4 Important Tune-Ups for Denver Winter Bike Commuters
For the dedicated rider, bike commuting is a year-round affair. Sure, there are plenty of fair-weather commuters who hang up their bikes as soon as it starts to rain, but for those really committed to riding their bikes to work, there is no offseason. Instead, Denver’s winter bike commuters must re-asses and prepare for less clement weather. It’s a good idea to get some bike tuning done each spring and fall regardless of your riding habits to ensure your bike is running smoothly.
Road bike tuning every fall might seem unnecessary; after all, if the bike is running fine, why pay to mess with it? But as with most things, and especially with bikes, an ounce of prevention saves a pound of repair. The wet winter season puts different demands on your bike, and it’s worth having a good Denver bike repair shop go over it and make sure it’s ready for the change of seasons.
Your four main concerns going into the winter are bearings, drivetrain, brakes, and tires. A good local bike shop can check and tune all four.
Bearings are one of the most obvious weak points when riding in the wet. A poorly sealed bottom bracket or headset won’t cause too many problems during the summer, but as soon as you’re riding in wet conditions every day, the bearings will start to rust and eventually seize. That will manifest itself as grinding or crunching sounds when your turn the handlebars or spin the pedals.
Any good bike shop will include a bearing check in its typical road bike service package. They’ll check all of your seals and clean and re-grease your bearings. Along with the obvious headset and bottom bracket bearings, it’s a good idea to ask them to check your pedal bearings as well. These often fly under the radar but are just as susceptible to water damage.
Along with your bearings, it’s a good idea to get your drivetrain tuned up in the fall as well. Your chain is a “wear component,” which means it’s designed to wear out and not work eventually. It does this to keep from wearing down the more expensive cogs that turn it. But, if you don’t replace your chain when it’s worn out, it will eat away at your entire drivetrain. It’s always worth the small price it costs to replace a worn chain on time instead of waiting until it’s caused much more expensive damage. A good shop will replace your chain and adjust your drivetrain to make sure you’re shifting smoothly. While you’re there, ask them what their preferred winter lube for Denver is. Wet weather is much harder on chains, but a good winter lube will help protect it and keep it from rusting.
Next up, brakes. Your brakes might just slow you down, but when you need them, you really, really need them. It’s easy to coast along without thinking about your brakes all summer, but when winter hits, they need to be working well and consistently. If you’ve got disc brakes, the shop will check your pads and rotors and replace them if need be. If they’re hydraulically actuated, they’ll also bleed the lines. Often small air bubbles in the lines aren’t an issue until colder weather brings them into the calipers, and suddenly, your brakes don’t work like they should. If you have cable actuated brakes, they’ll check the cables and replace them if they’re too worn.
Finally, tires. You wouldn’t drive all winter in Colorado without putting snow tires on your car, so why wouldn’t you do the same for your bike? If you’re running road bike or commuter slick tires, ask your bike shop what tires they’d recommend with better traction for the winter. Tires are the most affordable way to make a huge difference in how your bike handles in the snow. Getting a tire with bigger knobs and more traction goes a long way toward keeping you safe when commuting in the winter. If you regularly run into long patches of ice, a studded tire might be the way to go. This will get you the maximum amount of traction and safety.
You don’t have to stop riding your bike to work just because the seasons are changing. Just take your commuter bike into a shop for a tune up, and ask them to check your bearings, drivetrain, brakes, and fork. With a good service you can ride all winter long.