You wanna ride probably, regardless of what the weather is doing. Maybe that’s indoors. Maybe it’s out. Either way, November is a fine time to do some of the things outlined below to give your riding some continuity, and the week of Thanksgiving usually affords us some free time to get our situations situated.
This morning was the first one I’d say was really cold here in my neck of the woods. The thermometer read 28F, but there was a good breeze blowing too. I was up at 5:45, and the sunrise was stunning, as they always seem to be this time of year. I’m fortunate to live on a hill overlooking Boston, and we can see the sun coming up over the ocean, off to the north of the city. There’s this transition in the air each morning where it goes from slightly moist to dry, and I think the mist produces these amazing amber and orange sunrises, always with a bright blue layer above. I really enjoy them, although this morning there was a bite in the air too, as I said.
So that brings me to prepping for winter, and I’m not going to talk about clothing or accessories or any of that stuff. I’m just going to tell you the things I do to be ready when the air gets colder and the frozen precipitation starts to fly, or more importantly, to accumulate.
Before we even talk about riding outside, I’m going to recommend, if you have a trainer or rollers or some other indoor cycling equipment, set it up now. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to bed with good intentions to put in some time in the basement only to be foiled because my bike wasn’t already set up and ready to climb onto. Just the other day, I pulled the trainer out, mounted my road bike on it, and tweaked all the little things necessary to make it good-to-go. Now I have no excuses not to ride, even if the weather outside is atrocious.
The ground is still dry here, but I’ll be pulling out the studded tires this week and getting them mounted on a wheelset, so the day I have a ride planned but the snowy, icy stuff has arrived, I’m ready to go. If you’re fortunate enough to have an extra wheelset, set ‘em up now. If you don’t have extra wheels, maybe you have one bike you can convert to your studded tire bike, while keeping another for dry ground days. You’ve likely already thought about this. Doing it is the trick.
This year, I’m going with a set of 29er mountain bike wheels to be my winter set. In past, I’ve done 40mm studded gravel tires, but what I find is that I’m more likely to ride single-track in the ice and snow and having that extra volume and extra float is a big help. I’ll do these with tubes, just to make set up and eventual break down quicker.
So that’s studded tires.
As I’m thinking about making that change, it’s a good time of year to put fresh sealant in any tires you’ve been running tubeless. The great thing about tubeless is once they’re set up, you don’t have to mess with them, BUT that sealant does break down over time. This is a great time of year to remove the old stuff, clean the insides of the tires, and put in a fresh batch of latex. If you don’t do this at home, and I can understand why you wouldn’t, then get those wheels into your local shop, so a pro can do it.
And that segues us to service.
If you’ve been riding spring, summer and fall, and you’re not an ace mechanic yourself, your bike or bikes need some love. Your local bike shop desperately needs you to book tune-ups, overhauls and the rest now, not to show up the first sunny weekend in the spring and ask for a one day turnaround so you can get out on the bike. Seriously, bike shops live on service in the colder months. Get there early if you can. It’ll give you peace of mind for spring, and give them a jump on the tsunami of work that is coming their way now that it’s the “off-season.”
This same principle applies to new bike projects. Maybe you’re going to treat yourself to a custom bike or have the shop build you something a la carte. Now is really the time to dive into that project. None of these things gets done overnight. They take time. Maybe you start with a fresh bike fitting. Any way you slice it there are multiple people involved, and bringing it all together into a dazzling new bike requires time and thought. Also, bike builders are starting to find room in their schedules. Kick that project off now.
Finally, if you’re going to try to ride somewhere warm, maybe a quick trip south to get the sun on your skin, you should really be pinning down dates and booking it now. Don’t overthink it. Get it in the books. I know not everyone has a bike vacation in their budget, but if you do, don’t miss out on it, because you waited until after Christmas to make a plan.
What have I missed? What other things are you doing to be ready for winter riding?
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We had a record cold snap here in the mid Atlantic, it was 20F on Monday morning for my commute. I have a cabinet in the garage with drawers where I keep my winter clothes with shoeboxes in them to keep things separate. Socks, gloves, warmers, head covers, etc have their own box and are easy to grab and go. This makes it quicker to dress and less likely that I’ll say “screw this”.