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Five-step check list for winter bike maintenance

Five essential tips for setting up your bike for the Copenhagen winter. The University Post visited the Cykelbanditten workshop in Nørrebro

Copenhageners are famous for biking in every kind of weather, from a light drizzle to a snowstorm. And though people survive with the help of waterproofs and the expectation of warmth down the line, their bikes are often not so lucky.

In the depths of Cykelbanditten’s workshop in Nørrebro, Emil Kromman is busy repairing a fancy fixie bike, but he takes time out of his day to tell us how to make sure our bikes, and our bones, survive the Danish winter.

1. The chain is half the bike – clean it

Emil Kromman of Cykelbanditen is strongly into … chains.

“The chain is half the bike, so it’s important to keep it clean and well-functioning. Chains have a habit of going an ugly brown colour in winter, so I use a steel brush while spinning the chain in order to remove most of the dirt before adding lubrication.”

Here is a photo of the best technique

2. Lubricate it

What is a clean chain without lubrication?

“A well-lubricated chain will never go rusty. Depending on how harsh the winter is, lube the chain at least every two weeks. It’s best to use a thicker oil for this, since anything too thin is likely to be shaken off when the bike is in motion.”

3. Oil the brakes (not the pads)

The moving parts of the brakes, if they are V-brakes (see gallery below) have to be lubricated every now and then too. Do not get oil on the brake pads.

“For obvious safety reasons. I’m using a thinner oil for this, and spraying it on every movable part of the brakes. As with the chain, remember to remove any excess oil.”

4. Maintain the ideal tire pressure

Ideal tire pressure is science in itself, but the basics are this:

“In summer you want a high pressured tire to increase performance, but in winter you don’t want them rock solid. The less air, the better the road grip. However, if the pressure is too low, you will get flats all the time, as the rims pinch the tires to the ground, resulting in puncture.”

5. Watch out for flint!

Flint is the name of a rock type in Danish roads, gravel and grit. According to wikipedia it is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz. But you don’t need to know this to bike on it.

“In Denmark we have an abundance of flint, which means it is easier to get a flat in Denmark than elsewhere. During a wet winter these small pieces of rock are turned over by the rain to expose their sharp points. If this happens a lot to you I recommend getting Kevlar anti-puncture tires, it pays off in the long run,” says Emil Kromman.

6. Bonus advice: Wear that helmet

In the world’s biggest biking city, the debate over helmets will never end. Some international studies show that the general use of bike helmets in the long term increases traffic injury, as cars drive closer, and bikers feel safer. But from a selfish point of view, the use of a helmet may still be an advantage. Especially if there is the risk of icy roads.

“For the longest time I refused to wear one, but too many of my friends have suffered skull fractures and lasting brain damage because of accidents. This is especially true in winter, with slippery roads, low visibility and a higher chance of mechanical failures.”

Browse through our photo gallery below to see the details of how to maintain your bike. Photos and text: Charlie Cassarino

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