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Winter is tough on you and your bike so here are our tips for making it smoothly through to spring

Winter is a testing time not only for your motivation but for your bike and equipment too. Bicycles really don't like all the water, grit and gunk that comes their way during the winter, but you can help out by using the best equipment and following a simple maintenance routine. Get things right and you'll be riding smoothly and safely through until spring. 

Mudguards

Okay, so they’re not the most stylish or, dare we say it, fashionable thing you can stick on a bicycle but if you want to stay dry then keeping the surface water off your butt and lower legs/feet will make a huge difference to your comfort and enjoyment. What 'guards you fit depends on your bike.

If you have mounts and have the space and clearance you could fit traditional full-length mudguards like SKS Chromoplastics. If your frame doesn't have mounts, don't worry, there are lots of mudguards that will clip on to any bike, like Crud’s Race Guards.

SKS Chromoplastic — £14.49 - £27.99

The SKS Chromoplastic mudguards are one of the best known, and very highly regarded, full-length options. They’re made by sandwiching aluminium strips inside a plastic housing. The resulting profile is quite deep which makes it stiff and sturdy. Stainless steel stays fix them in place and the Secu-Clips on the front means they pop out of the mount if somehting gets caught between the mudguard and tyre, rather than locking the wheel and putting you on your face. You get a generous mudflap on the front mudguard and a reflector on the rear. They’re available in several sizes to fit tyres from 20 to 45mm.

Read our review of SKS Chromoplastic mudguards
Find an SKS dealer

Crud Roadracer Mk II — £16.56

Crud Roadracer rear crop.jpg

Crud Roadracer rear crop.jpg

The other popular option is the Crud Roadracer. As long as you've got 4mm between the top of your tyre and the inside of your brake caliper, the Roadracers will slide in. The Mk2 version is the longest of any clip-on mudguard, almost as long as full-length mudguards, and has a front mech protector too.

You don't need mudguard eyelets. Roadracers attach to the frame with reusable cable ties and some natty little brackets held on with rubber bands. That makes the Roadracer’s incredibly light at just 200g for the pair.

The weight is saved because Roadracers do not use the four stiff metal stays used on conventional mudguards to keep the guards from touching the wheel or tyre. Instead, the Roadracers have just two flexible plastic stays and are designed to 'float' above the tyre, with some little strips of soft brushing on the inside of the stay-clip to rub very gently on the rims and keep the guards central.

Fitting these can be a fiddle, especially getting the mudguards to float centrally over the wheels, but with a little patience it's possible to get a good setup. I've taken a pair of scissors to mine in the past and simply adapted them to fit my bike.

The all-plastic construction means Roadracers are more fragile than chromoplastic guards, an issue for some riders.

Read our review of the Crud Roadracer Mk II mudguards
Find a Crud Products dealer

Our Buyer's Guide to Mudguards goes into great detail on the pros and cons of the different mudguards available, and will help you choose the right one for your bike.

Winter tyres

Punctures are easily the most annoying thing about cycling through the winter. They're more common during the winter, because the rain washes more sharp flints and pieces of glass on to the road and water also acts as an annoyingly good lubricant for sharp objects to slice through a tyre.

Look for a  tyre with a thick reinforced breaker belt sandwiched between the rubber tread and carcass. This will help prevent flints and glass from puncturing the delicate inner tube.

Tyre pressure is important, and especially so in the winter when the roads are most likely to be wet. As a general rule, the wetter it is, the lower the pressure you want to run your tyres at. While it might be fine to ride tyres inflated to 120psi during the summer when the roads are dry, it's a good idea to go a little lower the wetter it is. It's not unknown to go as low as 80-90psi.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus Flat Less Tyre — £22.98

Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres are essentially heavy duty, ultra reliable commu-touring tyres that inspire unprecedented confidence without feeling sluggish or barge-like, despite their 970g/pr weight.

