It’s winter and we want to keep riding, and we all know that Canada is a land of dramatic seasonal change with great temperature and precipitation fluctuations. The roads here (in BC at least) are like slushy marshmallow snot on the average day thanks to whatever is used in snow clearing efforts. Some of us prefer to stay indoors when the temperature plummets, while the more resilient and hardier embrace the colder months and celebrate what is quintessentially Canadian. With the introduction of rugged tread fat tire mountain bikes, more and more biking enthusiasts are looking to extend their riding season with some pushing right through Winter and into the Spring. The addition of an electric motor is helping to motivate riders to persevere even when road conditions aren’t perfect.
Get A Grip
Apart from colder temperatures there has always been one major factor discouraging bike riders from heading out on a winter ride. Traction is paramount. Although traction has significantly improved through the adaptation of fat tire bikes, a two-wheel bicycle can still be a tricky ride on a slippery surface. There is no doubt that this concern can be mitigated by adding an extra point of contact in the form of a three wheeled bike or more commonly known as a tricycle.
When descending a hill on an electric trike the rider has a wide wheelbase of balance. Three wheels in contact with the ground offers a 50% improvement in grip over a two-wheel bike. This is equally relevant when ascending a hill. The Cargo Electric Trike model has a 500-watt motor driving the front wheel while both of the rear wheels are driven by the pedals, effectively offering an “all wheel drive” system. So when the snow, ice or gravel constitute part of your chosen route, a fat tire electric pedal assist trike is going to be a smart choice and allow you to make the most of your time outdoors. As an extra consideration with winter riding be sure to wear suitable bike shoes with good tread and clear the snow and ice from the soles and pedals for good grip and to ensure your feet don’t slip off the pedals. We recommend studded tires for additional grip.1
Ride With Caution!
As the winter season progresses and the snow piles up the space available to ride your etrike shrinks. Roads and streets get narrower, shoulders become uneven and meandering like goat paths and ice boulders can appear out of nowhere. Not to mention cars parked on the shoulder, snow banks creeping onto the road and random pedestrians trying not to slip and faceplant in front of you. Personally we would discourage riding if there simply was not enough room for you to safely share the road with your electric tricycle and any passing traffic, either motorized or pedestrian. We ride here only when the shoulders have been cleared by the plows so there is room for us to keep all three wheels off the main roads whenever possible. Of course if you have accessible cycle pathways that are rideable in the winter even better.
When the weather conditions are more extreme, like low visibility blowing snow, black ice, freezing rain, you should leave your ebike or etrike parked indoors. Winter riding should only be undertaken if the rider is confident with riding in adverse conditions, especially when riding on ice and snow covered pathways or roads.
If you are one of the new breed of winter etrike riders there are a few extra factors to think about before you head off on a winter ride.
One of the main reasons that the popularity of eTrikes, eBikes, electric scooters and even electric cars has exploded in recent years is due to the significant advancements made in lithium-ion batteries. Electric cars that will travel 700 kms on a single charge, electric trikes that operate all week in a commercial setting, scooters that can effectively function on a multiple rental program, none would have been possible a decade ago. Still, despite this rapid growth in technology lithium-ion batteries still have their weak points. The primary one being how they are affected by colder temperatures. Interestingly, lithium-ion batteries can be stored at temperatures approaching zero, but they will discharge faster when it’s cold. This means that the range you get from your electric tricycle in summer may not be the same as when you ride in zero or sub-zero temperatures throughout the winter months.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that if you are charging or topping up your battery in cold temperatures be sure to use a low amperage charger. The charger supplied with the eTc Cargo is a 48-volt 2-amp charger and is safe to use. Some public charging stations offer as high as 10amp fast chargers, which will seriously affect the long-term life of your etrike or ebike battery and should never be used in cold temperatures.
When charging your etrike battery ensure that the battery itself is above zero celsius. If you charge the battery when it is below freezing you can cause damage to the internal cells. Ideally the battery should be stored indoors at room temperatures recommended between 15 and 20 degrees celsius when not in use.
