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Winter Bike Care

Old 01-11-16, 04:16 PM
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CanadaDan1971
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Winter Bike Care

I'm riding through the winter for the first time in years. I'm worried that the salt will take too great a toll on my bike.
I'm wondering how to best care for my bike? How often I should clean it, how I should clean it, keeping in mind I live in a one bedroom apartment.
Right now I'm thinking on a simple wipe down when getting home and lubing chain every few days. Is that enough? Should I be doing more?
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Old 01-11-16, 04:19 PM
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If you keep an eye on it and clean/lube as needed, nothing too bad will happen to it.
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Old 01-11-16, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by CanadaDan1971 View Post
I'm riding through the winter for the first time in years. I'm worried that the salt will take too great a toll on my bike.
I'm wondering how to best care for my bike? How often I should clean it, how I should clean it, keeping in mind I live in a one bedroom apartment.
Right now I'm thinking on a simple wipe down when getting home and lubing chain every few days. Is that enough? Should I be doing more?
That's not bad. If you ride a bunch through the winter you will probably want to replace the chain and maybe cassette once spring has sprung. However if you keep things clean and lubed as needed you should be all right.
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Old 01-11-16, 06:36 PM
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Except that cleaning can be a challenge when temps stay under freezing for weeks on end. Which for me means even my garage is below freezing so washing the bike becomes tricky. What I have seen after several years of winter cycling is that corrosion will sit in. In my case it's not so much the body or components but the hardware. They get messed up pretty good. And things just start to break, like fenders and various mounting stuff. Now if you have a way to clean it regularly and get it dry/keep it dry you may not see much in the way of problems. Increased wear due to grit, cut tires, etc are normal.
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Old 01-11-16, 08:22 PM
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Like a lot of people, I have a winter beater bike. Winters are hard on bikes -- the grease just doesn't seem to lubricate very well when the temps get below freezing; salt is not a friend of anything metal; ice seems to work its way into many unwelcome places; etc. I don't ride much of anywhere just for fun in the winter, so I can get away with a bike that rides like a tank during cold weather. If you have a long commute, that may be hard to manage. But, if you can get away with it, I would suggest opting for a bike that you won't mourn if it gives up the ghost during the cold season.
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Old 01-11-16, 08:51 PM
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I apply chainsaw bar oil to exposed metal parts, such as the little nuts on the brake shoes, etc. It's a thick, sticky oil, that stays put pretty well. I've got some in a tin can with an acid brush (welding supplies at Home Depot). Last year, there was no rust on my bike except where I accidentally missed with the oil. Also, I replaced all of the fasteners with stainless.

The main issue: The bike came with steel spokes, which are predictably, rusting. If and when they have to be replaced, I'll go with stainless spokes.

Also, a mistake that I made was to just put the bike aside when winter ended. By fall, the chain was a big old rust ball. This time around I will take care of the bike before storing it away.
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Old 01-12-16, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by CanadaDan1971 View Post
I'm riding through the winter for the first time in years. I'm worried that the salt will take too great a toll on my bike.
I'm wondering how to best care for my bike? How often I should clean it, how I should clean it, keeping in mind I live in a one bedroom apartment.
Right now I'm thinking on a simple wipe down when getting home and lubing chain every few days. Is that enough? Should I be doing more?
Welcome to bikeforums CanadaDan1971! Relax! For years before I joined bikeforums, in fact for years before the internet, I commuted year round and in the snow leaving my bike locked up outside, and sometimes under a tarp with just an ocasional wipe-down in the garage at work. First my 1987 Schwinn Cruiser, then my 1997 Nishiki Blazer. Really, the only thing that suffered was the chain, which was replaced every couple of years. Not only that, but before I learned better from bikeforums I used to powerwash my 1997 Nishiki Blazer, hubs, gears, crank and all! I'm back to snow riding this year on the Blazer. It has a bare metal spot where the chain rubs when it falls off the front chainring. And for the last 17 years it sits out in the unheated shed at night. I will wipe it down at work or on the weekends, when I think about it. And I did have to repack the rear bearings two or three years ago after accidentally opening the rear hub. But all in all, after all the abuse, casual cleanings and bare metal, it has no visible rust, it is still solid, and is still going strong.