Read our review of the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres

Continental Grand Prix 4 Season — £31.99

Continental GP 4 season cutaway.jpg

Continental GP 4 season cutaway.jpg

A lighter option is the Continental Grand Prix 4 Season. A tough Duraskin mesh and two Vectran anti-puncture layers beneath the tread make this a good choice. And at 220g it's a good weight, for the rider wanting a fast winter tyre. Conti's max grip silica rubber compound provides a good level of grip. A good choice for winter and one that can be used in spring and autumn too. If you want even more protection, the Continental Gator Hardshell (see review) is a good option, with a third layer of Polyamide in the sidewalls.

Here’s our pick of the best winter tyres and what to look for, plus 10 of the best

Saddle pack with maintenance essentials

That last thing you want to do on a ride is to have a mechanical and not be able to sort it out. We always make sure we have a saddle bag packed with at least one spare tube, a few patches, tyre levers if the tyres demand it, and a quality multi-tool with a chain breaker. We carry a quick link or chain pin and tyre boot as well. Those are the essentials and should see you able to fix most roadside mechanicals.

By putting everything in a saddle pack you can simply leave it on the bike for the whole winter and it will always be there if and when you need it, and it beats stuffing your pockets, saving them for really important stuff like food and money for a coffee/cake/pint.

Pump

A good pump is a necessity at any time of the year, but winter is really not the time to skimp on your pump; invest in a high quality model. I once punctured 40 miles away from home, it was raining hard, and the mini pump I was testing completely failed me. A tiny pump may be attractive because it's light and doesn't take up much space in a jacket pocket, but they're not always much cop when it comes to quickly inflating a tyre to a decent pressure. If you're riding in company its also unfair to keep everyone waiting and getting cold while you struggle with an inadequate pump.

There are lots of very good mini pumps these days. Personally I think a traditional frame pump is best. Yes, it's heavier, but you can inflate a tyre to 85-100 psi every single time, and quickly too. If you can’t manage a frame pump, at least ensure you’ve invested in a high-quality pump that you’ve tested properly before hitting the road, or carry a CO2 cartridge inflator.

Hoy Hi Pressure Mini Pump — £24.99

Hoy Hi Pressure Mini Pump

Hoy Hi Pressure Mini Pump

The Hoy Hi Pressure mini pump gets tyres up to pressure surprisingly easy and its metal construction means it should keep on pumping for a long time.

The pump has both presta and Schrader options that are easily interchanged through simply rotating the cuff beneath the valve itself. It is also simple to inflate the tyres to 120 psi with considerably less effort than other mini pumps.

Read our review of the Hoy Hi Pressure Mini Pump

Zefal HPX — £19.99

Legendary US bike shop Rivendell Cycles calls the HPX "the biggest commercial mainstream normal zero-snobbeury bicycle success that has ever come out of France" and we can't argue with that. The narrow barrel makes high pressures easy, the thumblock grabs the valve firmly and the switchable sprung handle means no wasted effort.

The design's been around since the early 1970s. HPXes are tough and durable enough that we wouldn't be surprised if there are still a few of the first batch in use.

Find a Zefal dealer

Genuine Innovations Proflate 16 — £24.29

Genuine Innovations Proflate.jpg

Genuine Innovations Proflate.jpg

The Genuine Innovations Proflate 16 may not look the smartest, but it's a very cleverly designed CO2 pump that instills trust and makes you feel in control. It uses 16g non threaded cartridges (which are slightly cheaper than their threaded equivalents) and works on both Schrader and Presta valves.

The Proflate 16 has a host of really well designed features: it auto-detects Schrader or Presta valve; it's got a little indicator that tells you if the cartridge is punctured and the pump is therefore charged; it's got a trigger, protected by a security catch; you can store cartridges upside down in the body avoiding the risk of accidental puncturing; you can't accidentally unscrew the body with a charged/punctured cartridge; and it's got an automatic dirt/water shield.

Read our review of the Genuine Innovations Proflate 16
Find a Genuine Innovations dealer

See our guide to the best cycling tyre pumps and CO2 inflators

Lights

Even if you’re not planning to ride in the dark, it can be very gloomy on some grey, overcast days, so we’d recommend always riding with a set of lights. Even if they’re small single LED blinker lights, you have the reassurance of being able to put them on if it doesn’t turn out to be the blue sky day you'd hoped for.

