It’s that time of year again where the days are already growing shorter and the temperature has taken a dip. Preparing and maintaining your bike becomes a priority in the winter months. Need some tips? You’ve come to the right place - we’ve written a guide with a few handy hints on how to protect your bike throughout the season.
1. Add Mudguards
Churned up, wet and muddy roads can be a nightmare for your bike. Mudguards are a necessity you should already be halfway out of the door to buy. Though they might sacrifice the clean lines of your well-tuned machine, they make up for it by protecting your bike from the water, mud and general grime which coats our roads in the winter.
Bikes with eyelets and the appropriate clearance (most likely to be bikes designed with winter riding in mind) will accept full mudguards, which provide the most comprehensive protection, while ‘race’ bikes will require clip-on guards. They benefit both you and fellow riders as mudguards will protect you and your riding buddies from the cold and dirty water kicked up by your tyres on roads.
This is also an opportunity for accessorising! With many different designs, mudguards present an opportunity to add a splash of colour to your bike.
2. Puncture Protection
Winter means an increasing likeliness of glass, flint and other sharp objects being washed onto wet roads. Be prepared and install slime-filled tubes, polyurethane protective strips or invest in a complete new set of winter tyres to prevent the risk of a puncture on your ride.
Winter-specific tyres may be heavier and have a higher rolling resistance than tyres more typically associated with summer sportive and racing, but in return they’re likely to be more durable and offer increased puncture resistant.
We’d advise wider rubber through winter if you have the required clearance.
Whether you’re a commuter or ride in your spare time, you will almost certainly have one ride or more under cover of darkness. Lights - even if they’re a small, inconspicuous set of ‘emergency lights’ are a safety essential and can get you out of trouble when you need them the most.
There have been huge improvements in LED technology and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. it’s easier and cheaper than ever to get reliable and compact lights for your bike.
If you ride regularly, why not have two lights at the front and back? One flashing and one steady – both to give extra invisibility and also ensuring you always have a back up light if one unexpectedly fails (or you forget to charge it!).
4. Keep it clean
There are two unavoidable facts about winter riding – your bike will get dirty, and it will not like it.
Even a short ride can completely cover gleaming components in muck and grime, and salt-covered wet roads means corrosion is a threat if you don’t regularly clean your machine.
An old-fashioned bucket of soap and water – and a bit of hard graft – will go a long way. If you’re not a fan, there is also a huge variety of grub fighting cleaning products on the market to make your life a little bit easier. A degreaser and chain bath will make short work of mucky components and if you’re using a jet wash, be sure not to point the lance directly at any bearing!
The chain and externally routed cables, in particular, need to be taken care of in tricky winter weather conditions. If you do not have the time to do a full wash and service after every ride, at least dry and lubricate the chain.
5. A winter saddle pack with maintenance essentials
Make sure you arrange a pre-winter service for the colder months but to be extra prepared carry a stocked-up saddle bag so if you do face a mechanical problem in the cold and rain, you have everything you need to fix it.
A saddle bag packed with at least one spare tube, a few patches, a spare derailleur hanger, tyre levers if the tyres demand it and a quality multi-tool will help you overcome almost any mechanical problem.
Also, even though it is important all year, carrying a quality pump is even more important in winter. Small pumps may be attractive because they are light and don’t take up too much space but they're not always much cop when it comes to quickly inflating a tyre to a decent pressure.
Always consider both size and inflation ability of a high-quality pump that you’ve tested properly before hitting the road, or carry a CO2 cartridge inflator for extra reassurance.
Keep on your toes, be safe and be secure to save yourself a headache when the weather gets worse!