Last edited by BobbyG; 01-12-16 at 08:32 AM.
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Old 01-12-16, 09:47 AM
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I gave up trying to keep my winter bike clean. As @jamesdak above pointed out, if you live in an area where the temps stay below freezing for extended periods of time (measured in months, where I live) there's not a lot of practical ways to wash the bike. My garage is unheated and washing it in there just causes the water to freeze on the bike and a frozen spot on the garage floor. Hosing it down in the driveway isn't an option as that would just create a giant sheet of ice and freeze the hose. No way is my wife letting me bring my dirty winter bike inside to try and wash it there.

After my first year of riding my bike looked like it had aged 50 years. Chain, chainring, cassette and every piece of steel was nothing but rust even though it seemed like I was constantly coating everything in oil. All the unpainted aluminum pieces were white with oxidation. Lost some plastic due to things getting brittle in the bitter cold. The painted aluminum (ie frame) still looked good, but everything around it appeared like it had come through a war.

So I gave up and just declared that this was now a dedicated winter bike. I don't ride my "good" bikes in the winter. I don't make any attempt at keeping my winter bike looking decent, I just replace things as they break (which is much more often in the winter.)
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Old 01-12-16, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Tundra_Man View Post
I gave up trying to keep my winter bike clean. As @jamesdak above pointed out, if you live in an area where the temps stay below freezing for extended periods of time (measured in months, where I live) there's not a lot of practical ways to wash the bike. My garage is unheated and washing it in there just causes the water to freeze on the bike and a frozen spot on the garage floor. Hosing it down in the driveway isn't an option as that would just create a giant sheet of ice and freeze the hose. No way is my wife letting me bring my dirty winter bike inside to try and wash it there.

After my first year of riding my bike looked like it had aged 50 years. Chain, chainring, cassette and every piece of steel was nothing but rust even though it seemed like I was constantly coating everything in oil. All the unpainted aluminum pieces were white with oxidation. Lost some plastic due to things getting brittle in the bitter cold. The painted aluminum (ie frame) still looked good, but everything around it appeared like it had come through a war.

So I gave up and just declared that this was now a dedicated winter bike. I don't ride my "good" bikes in the winter. I don't make any attempt at keeping my winter bike looking decent, I just replace things as they break (which is much more often in the winter.)
I ride in the winter but only on dry days, and I never ride my bikes through rain or snow, or even water on the ground. The comments in this thread about bikes turning into balls of rust kind of surprise me, I had always assumed modern steel parts - as in anything made after the 70's - would be pretty resistant to rust. Obviously that isnt the case, lol. Sounds like having a winter beater bike is the only real solution as many posters have mentioned.
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Old 01-12-16, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by exmechanic89 View Post
I ride in the winter but only on dry days, and I never ride my bikes through rain or snow, or even water on the ground. The comments in this thread about bikes turning into balls of rust kind of surprise me, I had always assumed modern steel parts - as in anything made after the 70's - would be pretty resistant to rust. Obviously that isnt the case, lol. Sounds like having a winter beater bike is the only real solution as many posters have mentioned.
My rainy-day commuter has no rusting problems but that one is only ridden on warmer wet days, not in snow/slush/ice. I strongly suspect it's the chemicals they use in our area that causes my rust issues. On the flip side, in South Dakota if they don't use the chemicals on the road nobody is going anywhere, bicycle or otherwise!
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Old 01-12-16, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Tundra_Man View Post
My rainy-day commuter has no rusting problems but that one is only ridden on warmer wet days, not in snow/slush/ice. I strongly suspect it's the chemicals they use in our area that causes my rust issues. On the flip side, in South Dakota if they don't use the chemicals on the road nobody is going anywhere, bicycle or otherwise!
Yeah I'm sure those chemicals, along with the extreme temps and slush are the problems alright. I really am surprised though how bad it is on the bikes, though. But I guess they arent designed for those extremes. I'm definitely gonna remember that if end up building an actual winter bike.
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Old 01-12-16, 12:42 PM
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My beater bike was my car for my Boston and Ann Arbor winters. Both cities use a lot of salt (or at least did 30 years ago). I ran the bike as a fix gear. That meant the chain was far less of an issue. A few frozen links? Just slide the wheel forward! Wheels were cheap tubular on which I ran cyclocross tires. In the spring I would cut the spokes, toss the (now quite square) rim and start fresh.

