Traditionally, winter in Wisconsin means two things: cold and snow – and usually an abundance of both. If you live here year-round and don’t do a “snowbird” and head south from November to April, you can do two things: bitch or embrace. Wear the right clothing and adopt the right attitude and a world of ATVs, snowmobiles, snowshoes, cross country skiing and ice fishing opens up. Hell, Lambeau Field in Green Bay has no roof – that’s how hardy folks are up here.
I ride all year round. With a winter road bike and a fat bike this is feasible. That being said, I have my limits: roads must be substantially dry and ice free and the wind chill must be in the twenties or above. This winter I’ve ridden the fat bike once – we’ve had so little snow and what we have had has generally disappeared within a week, leaving the trails muddy and soft and basically unridable. The road bike has seen more action than normal which is fine by me.
Growing up in Scotland, the winter bike was always called just that – the winter bike. Here in the States it tends to be referred to as a “beater bike” – a term I’ve always detested. It seems to imply that it will take the beating (and maintenance) it deserves – and again, by implication, that care and maintenance won’t amount to much. My winter bike is a bit of a mongrel mishmash. A basic internet store brand aluminum frame, carbon fork, Microshift brifters (cheap, exposed shift cables but work like a charm) and various components sourced from all over the place. For example, I found the tires on sale several years ago for a crazy good price – probably because they were hot pink. I’d never put them on one of my three regular road bikes, but for the winter bike? Perfect. The mudguards/fenders? Indispensable when the roads are awash with melting snow mixed with salt. I had a “thermal” water bottle but it was rubbish at keeping even the hottest liquids warm so I found a small aluminum one that fits the bottle cage perfectly. Even after two hours the water will be warm which sure beats sipping icy cold fluid on a day where the temperature is barely above freezing.
Top winter bike tips? Check your tires regularly. When the bike is on the stand I use an old scouring pad to run over the tires to clean off any debris and expose any cuts or abrasions. Valve stems. Nothing makes these wee buggers seize up like a bit of salty road water. Take the plastic valve cap, put a little drop of heavy lube in it and screw it on. Check your spares regularly. There’s nothing worse than puncturing in the cold only to find out your spares are unusable.
This trusty bike will see action for a few more weeks until the weather finally warms and I start shedding layers of clothing and riding other bikes. There’s a world of a difference between it and its carbon brethren but in its own quiet, unassuming way, it’s a great bike. It has its place and time every year and for that, it can’t be beat.
Many thanks to Wiscot for the latest Gazzetta.