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How to winterize your bike to keep shredding in -40C

Easy adjustments and borrowed snowmobile tech for when the mercury drops

Fat biker riding his bicycle in the snow during Canadian winter

snow snow yeti snow

Whether you want to commute through winter or keep shredding snowy trails, there are a few things you want to do to make sure your ride makes it through Canada’s frostier months.

Some are for the casual winter mountain biker and other for those that want to keep shredding when hell freezes over. For the more extreme weather tips, Mark Karu shared some more involved fixes used during his days at Overlander Sports in Yellowknife, N.W.T. If these tips kept him rolling through winter in Canada’s real north, they should help you, too.

Some are simple and easy to do at home. Some are a bit more involved, for the most committed of cold weather riders. Whether you’re winterizing an old beater to get on the trails, or setting up your shred-sled for snow, here’s a list of ways to make your ride winter ready.

Basic Winterization

This isn’t entry level stuff. It’s enough to make it easier to survive a solid amount of riding through winter in most parts of Canada.

1) Go singlespeed

No gears means nothing to break, right? Plus, the minute your cassette gets wet, or packs with snow, it’s going to be a singlespeed anyway. You might as well get ahead of the problem and pick your gear. Winter riding is all about carrying momentum and … well, surviving, anyway. Leave optimal gear choice behind for a couple months and have fun / keep moving.

2) Fat tires
Many newer frames come with clearance to step down a wheel size and run plus tires. On all but the most powder-fresh days, plus tires will be enough to get you through everything but the deepest of snow banks. From 29” to 27.5-plus or 27.5” to 26-plus, give yourself a little more flotation this winter by upsizing your rubber.

3) Studded tires
They’ll keep you moving in the direction you want, not just the direction you’re going, in the slipperiest conditions. Studded ties are better if you’re staying on trail, but no so hot if you hit dry pavement on the way home. If you’re lucky enough to live in Banff, the mountain town will even subsidize this step to help keep you rolling through winter.

Photos courtesy of Snow Bike Festival – GSTAAD / Image by www.zooncronje.com

More involved fixes for more aggressive riding

So you want to more than just survive riding through winter. What do you do? To keep gears working as best as possible and keep traction on more aggressive trails, here’s two tips to keep you rolling on terrain that would force more people onto skis.

4) Replace your shifter cables with dry cables.
They’ll keep moving, and won’t seize when they freeze. You just have to replace them way more frequently. If you want to get out there in the winter, and want to keep your gears, you have to accept a certain level of increased maintenance. Shifter cables aren’t too expensive, and it could be a good way to keep moving if you’re not on flat terrain

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5) Grip studs
Studded tires come in very limited tread options. If you want to ride your favourite aggressive tread all year, you have to get a little crafty. A handful or two of grip studs can make your Minions cling to the steepest trails, no matter what the conditions. It’s not cheap, studs are around $1 each, and it’s not a quick process. But if you crave traction and a performance tire for serious winter shredding, you knew this was worth it the minute you read the words “grip studs”

Seriously committed in the harshest winters

No compromise, full on mountain biking through the steepest terrain during the deepest of deep freezes. If that’s something that sounds appealing to you, these last couple tips won’t seem that extreme, either.

6) Snowmobile grease
Re-grease every bearing and pivot with snowmobile grease. That stuff is rated to work in -40 Celsius weather. If you’re still committed to riding then, this will keep your suspension moving enough to get you out the door and riding. Not really a factor until you hit -20 but, Karu said the first day the mercury dropped that low, every moving part on his bike stopped moving.

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7) Re-bleed your Reverb … with frozen fluid
If you ride hard enough to want a dropper post all year, put your reverb fluid in the freezer before you rebleed you dropper post. It’ll bring the hydraulic posts sluggish mid-winter return back up to race speed. When the weather warms up, though, the return will become more urgent, verging on “scary fast.” So stay on top of your maintenance when Spring shows up. For your safety, and that of hypothetical future generations.