I painted those bikes with a brush and two part marine epoxy paint. If I knew then I would have greased all threads with the blue marine grease available in auto parts stores for boat trailer axles. Likewise BB, headset and any other bearings I could get too.

I never had access to outdoor hoses in the winter and frequent indoor cleanings were not welcome where I lived. Bike would get put away wet and ridden the next morning. (6' clear plastic carpet runners work super in apartments. Tires create a low spot for the water which evaporates overnight leaving a nicely contained dry greasy salty mess. Come spring, the carpet under is still clean.)

I figured the chain, cog(s) and quite likely chainring(s), spokes and rims were trash by spring. So you can see that part of the plus of fix gears is replacement costs each spring. Two road rings, cluster and 9,10,11 speed chain cost far more than a cheap 1/8" chain and a cog.

Ben
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Old 01-12-16, 03:33 PM
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First suggestion - don't use a bike you care about.
I've refurbed a couple of bikes used as commuters and from what I've seen:
Put a drop of oil on every fastener you can find including seat bolts, brake bolts and nuts and anything that rotates including shifters and jockey wheels. Put a tiny glob of grease in the hex of every bolt like stems etc. Refresh often. Keep your chain oily. Wash when you can. Not sure how much it will help but a coat of wax can't hurt.
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Old 01-12-16, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by exmechanic89 View Post
I ride in the winter but only on dry days, and I never ride my bikes through rain or snow, or even water on the ground. The comments in this thread about bikes turning into balls of rust kind of surprise me, I had always assumed modern steel parts - as in anything made after the 70's - would be pretty resistant to rust. Obviously that isnt the case, lol. Sounds like having a winter beater bike is the only real solution as many posters have mentioned.
LOL, if I did that I wouldn't hardly ever get a ride in. Fenders are a must for me because wet is a way of life. I enjoy the dry days for the simple things like derailleurs not freezing up.
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Old 01-12-16, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Slash5 View Post
First suggestion - don't use a bike you care about.
I've refurbed a couple of bikes used as commuters and from what I've seen:
Put a drop of oil on every fastener you can find including seat bolts, brake bolts and nuts and anything that rotates including shifters and jockey wheels. Put a tiny glob of grease in the hex of every bolt like stems etc. Refresh often. Keep your chain oily. Wash when you can. Not sure how much it will help but a coat of wax can't hurt.
So true, I bought this Kona Jake the Snake years ago to use as a winter bike but it was just too nice. This is the first year it's seeing winter duty .

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Old 01-13-16, 06:25 AM
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If you live where winter means, snow, slush, ice and the accompanying road salts etc. a winter bike is well worth your while. Old chrome-moly mtbs make great winter bikes as they'll take any winter tire you want with clearance for full fenders. Washing the bike can be counter-productive as water wicks into threads and other small spaces then freezes and expands. This can lead to loosening parts and corrosion. Just try to wipe down and dry your bike whenever it gets slopped up and lube your drivetrain regularly.

Another problem can be bringing a bike into a heated area on a regular basis. When you bring cold metal into a warmer, more humid environment, condensation forms everywhere, including inside the frame tubes and components. Taking it outside again before everything is completely dry leads to the same problem mentioned above, moisture freezing in places you really don't want moisture to freeze.

Proper fall prep will help. Frame Saver in the frame tubes helps. Properly greasing all threads is also a good idea as the grease not only prevents seizing, it helps keep water out. Don't underestimate the value of a good set of full fenders either. Not only do they help keep you dry, they protect the bike from that half frozen road glop.
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Old 01-13-16, 01:53 PM
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Lube everything everybody else said often, and do your CABLES frequently, too. No brakes or no shifting is no fun.

