True, there’s part of us that’s a little bummed watching the last of the leaves fall and the frost grab hold of the grass in the morning. But there’s truly nothing that replaces the feeling of being deep in the woods under a blanket of fresh, silent snow. So every year we take some time before the first snowflake flies to make sure our cold-weather gear is prepped and ready for action so we don’t skip a beat. A major component of that is knowing how to prepare an electric mountain bike for winter.
That said, if you live in an area like Southern California or Florida where you’re lucky enough to ride year-round without fear of freezing (but not fortunate to experience the magic of winter riding) then you can disregard most of these tips. Or, you can plan a vacation!
Although initially it might feel intimidating to brave winter weather for a snow-covered winter electric mountain bike ride, with a little preparation, some bike maintenance, and some extra apparel, it just might be your new favorite way to experience your go-to fair weather trail.
How do you store an electric bike? (Especially during the winter season).
When the temperature outside flirts with freezing, it’s important to know that an electric mountain bike simply can’t withstand the cold weather like the rest of your bike quiver can. While no bike should ever be left out in the elements (continuous exposure to rain, ice, and snow, can cause rust, fusing components, and driving your bike shop bill way up), e-bikes have several extra parts that don’t do very well even under cover in the freezing temperatures. In short: treat your e-bike like you might treat electric scooters.
Bring Batteries Inside
Most electric mountain bikes come equipped with lithium ion batteries. Simply, even high-quality batteries don’t do very well in the cold. Here are our most important tips for making sure that your e-bike batteries not only perform when you go out for a ride in the snow, but fulfill their life expectancy and keep you riding for years to come regardless of the weather forecast:
- Charge the battery inside. We recommend removing the battery from your e-bike to charge it indoors. This is because oftentimes the temperature dips too low for your battery to effectively charge outdoors or even in the garage. In cold weather, you can sometimes leave the battery to charge overnight in the garage, and in the morning it will show an empty battery simply because of the temperature.
- Store your battery (and extras if you have them) inside. For most of us, we get out there less frequently when the snow flies. So storing your batteries inside ensures they’re warmed up and ready to go even if a week or so elapses between bike rides.
- Don’t let your battery sit for too long. Did you know that even high-quality lithium ion batteries like the ones that come with your electric mountain bike experience a phenomenon known as self-discharge? This slow loss of charge is inevitable and usually inconsequential unless you let your battery sit for too long. When your battery shows a charge of 0%, what it’s really telling you is that it’s at the minimum charge possible before it starts harming the battery. So when it stoops below, that’s when damage can occur. If you’re planning on letting your battery sit for more than two to two and a half months, make sure you’re popping by for an overnight charge every few weeks.
Invest in Studded Tires
There are many—sometimes gimmicky—gear options to help your bike for the winter season. The most important of them all: studded tires. Even if you’re riding high quality knobby fat tires, a good pair of studded tires can make a notable difference on ice and packed snow.
The options are seemingly endless. And because there are so many different types of winter riding, there is likely a right and a wrong studded tire for your electric fat tire mountain bike. Peruse The Adventure Junkies’ 2020 Fat Tires for Snow buying guide.
Test Ride Close to Home
Our best advice, and perhaps the most important one of this blog: test ride around your driveway or down the street before you drive out to the snowy trails for an electric mountain bike ride. Far too often we’ve heard stories of people thinking they’ve done everything right and by the time they get to the trailhead, unload their bike, gear up, and hop on, they realize that somehow they only have a bar or two of battery life.
Learning your bike in winter is a whole new experience. Don’t be ashamed of a bit of trial and error! But it’ll be to your benefit if you execute that trial and error in your front yard rather than an hour away at the outset of your ride.
So…how cold is too cold for a bike ride?
Simply, you can ride your e-bike in the coldest weather imaginable. But that doesn’t mean your battery is going to perform the way you expect it to. When the temperature dips below freezing, you’ll start to see less usable capacity in your ion lithium battery. Our recommendations: keep your battery in the car on the way to the trailhead, if it seems to be getting cold, put it into “boost” or “turbo” mode, and plan on shorter rides to stay safely close to the car in case it unexpectedly drops to zero.