The metal steed that gets you through summer isn’t necessarily a winter-worthy ride. When sun-soaked rides give way to slushy roads and slick conditions – you need a bike that’s up for the challenge. You can either update the parts on your summer bike for winter or get a totally different bike for cold-weather riding. Often, the latter is the better choice.
But how do you know you’re getting a bike that will last until spring has sprung? Here are some tips for choosing the perfect winter bike:
Pick a Metal Frame that Will Last
Steel and carbon fiber bikes are durable and sleek, and quite frankly, trending. But that doesn’t make them the ideal choice for a winter bike. Most cyclists will agree that aluminum bike frames just make sense for winter riding. They are affordable, lightweight, and can take a beating.
Even in temperate conditions, your bicycle is bound to get hit with a lot of sludge and salt. Aluminum can take a beating and keep on spinning. Even though aluminum is one of the most affordable options on the market, it’s so rugged that typical winter debris won’t wreck it out of the gate.
Upgrade Your Brakes
Disc brakes are pretty mandatory for winter bikes. Your summer bike can probably get by with rim brakes, which press down on your wheel rims to stop them from spinning. Disc brakes work more like a car’s brake system. A rotor is placed in the center of your wheel and when you initiate a stop, a set of brake pads squeeze the rotor to bring you to a standstill.
Why are disc brakes better for winter? Quite simply, they are more powerful and can bring you to a more reliable stop. Icy roads be darned – you’re not going to slide through that stop sign! Slick terrain, slushy-filled bike lanes, and frigid temperatures aren’t enough to stop disc brakes from… well, stopping.
Choose Hearty Tires
Those skinny summer tires aren’t going to cut it after the first serious snowfall. Winter tires with thicker treads have a larger surface area and better grip on the ground. You need to ditch your beach cruiser tires until the last of the snow has melted next year. Bikes designed specifically for winter will almost always be outfitted with thicker tires, or you could swap out the tires on your summer ride for a more durable set.
Alternatively, you may want to consider getting a gravel bike for your winter adventures. These bikes have tires made specifically to tackle a variety of terrain. They can handle cobblestone, uneven dirt, muddy surfaces, and slick bike lanes. Since they’re designed with all types of surfaces in mind, they tend to be very reliable. They also come standard with disc brakes, so that’s a bonus!
Go with a Compact Design
It’s important to have a good center of gravity when you’re cycling over more unpredictable surfaces. And icy winter roads and paths are nothing if not unpredictable. One block is completely dry and easy pedaling, and before you know it you hit a road with no bike lane that hasn’t been cleared yet. A simple frame with a compact design may be more stable. You want to recover when you hit a skid, not topple over.
You may also want to add pannier bags to your bike, which balance the weight of your load equally on either side of your bicycle. Baskets and boxes on the rear of your bike will also add some additional weight, but pannier bags distribute added weight in a way that is more advantageous to staying upright (just make sure you don’t load up one side and not the other. Duh).
Make Sure You’re Well Lit
Days are shorter and clouds are more abundant during winter months. You need a bike with better lighting come winter – and some state ordinances require it. In addition to a strong headlamp, you can add a rear light to make sure approaching vehicles always know exactly where you are.
On top of lights, think about your reflector game. Not only are tire and frame reflectors great for riding in the dark, but they keep you visible in foggy conditions or during a snowstorm. Pair your winter bike lights with a bright colored jacket and helmet with reflector tape, and you’re ready to venture out into winter conditions atop your two-wheeled chariot.
Mount Some Mudguards
Finally, a good winter bike can keep corrosive road agents at bay. Your tires shouldn’t be vulnerable. This includes natural elements like snow and mud, and man-made issues like the salt and sand often dropped on city roads to melt snow and grip vehicle tires. Mudguards or regular fenders offer much-needed protection against whatever the road spits at you and your bike.
When your bike tires get gunked up with stuff from the road, they’re less able to grip the road properly. But that’s just the start. Your bike frame will also get scratched, dinged, and covered in elements that are apt to cause deterioration. Trust us, when you’re on a winter bike, you want mudguards or fenders on the front.
Sixthreezero has plenty of bikes for all weather conditions. From sturdy frames to wide tires, you can choose a bicycle that will last from November to March (or October to April, if you’re in the upper Midwest). Use our Body Fit tool to see which models are the best fit for your stature, and then check out our huge list of customizations. You can get an orange frame that makes you more visible during shorter days, or add a set of fenders that keep melted snow at bay. No matter what you’re looking for, our men’s bikes and women’s bikes deliver.
Once you have a winter bike you can trust, you’re ready to explore some new cold-weather adventures. Not sure where to start? Join our Journey Club to uncover biking locations around the world and connect with other cyclists.
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