I rode my "nice" bike for two winters and kept it clean, but the cables rusted to an inoperable condition after the second winter.
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Old 01-27-16, 09:05 AM
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I lubed my chain late last week, and made sure I was generous with the amount and that I coated all of the surfaces. I use motor oil slightly diluted with mineral spirits. Since that lube I've ridden 93 miles. This morning when I left the house I noted that the chain was already completely dry, orange with rust and I had a few frozen links that had to "snap" free.

It's amazing how fast winters here will kill a bike, and why I don't ride any of my "good" ones until spring.
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Old 01-27-16, 12:24 PM
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I don't find there to be much point in cleaning my bike in the winter. You spend time cleaning it, then the next time you ride it it's just as dirty as it was before within about 100 feet of riding.

- There are some things specifically designed to handle winter riding, though they're expensive and not worth it if you already own a bike - IGH (Internal Gear Hub) keeps the part that shifts sealed from outside elements. A chain case keeps your chain from getting stuff thrown onto it (it requires an IGH so that the chain isn't moving around while shifting).
- Using fenders is a huge plus for keeping your bike in good shape. Fenders keep your wheels from kicking grime from the road up onto your bike (well they keep most of it off)
- Keeping your chain oiled of course

But I don't even bother wiping mine down - I don't think it does any good when it will be covered in stuff 100 feet out the door the next day when I ride. I wouldn't clean it more than once in the spring when winter riding is gone and it's just going to be stored (or ridden during the summer when it doesn't get dirty). I think it's a waste of time.
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Old 01-27-16, 01:34 PM
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Winter Bike Care

Originally Posted by North Coast Joe View Post
ÖI rode my "nice" bike for two winters and kept it clean, but the cables rusted to an inoperable condition after the second winter.

Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
I don't find there to be much point in cleaning my bike in the winter. You spend time cleaning it, then the next time you ride it it's just as dirty as it was before within about 100 feet of riding...

But I don't even bother wiping mine down - I don't think it does any good when it will be covered in stuff 100 feet out the door the next day when I ride. I wouldn't clean it more than once in the spring when winter riding is gone and it's just going to be stored (or ridden during the summer when it doesn't get dirty). I think it's a waste of time.
Thanks for reinforcing my own laissez-faire winter/rainy weather riding practices. My carbon fiber bike goes inside from January to late March, and I ride a (quality) beater mountain bike. I donít have a facility, the time, or inclination to frequently clean the bike; and if it needs it, I take it to my LBS, one block away.

Iíve been taunted on a couple threads because I do keep my pristine carbon fiber bike off the road during the winter. (ĒItís a tool, not a jewel.Ē).

In fact, it was a similar thread a few years ago on BF that got me into cold/wet weather riding, that relieved me of the anxiety of keeping even the beater bike clean.

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Originally Posted by gerv View Post
I often recall how BF played such a vital part in getting me out on the street and in better health....

What about you? What role did BF play in getting you out on two wheels?
Ö As far as improving it, what I have gotten directly from BF are:
  • the motivation and tips to ride in rain, and wintry roads, i.e. studded tires [and donít hassle with cleaning]
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    Old 01-29-16, 02:55 PM
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    North Coast Joe
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    Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    Winter Bike Care
    (”It’s a tool, not a jewel.”).
    It's also my money, build inspiration and most enjoyed bicycle sitting there all crappy with salt and rust stains. Nah, that ain't hapnin'!
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    Old 01-29-16, 11:16 PM
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    This is my first winter on a bike. I've a winter beater that I paid $20 CAD for (that's like $450 US, right?), and live in a high-rise building where I am able to lock my bike up in the underground garage. Even though I got her for great deal, she's very valuable to me and I would really like to keep her as my short-trip/errand bike all year round. I am very lucky to have a hose right beside where I lock her up. So after (almost) every ride she gets a hose down. I don't dry the bike though - I'm a wee bit lazy. I carry a can of liquid wrench spray lubricant and spray the chain, cassette and a few other parts before heading back out. It's only been a short while, but I think my minimalist efforts are paying off. She still rides like a Cadillac, though my god do my brakes ever squeal.
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