You’ve probably seen one on bike paths or trails. Equipped with extra wide tires between four to five inches, fat bikes do make an impression, don’t they? Commonly used in sandy or snowy conditions running at low tire pressure, fat bikes float on roads where regular bikes or mountain bikes would sink. So before winter arrives and you see the first sign of snow on the ground, make sure that your fat bike is in the proper condition to allow for great rides all winter long.
Maintaining your fat bike properly through the winter is important to have both a fun and safe season. With snow, slush, salt, and other debris on the roads, your bike is going to need more attention than ever than it does through the summer.
You should anticipate that it’s going to take more work to you keep your fat bike running well to the point that the season won’t become a cause for riding disruption. Here are some tips and tricks on maintaining your fat bike through the winter in order to keep your ride happy and your garage clean as well.
Make sure your fat bike is ready for harsh weather conditions
Before winter sets in, make sure you’re starting out on the right foot and give your bike one thorough tune-up. Check the shifters, brakes, reflectors, and lights, and make sure you’re outfitted with fenders too.
Before winter starts, you might as well consider having your brake and shifter cables replaced. As we all know, water can get into the cable housing, which will affect your shifting and braking performance over time. It’s a good thing cables are not that expensive and they can be bought anywhere, so changing them on a regular basis, especially heading into winter, is never a bad idea.
To prevent grime and water from entering your cable housing, you can fill it with grease.
Clean your gears and chain
I like to clean my gears and chains at least once a week. I know that seems a lot, but being diligent is the only way you’ll prevent a professional tune-up from happening especially if you’re too busy. You don’t want all that gunk clogging your gears, do you?
Use a chain solvent and chain scrubber to clean your chain once a week. If you don’t have a chain scrubber, use an old toothbrush instead. In case you ran out of chain solvent, use a de-greasing solution and warm water.
Fenders will help as well as they help get rid of the stripe up your back and also protect your bike from grime, which will slow down the build-up of dirt. Using the right fenders will prevent road dirt from accumulating on your drivetrain, bottom bracket, and chain.
While you’re cleaning your fat bike, check hard to reach areas, especially between the cogs where the grease is likely to be filled with road grime. If you have time, remove the chain and soak it in a solvent. Once it’s clean, don’t forget to re-grease the chain using an oil-based lubricant.
Cleaning your bike is going to be a lot easier if you get yourself a bike stand, especially if you have nobody to hold it while you’re cleaning it. If you don’t want a bike stand, get a bike rack or column instead, and clean your gears and chain from the rack.
Wipe the parts of your fat bike every time you go out in the snow
Do this every time you get home from a ride in the snow. You wouldn’t actually put wet clothes back in the closet, would you? So don’t store a wet bike in your garage or hallway. You only need one of your extra towels near where you keep your bike and make it a habit to wipe the cranks, brake cables, chain, cogset, chainrings, spokes, rims, and frame. This will prevent rust from developing and prevent water from getting all over the floors as snow melts. Believe me, your floors and fat bike will benefit from this religious habit.
Cover your fat bike
When parking your bike, make sure the area is covered. If you don’t have a covered space to store it, buy yourself a pack-away bike cover so you can put it over your bike easily and quickly. The sides have gaps so you can lock it and secure your bike.
If you’re on a tight budget or want something to cover your fat bike temporarily, simply use two plastic bags, one should cover your saddle and the other should cover your dérailleur and rear cassette. This should prevent frost and rain from taking off the grease that your bike needs.
Check your brakes
When exposed to ice and water, brake pads wear out faster, so check your brakes every now and then especially if you had already started biking around in the snow. Most brake pads actually have an indicator that shows you if it’s near worn out or completely damaged already. Your goal is to ensure that it doesn’t go below that line. Using an old toothbrush, clean the rims and brake blocks and make sure any sign of grime is thoroughly removed.
If for some reason you failed to replace your brake cables and you notice that your brakes don’t work that they used to through the winter, remove, clean, and re-grease them. This will improve the condition of your worn out cables.
Swap clipless for flat pedals
When you’re riding in snowy and icy streets, you may need to put a foot down, literally, at a moment’s notice. Because of the low temperature, you may feel like your cycling shoes and wool socks are starting to get uncomfortable, so you decide to wear your winter boots instead. The problem with winter boots is, they don’t have the material that cycling shoes do and you may slip any time.
This is where flat pedals come in. Personally, I like using them since they are much safer in slippery surfaces especially when I’m wearing my favorite winter boots. Clipless pedals are great, but during the winter, you may want to use a flat set temporarily.
Go Big on Reflective Tapes
Winter is a crappy weather for driving — motorists know that. You’ll have to remember that the more awful the condition of the weather is, the crappier drivers become, so they may fail to notice cyclists on the road.
That being said, always make use of reflective accents not just on your bag, but also on your body and your bag if you’re bringing one. A roll of reflective tape really is cheap, so get one before heading out in the snow. Remember that you also have to prioritize your own safety and not just the state of your fat bike.
Get your fat bike some mudguards
I can understand why you wouldn’t want mudguards on your fat bike. They are bulky and hardly look cool at all — that I get. But believe me, even the best cyclists in the world will be adding mudguards to their bikes especially when it’s wet and icy outside. After all, who wants to arrive at a destination all wet and muddy?
You may not want how mudguards affect the look and style of your fat bike, but getting these for your bike will keep slush and water away from areas that you don’t want getting wet. Those driving behind you will thank you as well, as rear mudguards actually shield the spray that your rear wheel causes when cruising in the snow or slushy areas. So yes, those driving behind you won’t get their faces sprayed with mud, that’s for sure.
And as if that’s not enough, mudguards can actually improve your bike’s performance. Yes, the idea of spraying someone in the face is hilarious, but your priority should be keeping yourself dry and warm on a winter ride. Mudguards also prevent water and ice from getting into your feet and the parts of your bike, keeping you in the best condition to drive better in the harsh weather.
Get your fat bike some good lights
A bike that’s to be used in the winter must have an excellent pair of lights. Personally, I like to use two rear lights especially during the heavier and darker months of the year. I use one as my main, and the other is my back up just in case the main light runs out of power.
You can benefit from installing lights not just during night rides but also in day rides. We all know that weather can turn gloomy and dark any time, so in times when the sun is hiding, lights will come in handy. Even if you think you will never go out when it’s dark, having a set if emergency lights on your fat bike is still a great idea to prevent any kind of trouble.
A front light isn’t needed all the time, but it’s not a bad idea to have in on your bars, especially in winter where the days are shorter and it starts to get dark by 4-ish in the afternoon. If you’re a regular bike commuter, however, get both front and rear lights for safety and don’t just rely on the street lights of your town or city.