And sometimes, even with the best intentions, you might find yourself racing to get home before the sun sets and not quite succeeding. We’ve all been there and know what it’s like. It's best to play safe and get some lights on your bike throughout the winter.

Here are a few of our current favourites.

Lucas King of the Road Sport rear light — £19.99 

Lucas KOTR R15 Sport rear light

The Lucas KOTR R15 Sport rear light is very neat and compact, with a good beam and battery life for its size. It's ideal for clipping on your bike to alert drivers of your presence when daytime conditions are gloomy, and so you've got a back-up if your afternoon ride goes on later than planned.

Read our review of the Lucas KOTR R15 Sport 

Cateye Rapid Mini USB Rechargeable rear light — £26.99

Cateye Rapid Mini

The Cateye Rapid Mini is all you could want from a commuter rear light: it's cheap, tough, easy to fit, and provides a good balance between visibility and run time. It throws out a claimed 15 lumens across four different modes. You get the standard constant and flashing modes, plus a subtle pulsing mode and a mode that should come with an epilepsy warning. Each of these are bright enough to feel safe (or as least as safe as is possible) on unlit roads at night, making the Rapid Mini ideal for anyone who commutes on more rural lanes. The side visibility is decent too, an important consideration for more urban usage.

Read our review of the Cateye Rapid Mini USB Rechargeable
Find a Cateye dealer

Be sure to check out our rear light buyer's guide + light comparison engine.

Front lights: Guide to the best front lights for cycling + beam comparison engine

Radial Pharos Mini — £7

Radial Cycles Pharos front saftey light

Radial Cycles Pharos front saftey light

The Radial Pharos Mini Front is a charming wee Be-Seen-By front light. The single white 3-watt LED  isn't a tarmac-scorcher, but you get a minimum runtime of 30 hours on constant from its pair of CR2032 cells and 90 in flashing mode. It's not rechargeable, but batteries are cheap if you buy in quantity. 

Weighing in at 31g this little light can literally travel anywhere. It will fit in your pocket, bike bag or jersey if you don't want it on your bike all the time. It attaches with a flexible rubber grip that will fit most bikes with ease. The beauty of this is that you can quickly remove it when you lock up your bike and take it with you.

Read our review of the Radial Cycles Pharos front light

Magicshine MJ-858 front light — £59.95

Magicshine MJ-858 front light
The Magicshine MJ-858 is a tiny gem of cast, black anodised aluminium with a small light aperture and base that pumps out 1,000 lumens. It runs for 3.5 hours on full brightness with its 4.4Ah battery, and you can easily extend this by reducing the output. However if run time is paramount to your requirements, then just upgrade to the bigger 6.6Ah battery to get well over five hours of bright, well-distributed beam on full power.

Read our review of the Magicshine MJ-858 front light

Regular cleaning

I finished a ride the other day and actually had a tidemark along the down tube. There was even a bit of driftwood in the muck. Yes, riding through the winter clearly places a lot of stress on all the moving components so you’ll need to embrace a regular cleaning and servicing schedule.

Winterise your bike - crank

Winterise your bike - crank

Ideally ,you should give your bike a very thorough clean straight after a mucky ride to prevent rust setting in. A bucket, some soapy water and a sponge/brush will do for a basic clean. There are plenty of specialised cleaning products on the market that will make cleaning your bike easier.

Keep it lubed

Even if you don’t wash your bike regularly, you’re going to need to keep the drivetrain will lubed. Hear that squeaky chain? That’s not a good sound; you don’t want to be hearing it.

Buy a good-quality bicycle lube and use it, this isn't the time to skimp. Wet lubes are good because they last ages, but can attract muck and grit to the chain and need more thorough cleaning. Dry lubes might not seem the obvious choice in the winter but a good one can work well and has the benefit of keeping your chain clean. On the down side, it does need much more regular application and can be more fussy to apply in the first place.

