Our 6-step checklist
Our 6-step checklist to get your bike winter ready.
It’s that time of year again – short days, falling temperatures and unpredictable weather – and it always seems to take us by surprise. An element of denial, we dare say, as we try to cling on to the dry, crisp autumnal rides rather than getting out the winter tyres and woollies!
Nevertheless, it’s nearly upon us and so some maintenance and prepping is required to make sure that you can not only ride safely in the harsher conditions, but also that you keep any post winter repair bills to a minimum once spring has once again, sprung.
Here’s our essential winter-ready checklist.
Ok, we know they’re not necessarily the coolest bike accessor but in these wintery weather conditions, they’re a must. With little sun to dry out the roads after the rain and morning mist, mudguards not only protect you from the cold and dirty water kicked up by your tyres, but also your fellow riders.
A full-length set of mudguards work the best. However, before you buy, check attachment and tyre clearance compatibility to make sure they’ll fit and do their job. For race bikes, look for clip-on guards which will fit most bikes.
What is sacrificed in terms of clean lines and the well, aesthetic, of your much loved 2-wheeled friend, is more than made up for in protection from the water and mud that goes hand in hand with the winter chill.
LIGHT THE WAY ...
The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in which means for all you commuters out there, you’ll most certainly be doing at least one leg in the dark. And even if you don’t plan on any night rides, there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll find yourself caught out at some point in dark and grey midday skies, thanks to a heavy rain cloud or two.
So, investing in a good set of lights is essential. There’s a huge range of lights to choose from to suit all budgets. Key things you’ll need to consider are when – early morning and late evening or night, when it’s most definitely going to be dark. Or daytime, with the risk of a particularly dark and grey sky, where a less powerful beam is all you need. And then, where you’ll be using them – dark, quiet roads or well-lit urban commutes.
The darker the ride, the more [and brighter] lights - two at the front and back – as a general rule. That way one can flash and one can be in a steady state. A back up is a good idea too, just in case one fails. And for those where a ride in the dark is not in your plans, then a smaller set of ‘emergency lights’ is a worthwhile investment should the weather catch you by surprise.
Punctures are a fact of life for cyclists and more so in the winter months. Your tyres will no doubt have taken a bit of a hit from all the summer riding, then combined with the debris being washed into the road, particularly the edges, the potential for punctures increases.
A set of winter tyres adds a bit of weight but they fend off any damage as a result of pieces of grit, thorns and anything else sharp lurking in the kerbside. They also have a more pronounced tread which helps with your grip on wet roads and loose surfaces.
Tubeless tyres are also worth considering – if you don’t already have them – meaning you can ditch the inner tubes and switch to sealant. Just make sure you keep them properly inflated and regularly give them a once over to check for any damage or debris.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Yes, we know, this feels like a chore you could do without, especially after a long ride. However, your bike is likely to need a clean after most rides you do in the winter season. Dirt accumulates much more quickly in the grim conditions and salt is your frames [and any other metal parts] worst nightmare!
Bike protector sprays can help repel water and keep everything cleaner for longer. And whilst a quick hose down will get rid of most of the salt and grime you picked up along the way, specialist bike cleaning products are more effective against grime and protecting your bike’s parts.
And don’t forget the chain and gears, as the mix of dirt and lube can create an abrasive paste which can cause damage. Invest in a chain cleaning tool and degreaser to keep your drivetrain and chain clean and then re-lube.
Not a cyclists most favourite accessory but during this season, they come in really handy. The saddle bag is the familiar go-to option but it’s also worth taking a look at bikepacking bags which are becoming much more popular, in particular the bar bag.
A small bag – saddle or bikepacking – means you can carry the winter essentials to get you back riding as quickly as possible if you do encounter a mechanical hiccup. What essentials should you pack? A multi-tool, tyre levers, two spare inner tubes and glue-less patches or sealant. And if there’s room, squeeze in an energy gel or two and some cash … just in case!
LUBE IT UP
Switching to a wet lube means more staying power in the rain than the lightweight dry lube you use in the summer. It does, however, attract more grime and dirt and so you need to adopt a bit more of a thorough cleaning routine, post ride, with a dedicated chain cleaning device.
Also you’ll need to lube up your headset, bottom bracket, hubs, freewheel, rim-brake pivots and pedal axes. Keep your seat tube dry and greased up to prevent corrosion and sticking. And keep an eye on your cables. Whilst they might appear sealed-in, water can seep in and affect your ability to stop or shift.
Winter riding can be a ton of fun. Even well-ridden trails can feel and look different in the colder, crisper – and wetter – weather. Test your skills, take on new riding challenges. And whilst it’s all too easy to put your feet up in front of a fire, nice and cosy, there’s actually nothing quite like a vigorous ride and a cold nose to get the blood pumping.