you can use an old pair of shoes for cycling and carry your good ones for work.
Apart from underwear, that's pretty much all the clothing you’ll need from top to bottom. Although, for both style and comfort, socks are important too.
Most importantly, try to be the most visible vehicle on the road and, since your bike is mostly covered by you, the rider, what you wear should dazzle your audience. Get a high viz vest, put some more lights on your helmet and reflectors on your clothes. Be outrageous.
Be safe, be seen.
This article was written with the help of Leo and Dan at My Ride Grey Lynn, 376 Great North Road, Auckland 1021. Pop in if you’re in the area and looking for a great deal on an E-bike, maintenance, accessories or book a quick check up to make sure you're ready for winter.