Carbon Pro Heavy Duty lube — £6.20

Carbon Pro Heavy Duty Lube

Carbon Pro Heavy Duty Lube

Carbon Pro Heavy Duty Lube is very clean-running for a truly hell'n'high water lubricant. It laughs at thunderstorms, river crossings and similar antics. Most surprising of all, it doesn't impair the feel of sportier groupsets.

Read our review of Carbon Pro Heavy Duty lube

Green Oil chain lube — £5.99

Green Oil Wet Chain Lube.jpg

Green Oil Wet Chain Lube.jpg

Green Oil proudly boasts that it contains no environmentally harmful chemicals, such as PTFE, and no palm oil, which is implicated in the destruction of rainforest. What it actually does contain is a secret. Green Oil only admit to "naturally occurring plant extracts" and no animal derivatives. But this is all detail; what matters is that it works really well, whether you care about its green credentials or not.

Read our review of Green Oil chain lube

Check that chain

If you’re riding a load of miles in the winter, it’s good to keep an eye on the chain wear. A chain will slowly stretch over time as the components wear out.

A chain checker tool is reasonably cheap and could save you a lot of money in the long run. If you leave a chain to wear unchecked, the chain rings, cassette and jockey wheels will wear out and and eventually you’ll have to replace the whole transmission. Costly!

Park Tool Chain Checker CC2 — £16.49

Park Tool Chain Checker.jpeg

Park Tool Chain Checker.jpeg

Park Tool's Chain Checker lets you monitor the condition of your chain so you can decide for yourself just how cautious you want to be about the effect of its wear on the rest of your drivetrain. 

/sites/default/files/cropped/galleria_1200/images/Products/KMC%20X11L%20Gold%2011-Speed%20Chain.jpg

Alternatively, if you change the chain regularly, you can extend the life of the transmission hugely. Some people will fit a new chain every three months if they’re do lots of miles. A new chain - and it doesn’t need to be a posh one - is a small price to pay compared to a Dura-Ace cassette, for example.

Inspect tyres and brake blocks regularly

The brake blocks (or pads) will take a beating through the winter and wear out much faster. Every time you wash your bike, pay particular attention to the blocks and replace them before they get too worn. It’s also worth checking the tyres for holes, cuts, gashes and flint/glass lodged in the tyre.

Kool Stop Dura 2 Dual Compound brake blocks — £8.99

Kool Stop Dura 2s are aftermarket upgrade brake blocks with the dual compound providing good braking performance in a range of conditions and decent longevity too.

Read our review of the Kool Stop Dura 2 Dual Compound brake blocks
Find a Kool Stop dealer

Follow this guide and you should sail through the autumn and winter months quite happily. If you've got any of your own tips, feel free to add them below.

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

23 comments

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DanielCoffey [13 posts] 1 month ago
5 likes

Another essential to add to your seat pack is a few pairs of those blue nitrile gloves.

They squash down to nothing and will keep that stinky, oily chain crud off your hands. They do tear, so a few pairs is sensible.

While you can buy them at Pharmacies for a few quid for a small pack, a lot of Carer Supplies places do them in boxes of 100 for about six quid.

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Roberj4 [221 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes

Highly recommend the Cool Stop pads, I've been using these for years on my winter bike.

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hennie [12 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Roberj4 wrote:

Highly recommend the Cool Stop pads, I've been using these for years on my winter bike.

 

I agree, last time I swapped from these back to stock Shimano ones and couldn't believe how bad they were in comparison. Only use Cool Stop now. The salmon coloured ones I find best for winter

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unconstituted [1847 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Roberj4 wrote:

Highly recommend the Cool Stop pads, I've been using these for years on my winter bike.

 

Are they these?

 

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/kool-stop-dura-aceultegra105-pair-of-cartridge-i...

 

I have 105 pads on my winter bike but am far from impressed from how they were in the rain the other day. Don't fancy doing all winter in them..

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Jack Osbourne snr [569 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Been using Kool Stop pads for many year and in my personal experience:

The black ones aren't great in the wet and work the same as most pads in the dry.