Something else happens in winter when you live north (or south) of the equator, and that is that the days get shorter. The sun is slow to make an appearance in the morning and quick to disappear in the late afternoon. For those who use their e-trike for their daily commute this can mean that a portion of the ride could be in the dark. Common sense then reminds us to have a working light and front and rear reflectors as a minimum when heading out in the dawn or dusk. A reflective weather-proof jacket can also make all the difference for a motorist approaching on a dark, wet road and an additional headlamp is also a good idea. All of our electric trikes at etrikes Canada come with front and rear LED lights and reflectors for increased nighttime visibility of both trike and rider.
Slippery When Wet And Icy
Slow Down! Winter riding will inevitably bring with it its fair share of snow, ice, rain, freezing rain, slush, salty sludge, sand and gravel and everything in between. Temperatures will change throughout the day and what may have started as a chilly dry morning could easily turn to snow or melted snow by your return home. This should not deter you from jumping on your electric trike and heading out on your way, but you should keep in mind that some additional maintenance will definitely be required to keep your ride in tip top condition throughout the winter months. If you live in a hilly area then you might want to consider studded tires.
Riding In The Muck
Most importantly the space you have to ride your trike in the winter compared to the summer will often be reduced by snow banks, uncleared streets and roads, cars parked further out onto the street and other common winter obstacles. Ride with extra caution and care if you are on a shared road and remember cars around you are not necessarily used to riders on the street in the winter and windshields are not as clean so you should give yourself and those around you lots of room to move.
Dirt and salt are the two main enemies here and it’s important to keep your ride as clean and salt free as possible. Your etrike has many moving metal parts and dirt will shorten the life of those parts if their functioning movement is restricted. No one needs to be reminded about the effect of salt on metal. Even Neil Young tells us that “Rust Never Sleeps” and any residual salt left behind after a ride will further impact those areas, watch out for any rust and keep a can of WD-40 handy! A regular wipe down with a clean dry cloth helps but don’t be afraid to wash your etrike with warm soapy water to get rid of any stubborn salt residue. It’s advisable to remove the battery before washing your trike and never use a high-pressure spray. The electronics on your electric trike are protected and water resistant but forcing water in them with a power washer is not a good idea. Cleaning and lubricating the chain and gears as well as the axles should be done regularly, wiping the chain to clean if of salt and moisture after every ride is highly recommended.
Electric Trike Storage
Your etrike should be stored in a covered, dry area like a garage, shed or basement. This area does not need to be heated, each electric tricycle has a removable lithium-ion battery that can be taken indoors when not being used. Before you park your e-trike be sure to wipe it down thoroughly before leaving it so that any accumulated snow, salt and dirt will not melt and eat away at your trike as it sits idle.
If you decide winter riding is not for you and your e-trike is going to be parked for the season be sure to top up the battery every 3 months or so so that it does not fully discharge.
Gear Up With Layers
Let’s be realistic, when it hits 20 below zero the thought of riding an electric trike becomes less appealing and most of us will not seriously entertain the thought for long. But for those who embrace the winter, you will want to stay toasty on your ride but still be able to move. If you are an alpine skier then you probably already have most if not all the gear you need to ride in the snow and cold. Wear lots of layers, as you warm up on your ride you can take off layers easily to keep comfortable.
Good gloves or mitts with a long cuff, ski pants plus a scarf or neck tube/ski mask if its colder, long johns, turtle neck, and nice warm boots. Top it off with your ski helmet and goggles and old man winter will be no match. We even keep some hand warmers in the e-trikes cargo box in case fingers or toes get cold.
Bundle up, stay warm, slow down, keep your electric trike clean and dry after you ride and you will ride hassle free all winter long. To learn more about electric trikes contact us at eTrikes Canada today!
1 While we recommend studded tires we have not ridden them on our e-trikes yet as we are still waiting on delivery! There will be a follow up to this post when we get them.