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Four Tips for Winter E-Bike Riding
Jan 25, 2024
Winter riding isn’t as much fun as riding during spring and summer months when the weather is nice, but for the dedicated commuter, riding when the weather is cold can be rewarding for a number of reasons. First, it cuts down on that gas bill, and saving money is always handy. Second, for those of us trying to improve our health by riding rather than driving, year-round exercise is a win. And for those of us who need to correct for all that holiday eating, and possibly drinking, riding on e-bike is one of the best ways to burn those pie calories.
But riding in the winter requires a slightly different game plan than riding in warmer weather. Here at Electric Bike Report we’ve got a few tips that will make winter riding more enjoyable.
Keep the battery inside
Most of us store our e-bike outside or in a garage. While those are appropriate places for an e-bike, lithium-ion batteries don’t perform well in cold temperatures. During a recent blast of cold air that gripped much of the nation, there were widespread reports of EVs suffering from reduced range.
Engineers we’ve spoken with suggest keeping your e-bike’s battery indoors for both charging and storage. The ideal temperature range for both charging and storing is between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reduce tire pressure
For anyone who lives in a place where wintry weather includes snow and ice, it’s a good idea to reduce tire pressure. Patches of ice, snow and even wet roads can and will reduce traction. A sudden loss in traction on an e-bike can result in a fall, so maintaining traction is important, even if it means a loss in rolling efficiency.
Cutting tire pressure by 10 to 20 percent can make a noticeable difference in traction. The bigger the tire, the lower the pressure to begin. Commuters, road e-bikes and gravel e-bikes with tires narrower than 2 in. (50mm) should be running pressure in the range of 50-60 psi. Most of these tires can be run at 40 psi and riders will see a remarkable improvement in traction. Fat-tire e-bikes run much lower pressure due to the incredible volume of air, but even a drop from 10 psi to 8 psi can make a difference.
With an e-bike, a change in tire pressure is unlikely to make for a noticeable change in overall speed. Range will drop a bit and riders may notice a slight drop in acceleration, but the gain in traction will be significant.
Wash the e-bike
Riding an e-bike on roads that are salted to melt snow means a bit more maintenance for an e-bike. That salt will rust steel parts and can cause corrosion on aluminum ones. Depending on how many days a week the e-bike is being ridden, an e-bike will need to be washed periodically. Daily commuters riding roads that see lots of road salt would do well to wash their e-bike at least once a week.
Spraying the bike with a gentle cleaner (Simple Green is a favorite in our garage), hosing the bike off—no pressure sprayers—and then wiping it down is all that’s required. Be especially careful not to direct any spray at the motor or other electronic components. We send old T-shirts to the garage to extend their lives just a bit longer as bike rags.
Lube the chain
Between wet conditions and road salt, an e-bike’s chain receives more abuse in the winter than at other times of the year. After washing an e-bike, wipe the chain down and then use a lube in a squeeze bottle. This time of year, we opt for lubes intended for wet conditions.
The quickest, easiest way to apply lube is to turn the pedals backward while holding the bottle against the chain. Give the pedals enough turns to make sure the whole of the chain has been covered. If possible, let the chain sit overnight and then wipe the excess off. Failing that, wait a few minutes before wiping the chain down.
Staying out there
These suggestions don’t take up much time. Most tires only need to be pumped up twice a week, and washing the e-bike and lubing the chain can be performed weekly if the weather has been sloppy, or every few weeks if conditions have been drier.
Here at Electric Bike Report, we can say from experience that the more you ride, the easier it becomes to choose the e-bike over the car. Establishing a routine in the morning builds a kind of momentum, so that every day you do it, the more natural it feels to get on the e-bike rather than in the car.
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