This long, cold winter sure has been hard on my bicycle. Road salt and sand take their toll. The fact that it was an extra cold and snowy winter didn’t help. Normally I cycle five mornings a week. That’s through all four seasons. I don’t miss many days except in the spring through fall if it’s raining or in the winter if it’s snowing And even on rainy days I can usually get a ride in latter on in the day when the rain stops. Or early before it starts. Sometimes it’s a fake stop and the rain starts up again as I’m riding. I’ve ended up on plenty of rain-rides that way. And if a day does get rained or snowed out I can ride on one of my off days to keep up. But not this winter.

This was my fourth year of winter riding and it was, by far, the winter with the worst weather. I had to skip more days this winter than the three previous winters combined. And it wasn’t even close. There were a couple of occasions this winter where I wasn’t able to ride for a more than week. Normally if it snows a lot I’ll wait until the second morning after is snows to get on the bike. A day of snow, a day for the roads to get cleared, and then I cycle. That means it has to snow every three days to keep me home for a week. And that happened more than once. Not our usual weather.

So this week I decided to do a little work on my bike. It still needs some more but at least I got most of the winter grime off of it. I broke out my bike stand for the first time since the fall, hung my bicycle up on it and had at it with one of my larger bristle brushes. At first I though I could just brush the road sand off my bike but it turned out that the sand, dirt, and road grime was way more tenacious than that. I was barely moving the dirt around. So I grabbed a rag and that got most of the sand off but there was some real mud and dirt under the sand. I had to get some spray cleaner to get that off.

The only repairs I did were to the brakes. Like most bike riders I mostly use the rear breaks so they get worn down faster than the front brakes. So my rear brake pads needed replacing. They were nearly gone. It’s a pretty easy thing replacing brake pads but then you have to adjust them to the proper tension and that can be annoying. Not hard just annoying. It mainly means pulling on the brake cable with vice-grips while turning wrench to lock the brake cable in place. But the brakes always end up too tight or too loose and it takes a couple of tries to get correct. After that there are some screws and little wheels to turn to make fine adjustments.

The rear brake was giving me trouble by not snapping back into the ready position after I released the tension on the cable but the front brake was far worse off. It’s been a problem for the back half of this winter. If I apply pressure on the front brakes they’ll grip the tire to stop me but then they won’t let got and get back to the ready position. I have to pull them apart by hand. It’s easy to do but not as I’m riding. I decided to take apart the front brake assembly to clean it out and see if I could get it working properly. There was a lot of road grime stuck in the assembly. But as I tried to get the brake assembly off the bike frame I couldn’t. Four years of road salt and grime made the allen wrench nut lock in place and then I stripped it trying to get it loose. No fun.

I tried cleaning up the brake assembly the best I could without removing it but nothing I did would make the brake work correctly. I think the tension spring that moves the brakes back in place doesn’t have enough tension left in it. I’m going to need a new front brake assembly. I’m not even going to try to get the brake assembly off until I get a new one because I’ll probably have to break it off. The front brake will still stop me right now if I need it to so there isn’t a huge hurry. Plus it’s the back break that’s the work horse.

I also put a little more decoration on my bike. Back when I first bough this bicycle I thought it was boring looking. It’s grey and ugly. Repainting the bike was too much work so I bought some half inch electrical tape in a variety of colors. I used the colored tape to make rings of color around the frame’s tubes. It worked pretty well. I got bored doing it though and only ended up decorating the bike about half way with colored rings and planned on getting back to it later. Now five years have gone by and it’s finally later. I still haven’t quite finished it but it has some more color rings on it.

The electrical tape has held up remarkably well. Some of it that’s on the underside of the bike gets a lot of spray from the road looks a bit weathered but most of it looks as bright and colorful as the day I put it on. When I cleaned up the bike with soap and water the tape shined right up too. I never would have guesses that stuff was so durable and lightfast.

One final tale of the winter that wouldn’t leave. We were finally into the first week of April and things had started to warm up a bit. I shed my full winter gear and even had a couple of days of 60ºF riding. Then the second week of April hit and the temperature dropped back down below freezing most of the week. I had to put on my full winter riding clothes again. I sit writing this during the third week of April and it’s barely reaching the fifties. That’s not full winter gear weather but still I could use some sunny and 60º mornings. Oh well, they’ll come eventually.