Most riders want to get a head start on logging some miles as soon as the spring weather starts to peek through the clouds. Mother Nature can be fickle, however, and there are other factors to keep in mind to ride comfortably and safely in the early part of the cycling season:
- Dress for changing weather conditions. The weather can change in a heartbeat during late winter and early spring, so plan accordingly before you head out for your ride. Dress in layers so that you can peel off extra clothing if it warms up. Even if it feel warm when you're starting out, stuff a lightweight jacket or vest into your jersey pocket in case it cools down. For even more versatility, get one of those jackets with zip-off sleeves to convert it to a vest for so-so conditions.
- Set realistic distance goals. Even if you've kept up with an indoor training regimen during the winter, there's no substitute for the real thing when it comes to riding outside on the road or trail. Don't bite off more than you can chew on your first few rides until you've built your fitness level back up.
- Wash your bike more often. The sloppy leftovers from winter, as well as the variable rain and other conditions of spring, can leave a gritty, grimy residue on your bike and its components. You'll want to observe a careful cleaning regimen more often than usual during this time to keep your bike's frame shiny and like new, and avoid undue wear and tear on your drive train. See these tips on our web site for How To Wash Your Bike and How To Clean Your Chain And Drive Train.
- Rinse off road salt. The salt used to melt snow on the roads during winter sticks around for several weeks until the spring rains have a chance to rinse it away. Salt is like kryptonite to your bike; left around for too long, it corrodes the inside and outside of any surface, whether it's steel, aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber. If you can't take the time to do a full cleaning of your bike after each ride (as described in #1 above), then at least just rinse the salt and other road grit off using a garden hose. Use very light water pressure from the hose, and don't spray directly into your hubs, bottom bracket, headset, or other bearings. Wipe everything dry with a soft, clean towel.
- Watch out for new hazards on the road or trail. The freeze and thaw cycles of winter can be hard on paved streets and other riding areas. Even in places that you are familiar with from riding in years past, keep an eye out for new potholes, cracks, and washed-out sections.