The two tone jobs are okay in the wet, but not earth shatteringly so.

The salmon ones are very good in the wet but will not last a Scottish winter. ie pissing down day after day after day after day after day after... They wear very quickly.

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pagik [15 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

All of the above and I highly recommend 3 letters and 2 numbers. ACF 50.

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Woldsman [81 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

Those mudguards look frightfully short. You know what to do, right? 

http://eastyorkshirectc.org.uk/flaps

 

 

 

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Disfunctional_T... [156 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I recommend Fluid Film for corrosion protection. It's non-toxic.

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robertoegg [103 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

I recommend a fixed gear for less moving parts to clean  1 Just put decent blocks on the front! Oh, and you can do skidz in the wet a lot easier - I look well cool.

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guyrwood [516 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Best things for winterising any bike with rim brakes are Swissstop green pads. They're bloody expensive but they're seriously good!

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guyrwood [516 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Best things for winterising any bike with rim brakes are Swissstop green pads. They're bloody expensive but they're seriously good!

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Rapha Nadal [280 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

guyrwood wrote:

Best things for winterising any bike with rim brakes are Swissstop green pads. They're bloody expensive but they're seriously good!

I popped some of these on last winter based upon numerous comments like this.  Wish I hadn't!  Worst brake blocks I've ever had.

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BikeBud [244 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

Best things for winterising any bike with rim brakes are Swissstop green pads. They're bloody expensive but they're seriously good!

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Morat [185 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Has noone mentioned disks brakes yet?

Probably just as well....

A hearty +1 for the rubber gloves. As the guy who seems to end up fixing other peoples bikes on  group rides it's not the messing around with tools that annoys me, it's the grease and cack on my gloves/bartape. You can get big boxes of gloves for mechanics from auto-factors and the like for not much money. I have some stashed in each saddle bag.

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Harmanhead [28 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

 Yeah winterproof your bike

 

 buy more stuff... stuff you should already have!

it doesn't just rain in the winter ya know

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ktache [84 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
Rapha Nadal wrote:

guyrwood wrote:

Best things for winterising any bike with rim brakes are Swissstop green pads. They're bloody expensive but they're seriously good!

I popped some of these on last winter based upon numerous comments like this.  Wish I hadn't!  Worst brake blocks I've ever had.

Rapha, in a friendly questioningly manner, what didn't you like about them?

I like my swisstop greens.  Moved from stock shimano to ritchy reds, rebadged Kool-stop I think, wish I'd tried the salmons.  The greens give so much more oomf to my cantilevers, especially in the wet, don't seem to have excessive rim wear and the greens don't last too long , but I expect that for the extra stopping power.  I've read many good comments about them and a few people absolutely hate them and I don't know why.  Love to know?

Trying their blues on my ceramic rims, there is not  such a huge difference to the stock shimano ceramic blocks.  I was hoping they weren't going to leave the glassy deposit, on my new front rim but it is now starting, grrr.  Ceramic rims in the wet are superb, carbide now I suppose.  And they don't seem to ice up like my ali braking surfaces can.  Very scary that.

When it starts to get frosty I move onto my Continental winter contact tyres on my getting to work bike, just gives that little bit more confidence on that crusty white stuff, especially on the corners.  I've got the ones with "sharp rubber", the newer IIs use block design, don't know how well they work but I'm guessing they do.  Full Spike Claw on the good bike for full on snow and ice.  Very heavy and expensive,  and I may only use them for a couple of weeks a year and not at all in the past 3 winters,  but they stop the painful and expensive dissapearing front wheel.  It is exhilarating zooming around like a crazy man on snow. slush and ice, have to slow down a fair bit on the clear tarmac though.  I kind of want a bit of snow this year, sorry.

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Rapha Nadal [280 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I just find that they lack real stopping power and that I need to really haul on the levers to get any bite out of them.  I run Campag Chorus on my winter bike so I know it's not the brakes themselves. They feel nice though, on account of the compund, but that's where it ends for me!  Might give something else a go this year.

