Mountain Bike Resources Online - The Zone - Off-season and Winter Riding
Off-Season and Winter Riding
Cables, derallieurs, and brakes. When temperatures dip below freezing, even without snow, it's imperative to avoid moisture on your bike. Don't slosh through puddles or get the bike wet. If cables get wet and freeze, your bike won't work; if your derailleur ices up, your gears won't shift properly; if your rims get glazed with a layer of ice, your brakes won't work. Ride around puddles, or walk the bike around them if necessary.
Once you realize that parts have begun freezing up, let them freeze fully before you chip off the ice. Wiping ice will just spread moisture, and it will freeze almost immediately, anyway. An aerosol lubricant can help melt the ice completely after you chip it off. Water in your cable housings can make life very difficult for even the most plucky mountain biker. You'll have to take the bike inside, warm it up, and dry it out before you can ride again.
Tires. Studded tires can be fun, even essential, when riding after snowy or icy weather. The traction that studs provide on glazed surfaces is truly astonishing. There are a few brands of studded mountain bike tires available commercially, although the best are made at home. Pick a tire with big, square lugs. Choose a sheet metal screw from your local hardware store that will protrude Y4 to Y2 inch when screwed through the center of the lug from the inside of the tire. Phillips head screws installed with an electric driver work best. Stainless-steel screws will last longer and won't rust. Predrill each lug, then install the sheet metal screws.
You must line the tire to prevent the screw heads from giving you a flat. I've found that an old tube with the valve removed, cut open on the inside circumference, wrapped around the new tube, and held in place with electrical tape (use electrical tape because it will stretch as you inflate the tube) to be very effective. Avoid riding your studs on pavement, as this will quickly wear the screws down, significantly reducing the life of your tires.
Pedals. If you're planning to ride through snow, get rid of your clipless pedals. Cleats and release mechanisms get fouled easily in snow and won't work properly. If you want to pedal through soft snow, dig out your old bear-trap pedals from the closet.
Suspension. If you have air-oil suspension, it's possible to replace the oil with a lighter viscosity oil. Summer-weight oil thickens at cold temperatures, limiting the functionality of the system. It won't hurt to leave the oil that's in there, but don't expect the same shock absorption as you get in the summer. If you're riding on snow and ice, it probably doesn't matter. But if you're riding on primarily the same type of terrain as in the summer, just at colder temperatures, you may want to change to a lighter oil.
Temperatures affect elastomer suspension much less. Still, you may want to experiment with softer bumpers if you feel the ride is too stiff. Check with your mechanic about custom tuning your supension for winter riding.