Tag Archives: Winter

PSA: Keep Your Rims Clean!

Winter riding is the cold, hard truth of collegiate racing in the Northeast. There is only so much time I can spend training indoors before I have run out of Tour de France DVDs; the downstairs neighbors start banging on the ceiling; and I start having unbidden daydreams about crushing that peppy spin instructor’s  iPod full of dance tunes under my cleat.  Time to venture out onto the road.

As if the frothy mix of salt and slushy matter that is sometimes the byproduct of road treatment* weren’t enough, winter brings another hazard: enormous potholes that the salt eats into the roads. I hit a big one this morning and bent/cracked the rim on my rear wheel.

Take care of your rims, or this could happen to you!
Take care of your rims, or this could happen to you!

While the pothole was the immediate cause of this ignominy, two things put me at risk for catastrophic rim failure: (1) over-use of my rear brakes, a holdover from when I first learned to ride a bike and Dad told me to always brake with the right or I would go flying over the handlebars—I’m getting better about this; and (2) failure to keep my rim and brake pads clean. You see, all that sand and grit gets caught between the rubber brake pads and the rim, wearing a  concave groove in the braking surface until it’s as thin and flimsy as a Coke can. Moral of the story: keep your rims squeaky clean, kids! (Except without the Squeak.)

Start by rinsing off excess sand with water, so you’re not just rubbing it into the rim. Beware of shoddy advice out there on the Interwebs; don’t use household cleaner (which can leave behind a film that slicks up your braking surface) or steel wool  (unless you’re TRYING to wear down those rims). Mechanics I trust recommend acetone or rubbing alcohol, which evaporate without residue. Spray your chosen cleaner onto a rag and wipe those babies until they shine. (I’m talking about aluminum rims here. I know nothing about taking care of carbon rims, so feel free to chime in on the comments! Also, what the heck are you doing riding that nice carbon wheelset in this weather?)

I can’t complain too much about the life of this Mavic A-719 rim, which boasts about 8,000 miles of commuting, cyclocross, and and winter training. But maybe if I had taken better care, it could have made it to 10,000!

*I feel we should name this substance after someone we hate, Dan-Savage-style. Any nominees? Where are we on hating Lance Armstrong these days?

Winter Riding: The Lesser Evil

By John Herrick

The state of Monkton Road in Vermont on February 20, 2013
The state of Monkton Road in Vermont on February 20, 2013

Today, some of us woke up to sound of the plow scraping down the
street. Instantly, the plan for a five-hour day reduces to a two-hour
day. Then you look out the window and see that the trees hang heavy
with snow, the roads are flooded with a dark salty slush and cars spit
what mess is left on the roads onto the shoulder. Now you think rest

For us northernmost collegiate cyclists, this sequence is an
unpredictable routine. During the winter, we have three options: the
gym, rollers, or coffee and riding outside before more coffee.

Because staring at the wall or freezing is not always fun, some of us
hit the grunt box. During my limited time in the gym, I got to see a
unique component of testosterone-laden athleticism foreign to many
cyclists. I learned that the mirror is not used for checking posture
or technique, one rep is not a weakness but rather the bravery to lift
more than you know you can, girls do cardio and others do their
homework, people can get really big, and people can get really hurt.
Actually though, these people have a better understanding of what they
are doing with that equipment than I do.

The rollers are not bad if you have a 10,000-watt stereo system and 20
years of cobbled classics on your hard drive. Matt Buckley, UVM
Cycling alumnus, is currently testing a new interval training
philosophy coined “Paris-Roubaix Intervals.” You ride your hardest
gear on the secteur pavé and play with your phone on the pavement.
Five minutes full gas across Touée d’Arenberg, ten kilometers of
texting, and then hammer from Hornaing to Wandignies. You get the

Derek Harnden, UVM Cyling Alumnus, showing off his new bike this winter.
Derek Harnden, UVM Cyling Alumnus, showing off his new
bike this winter.

However, some of us put on a base layer, and another, a jacket, a
vest, a coat and another vest to brave the outdoors. Winter riding
means that you are tired of Roubaix. It means that when your
derailleur freezes, you stop to pee all over it, you desperately chew
on your salt and grit-covered ice bottles, you do not eat because you
fear your teeth will shatter against your frozen candy bar and you
ride an extra hour because you know that thawing hurts more than being
cold. Basically, it means that you believe you are tough until you stand
crying in the shower.

Winter can be hard. However, we keep our eyes on the prize: the
Rutgers Prologue – the most prestigious five minutes of early morning,
cross-eyed, and practically UCI-prohibited caffeine-induced collegiate
glory.  With this in mind, winter is easy.