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urbane [64 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I have a Park Tool Chain Checker CC2 but haven't found it that reliable.

Best keep a spare cassette with your spare chain because a just little too much wear on a chain will wear the cassette and make a new chain unusable!  It can help if you own a large (car) torque wrench, square wrench compatible cassette tool and the brilliant http://www.decathlon.co.uk/chain-whip-cassette-remover-id_8309913.html so that you can easily replace a cassette much faster with the correct torque than too short handle chain tools and nasty traditional chain whips,  also a chain slack tool/wire and chain link pliers can save time with removing/fitting a new chain.  A currently prefer KMC chains over both Shimano and SRAM ones.

Lube your cables when you fit them, any time of the year, to prevent water ingress/condensation otherwise they can rust or freeze below zero, and grease derailer pivots before they get damp before freezing temperature!

Even Kelvar band tires can get slashed by glass or punctured by thorns, so Slime filled inner tubes and spare inner tubes can save a lot of time not fixing punctures and less time pumping up leaky tires.  If you use Slime, never store the bicycle near a hot heat source like a radiator because it can solidify and choke an inner tube and valve, as a friend discovered the hard way!  If you use car valves, pressure gauge valve caps are dirt cheap on ebay.

I have always hated frame pumps, and those with a fixed head on the piston will be harder on you and the air valve.  For outside I have a compact Topeak Turbo Morph G, it's a combi hand and mini track pump, with a locking & fold out hand grip, a mini fold out pressure guage, a metal piston shaft,  a decent length attached air pipe with a locking head and a fold out foot rest.   At home I regard a decent track pump with a pressure guage as compulsory.

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gunswick [65 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Tubeless road tyres (Schwalbe s-one) so run at 50psi for grip and comfort and more speed than you would think...

Blue nitrile gloves are a year round good idea. Amazon has 100 size boxes for £5. These are better than latex gloves as they do not rip so easily, I use bodyworx ones.

Disc brakes.

Rock-n-roll gold lube. Clean semi-wet lube that doesn't wash off in rain, but doesn't attract grit ( though will go a little black). To refresh / clean, just add more lube, cycle it round and let it soak in, then just wipe off with kitchen towel until black stuff stops coming off. Do this once every week (or 150 miles).

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Danger Dicko [229 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I'll be winterising my alu Ridley over the next week or so.

The forecast for this coming weekend still looks dry so I may get at least one more ride in on the Genesis.

This guide has been extremely helpful. Thanks.

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Weetobix [2 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I'm glad I'm not the only one who uses dry lube all year round. Can't stand a sticky chain!

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matthewn5 [842 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Rapha Nadal wrote:

I just find that they lack real stopping power and that I need to really haul on the levers to get any bite out of them.  I run Campag Chorus on my winter bike so I know it's not the brakes themselves. They feel nice though, on account of the compund, but that's where it ends for me!  Might give something else a go this year.

Keep your rims clean - vinegar is good - and use nail file to freshen up the pads. They'll need to bed in again, but then I find them brilliant on my Campag setup.

 

Another tip: a bit of vaseline around the outermost hub bearing seals helps keep water out, too. Just smear lightly on the outside all round.

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huntswheelers [54 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Good tips..... I do some customer winter bikes and I do also get them in for monthly deep clean wash downs and re -protect....  Pads... yer pays yer money and all that but I'm another for Kool Stop Salmon's and I also use a small modelling paint brush to apply grease to the mech screws and around the pivots of rear mechs...coating them with a protection from ingress of nasty salt "wash".... XCP do a rust protector which is useful on steel bikes and parts...and also make sure you are on Stainless Steel cables  3 .... When I wash I use an airline to dry the bikes out and also coat the frames with a waterless wash & wax for extra protection...with the stuff I use, it has carnuba wax and then the bikes are easier to clean next time... Chain Lube...I asked customers their preference...I have some fussy ones... if not I use Atlantic Oelzeuch which I buy in from Germany... One final thing.... protect your machine and you can't beat the road for me...much better than the Turbo trainer