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Winter 2012: Wrapped in Plastic

No one expected for the Pacific Northwest to take a pounding snow-wise so early on in the year. As a result, the mechanics at Tom Peterson's bike shop in Renton, Washington are cleaning a lot of bikes.

"We get dirty bikes, because it's been so nasty out." says mechanic Rory Jack of Peterson Bicycle.

While Peterson has been attending Team Garmin-Barracuda's winter training camp in Calpe, Spain his guys back in the Evergreen State have been dealing with the slushy fallout from the recent freak storm. Washington got more than double it's average annual snowfall in a single day and with so much precipitation, local cyclists have had to be more mindful about keeping their bikes clean and well looked after.

"You need to hose off your bike after every ride in this kind of wet grimy weather." Jack says. "You should re-lube your chain every time it gets wet and think about bringing in your bike for a tune-up at least once during the winter just to make sure the bearings are all functioning properly."

Jack has even helped a number of customers wanting fenders temporarily installed on the lower-end road bikes they use to get around town. But whether you ride a beater or a high-end performance frame, he also feels that now is the time to have a good set of tires at your disposal.

"A beefy all-season tire (is preferable), because this poor weather tends to eat through your tires a little faster than in dry conditions, so a pretty thick tire is what you want. Sometimes I'll even recommend a 25 mm tire like a Continental 4-Season or a Specialized Armadillo.

Wider tires with good grooving are a smart way to go when local weather results in wet and less than ideal riding conditions. The Specialized Armadillo, which gets a fair amount of praise for its level of puncture resistance, have a dual-compound siped tread to improve it's grip over damp surfaces.

"It's thick, but it still has a pretty good rolling resistance."

Along with good tires, getting into the habit of staying focused and extra vigilant when riding over the painted traffic symbols and lines on the road can help keep you from winding up on the pavement. If you do get caught out in a shower or find yourself going though more puddles than normal, remember to try and brake earlier and evenly (using both front and back brakes…) to allow more time for brake pads to get through any excess water that's built up on your rim.

Jack also reminds his local customers to look for lightweight outerwear to guard against getting too wet. Plastic windbreaker's can result in excess sweat building up inside your clothing, but something like the Pacific Rain Shell from Hincapie Sportswear uses vented underarm gussets to keep overheating under control.

"Another thing is to wear booty covers for your shoes. That's a very popular item around here."

In most parts of the country, we're a long way off from ideal cycling conditions, but with a little planning and forethought, you can still get out and enjoy a good spin until the weather starts to cooperate regularly.

For more info on Tom Peterson's bike shop visit: www.petersonbicycle.com
For more info about Tom Peterson: Tom Peterson's bio page