Campus Cycle and Sport Shop and Point Area Bicycle Service are helping to build the winter cycling community by supporting cold weather riding though workshops and encouraging proper maintenance.
“In the winter, it’s almost a dead stop, except for the people who rely on their bikes as their primary source of transportation,” said Randy Perlak, bike mechanic at Campus Cycle.
John Pawlak, bicycle mechanic and owner of the service, said he has low expectations for business during winter months. He closed shop during January because less people were using bicycles. Still, the number of regular winter cyclists is growing, he said.
Maintenance is a problem for bicycles during snowy conditions. With snow comes salt and water, which cause rust and foul the chain, cables and bearings. Preparing a bicycle’s moving parts by cleaning and lubricating them will help it run smoothly during the winter, Perlak said.
He also said having an indoor space to bring the bike to dry is ideal.
“Parking a bike in a snowbank is the worst thing for it,” Perlak said. “It will be totally rusted.”
Pawlak recommends a simple mountain bike for winter. His customers want their winter bicycles modified to have more relaxed handlebars, aggressive tires, fenders and single speed drivetrains.
Ignoring winter upkeep can impact performance and cause permanent damage to a bicycle’s parts, he said. Pawlak said many people “winterize” another bicycle in fall, so they do not have to ride their summer bicycle.
“Two bikes is definitely nice,” Pawlak said. “People seem to jump off the maintenance train in winter.”
Pawlak typically uses an inexpensive cleaner like WD-40 to clean bicycle parts and follows up with a higher quality lubricant to keep them running smoothly.
Fatbikes are popular for winter riding because they have large tires that handle well in snow. Campus Cycle sells fatbikes, and Perlak owns two. He said there is a growing fatbike community, and during one ride in Stevens Point this winter, he counted seven different fatbike brands.
Pawlak agreed that fatbikes are gaining popularity, but does not stock them at his store because they tend to be very expensive and currently have a limited customer base.
Visibility is a safety issue during winter because there are fewer hours of daylight. A good set of lights and reflective surfaces on all sides help motorists see bicycles.
“I’ve seen a lot of bikes without wheel reflectors,” Pawlak said. “That’s really all you have for side visibility.”
Wearing the right clothing is essential for riding during the winter. Perlak recommends wearing wool clothing and layers to stay warm and dry. Pawlak also recommends a good base layer and said cold weather riding can be enjoyable because a rider typically sweats less. He recommends a face mask and a ski or snowboard helmet.
“I tell them, man, it’s ‘no sweat,'” Pawlak said. “It’s actually pretty comfortable riding.”
As a way to incentivize winter riding, the service hosted free maintenance workshops during February that are geared toward acquainting riders with bike parts, adjustments and repair. The store is also raffling a bicycle during March in its “super mega radical bicycle giveaway.”
The latest workshop focused on bearing adjustments.
“We’re going to go over how to look at it and see if something is wrong with it,” Pawlak said. “It’s to give people an option to come in and learn about stuff.”
Too many riders, Pawlak said, bring their bicycle to a shop for maintenance and repair without learning what is really done.
“We’re more of an open concept,” Pawlak said about his shop, which has a low front counter and a work space where customers can see their bicycle and ask questions.
The service has events scheduled for spring and plans to continue to build and support the cycling community.