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Transporting Bikes in Winter: Know everything

Transporting bikes during winter is not as simple as just putting them on a rack on your car. The road conditions, especially the amount of moisture and salt, bring about new challenges. However, there are a few steps that you can take that will keep your bike protected from any harm. In this article, we will describe how to safely transport bikes in winter.

Why transporting bikes in winter is bad

When traveling with your bike exposed to the cold, a combination of two things can damage your bike. Surprisingly, it’s not the snow or ice that can harm your bike. It’s actually the salt combined with moisture that can really cause rusting and corrode all the different components. In most places with snow, salt is sure to be found since it is scattered over the roads. If not, the mud and grime from the ground can also cause rusting. The salt and water react with the metal to form rust. Ultimately, this leaves the moving components of the bike, such as the chain, derailleurs, and cables, incapable of functioning smoothly.

Winter Bike Transport Solutions

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to ensure that your bike remains in tip-top shape, even in the harshest winters. Let’s take a look at these in detail.

1. Inside the car

It will be best for your bike if you can put it inside your car. Surprisingly, even a large size mountain bike can fit inside a small hatchback if you take off the wheels and push forward one of the seats. With a large station wagon or a minivan, you might only have to take off the front wheel. In this way, your precious bike will be safe from any snow and salt. Additionally, it will stay protected from damage and hidden from thieves. To add to that, it’s free since you don’t have to buy anything.

One disadvantage with this is that you have limited space depending on the vehicle. There are also a few things you should take care of. Make sure to lay down a blanket or towels on the frame and then place the wheel(s) to avoid scratching the paint. Also, you need to pay attention to the brakes. Always use brake pad spacers to prevent the pads from getting squeezed together. Finally, you might want to use a waterproof trunk liner to safeguard the inside of the car from mud, dirt, and damage.

Bike inside a car
Bike inside a car

2. Cover up sensitive parts

Sometimes it is impossible to put a bike inside a car. In this case, you will need to use plastic grocery bags or trash bags and a bit of duct tape. Use these to cover up sensitive areas like the drivetrain components and handlebar controls. Make sure to tape everything well and make it so that water and salt can’t get inside. It should take about 10-15 minutes, but it is effective. There should be no loose areas, otherwise the wind might rip it all apart. Using a tarp to cover the whole bike is not such a good idea since that can flap in the wind and create a lot of drag. The frame and wheels should be fine.

3. Wash and lube after reaching

You can choose not to cover up the bike’s components. However, you will have to wash your bike and reapply lubrication if you don’t want any corrosion. Use water (warm water if possible) to rinse the entire bike. This gets rid of all the salt and grime that had accumulated from the road. Then, lube all the components that require it such as the chain, cables, cassette, etc. Finally, give your bike a good wipe. And you’re done! Your bike will be as good as new. If you had left your bike uncleaned, it would’ve started corroding in just a few days.

Lubricating bike chain
Lubricating bike chain

4. Bike covers

If you regularly transport your bikes in cold weather, you could try using a bike cover. These covers are designed in the shape of a bike. Some also have openings for rack attachment. The ones that don’t will have to be fastened externally using cords or straps. Not only do these covers protect the bike from snow and salt, but also from rain, dirt, and mud. Hence, they will come in handy during other seasons as well. By investing in a bike cover, you will save a lot of time that you would have spent cleaning the bike or wrapping it up with plastic bags.

Bike cover
Bike cover

F. A. Q.s

Q1. Can a roof rack keep my bikes safe in winter?

Ans.: Unlike hitch racks and trunk racks, a roof rack keeps bikes away from the ground. Consequently, there is a much lower chance of getting too much salt or dirt on the bike. However, it can still happen if it is windy or if there is a lot of traffic kicking up stuff from the roads. We would recommend you to check the bike after reaching your destination for any signs of rust-forming substances. If present, you’ll have to wash and lube the bike like we have mentioned.

Q2. Do carbon bikes stay unaffected in winter?

Ans.: Carbon fiber bike frames have an advantage over metallic bike frames because carbon does not rust. It stays almost unaffected by salt and mud. However, this does not mean that the whole bike will be fine. All carbon bikes still have metallic parts. The chain, cables, and other parts of the drivetrain are made of metal and prone to corrosion. Therefore, it is important that you protect your carbon bikes in the winter just as well as your metallic bikes.

Q3. What clothing and gear do I need for winter cycling?

Ans.: Wearing proper clothing is the first step to cycling in winter. Fortunately, modern clothing designs offer warmth without being too heavy. In fact, it is possible to have too much clothing. Inevitably, you will heat up once you really get going and too many layers will cause excess sweating. Due to this, you will feel cold and uncomfortable when you go down a long descent or make a stop. The following clothing items are essential for winter cycling.

  • The extremities (hands and feet) are very vulnerable in the cold. Gloves and overshoes are therefore a must-have to keep your hands and feet warm. Instead of overshoes you could also get a pair of winter-specific cycling shoes.
  • One of the most effective ways to keep your upper body warm is a good thermal base-layer. For the lower body, you can use double layered or windproof tights.
  • Just above your base layer, you can wear something like a warm jersey which is comfortable.
  • For the outer layer of your attire, a thin waterproof/windproof jacket and pants will be ideal. These will shield you from the wind and effectively prevent spray or snow from being absorbed by your clothes.
  • To protect your head, wear a skullcap, ear warmers, or a beanie under your helmet. Other items such as a face mask, balaclava, or neck buff can help to protect your face from the cold wind.
Cycling in snow
Cycling in the snow | Source: https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk

Conclusion

Just because it’s freezing outside doesn’t mean you can’t go on a trip with your bike or bikes in tow. Just follow the tips we have provided and invest a bit of time and sometimes money. Do that and your bikes will survive the winter unscathed, ready to be ridden again in the next season.


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Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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