By CycleRecycle, Nov 20 2015 03:10PM
There are two unavoidable facts about winter riding – your bike will get dirty, and it will not like it.
It can only take a short ride to cover glistening components in muck and grime, and wet roads covered in salt mean corrosion is a threat if you don’t regularly clean your machine.
A good old fashioned bucket of soap and water – and elbow grease – will go a long way but there is also an abundance of bike-specific cleaning products on the market to help you do the job. A degreaser and chain bath will make short work of mucky components. If using a jet wash, be sure not to point the lance directly at any bearing.
The chain, in particular, needs to be taken care of and, if you do not have the time or the inclination to deliver a full wash and service after every ride, at least dry and lubricate it. Cables, especially those routed externally, are also susceptible to the winter weather and will benefit from regular attention.
Winterise your bike
Winter is beginning to rear its ugly head and the change in weather – short days, falling temperatures and unpredictable conditions – mean it’s necessary to protect both yourself and your bike from the elements.
For some riders, that means putting their beloved summer bike into hibernation and pulling out something more suitable from the bike shed on which to rack up the miles this winter. You may have a dedicated winter bike, or perhaps have bought a new best bike which means your old number one has been relegated to winter/training duties.
For others, budget or space constraints will mean that’s not an option – but you can take a number of simple steps to ‘winterise’ your regular bike to ensure it’s ready to face winter.
Cold, wet and windy weather, and slick roads littered with debris, can make winter a miserable time in the saddle. But it doesn’t have to be that way – here’s what you can do to ensure you’re well-equipped to ride through winter until spring returns.
Love them or loathe them, mudguards are a winter riding essential both for your own comfort and for that of your fellow riders too.
What is sacrificed in terms of the clean lines of your well-tuned machine is made up for in protection from the water, mud and general grime which coats our roads in the winter.
With little sun to dry the roads either, mudguards will protect you and your riding buddies from the cold and dirty water kicked up by your tyres on roads which remain wet long after it’s stopped raining.
Bikes with eyelets and the appropriate clearance (most likely to be machines geared up for winter riding, touring and audax) will accept full mudguards, which provide the most comprehensive protection, while ‘race’ bikes without will require clip-on guards like the Crud Roadracer MkII mudguards, which will still do an excellent job and will fit almost any bike.
Punctures are a fact of life for cyclists and, unfortunately, increasingly likely in winter with debris (glass, flints and the like) washed onto wet roads.
Stay out of the gutter to avoid of the worst of the debris but we’d advise switching from your supple summer tyres to a new pair of winter boots to keep rolling.
Winter-specific tyres will typically be a little heavier and have a higher rolling resistance than tyres more typically associated with summer sportives and racing but in return they’re likely to be more durable and offer increased puncture resistant.
Compound, tread and size are all key considerations. A dual compound construction will use a durable, fast-rolling rubber on the centre of the tyre and a more supple, grippier rubber on the edges. 25mm tyres are fast becoming standard across road bikes and we’d advise wider rubber through winter, with 28mm tyres providing even more comfort and grip if your bike has the necessary clearance.
Tubeless tyres are also worth considering for winter, with the use of a sealant protecting against small cuts in the tyre and the absence of an inner tube eliminating the possibility of pinch flats and allowing for lower pressures.
The nights have quickly drawn in and it’s dark long before 5pm, which, if you are a commuter, will almost certainly mean at least one ride under cover of darkness.
Good lights are essential, then, and we’d advise keeping them on your bike throughout winter as it can remain gloomy even in the middle of the day.
What lights you choose to use will depend on where and when you will be using them – on lit roads during the urban commute or pitch black country lanes during early morning or evening training rides? Either way, the progression of LED technology and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries means there are plenty of options out there. If you ride regularly when it’s dark, we’d recommend having two lights at the front and back. That way you can have one flashing and one steady state, and always have a back-up should one fail. Just remember to charge them!
Even if you’re unlikely to ride when it’s dark, a small, inconspicuous set of ‘emergency lights’ are a worthwhile investment to get you out of trouble should you need them.
Some cyclists curse the very thought of a saddle bag on a road bike but in winter, the benefits are clear
It’s never nice to be stuck at the side of the road, and certainly not when it is cold, wet and miserable – as it is all too often can be in the midst of winter. Having a small saddlebag on your bike not only ensures that you have the essentials to get you up and running in the event of a mechanical, but also frees up space in your jersey pockets for food for long base training ride and extra clothing.
So what should go into every saddlebag at this time of year? A multi-tool, tyre levers, two spare inner tubes – or at least one in the bag and one in your jersey pocket – and glueless patches will cover the basics. Any spare space can then be used for an emergency energy gel or two and some cash
A spare inner tube is no use without a pump – and fitting a frame pump to your bike ensures you’ll never be without in winter.
The increased volume of a frame pump also means it’s likely to enable you to inflate your tyre to the correct pressure quicker than a mini pump.
It’s well worth investing in a quality pump – standing at the roadside 50 miles into a big training ride is no time to discover yours is a dud. Also check it regular to ensure it hasn’t become damaged by the inevitable grime kicked up by the road, and resist the temptation to wash the bike without first removing the pump.
Prevention is better than cure, as they say, and time spent giving your beloved steed a regular once over will serve you well in the long run.
Some essential maintenance checks are more obvious than others – the brake pads, for example, which only need a firm tug on the levers to check they are still in working order.
Keep an eye on water ingress, and removing the seatpost and tipping the bike upside down will help remove any water that may have found its way in.
Watch out for worn cables, too (ensure you also lubricate cables), and as previously mentioned, the chain is particularly susceptible to corrosion and wear in the winter, so use a chain checker to ensure it hasn’t become overly stretch, after which it can damage components.
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