Winterise your bike

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

by David Arthur   November 24, 2014  

Winterise your bike

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.

Our Buyer's Guide to Mudguads 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. And they're more common during the winter, because the roads are generally covered in more stones, flint and glass from the bad weather. 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 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.

Here’s our pick of the best winter tyres and what to look for, plus 6 of the best.

Saddle pack carrying 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 a 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.  This is not the time to skimp on a cheap pump, it's always worth investing in a high quality pump. 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 inflating a tyre to a decent pressure.

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.

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, for 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 home before the sun sets. 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.

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

And be sure to read the Rear light buyer's guide + light comparison engine .

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.

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.

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 reasonable 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! 

http://road.cc/sites/default/files/imagecache/galleria_1200/images/Products/KMC%20X11L%20Gold%2011-Speed%20Chain.jpg

However, 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.

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.

58 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Regarding mudguards - not fashionable no, but more stylish than having a brown streak from your arse to your upper back!

Asolare

posted by Goldfever4 [170 posts]
24th October 2013 - 9:56

5 Likes

Not using the PDWs ... yet, but I have just read a couple of very favourable reviews PLUS they look nice and should last a long time ...

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [211 posts]
24th October 2013 - 10:26

36 Likes

wyadvd wrote:
Swissstop green

There is an echo here ...
SWISSSTOP GREEN - I have them on 3 bikes in our family so far and when time comes, others will get some, too ! Great brake blocks.

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [211 posts]
24th October 2013 - 10:35

1 Like

It's not really a question of mudguards or 'man up'. Unfortunately, your bike components aren't too bothered by being told to 'man up' they will still get trashed if not looked after and bearings will fail. Mudguards are good for keeping at least some of the crud off, when used in conjunction with regular maintenance. Wise up Wink

southseabythesea's picture

posted by southseabythesea [83 posts]
24th October 2013 - 11:08

4 Likes

and then there's the "joy" of being behind someone without
guards ....... I advise keeping your mouth shut Smile

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [767 posts]
24th October 2013 - 11:24

4 Likes

Mudguards..?
Well I clean my bike after every dirty ride anyway, so mudguards would be another item to clean.
A good waterproof, the right kit and I'm off.

posted by HulaBoy [12 posts]
24th October 2013 - 11:27

38 Likes

andyp wrote:
'Quite how you can recommend Crud Race Guards or indeed any mud guards is beyond me.'

FTFY. It's only a bit of water.

... and oil, petrol, mud, salt, soot, rubber, glass, grit, farm effluent... guaranteed to make any bike look fabulous and tastes great too!

I concur with the comment about using cheaper chains and cassettes during the winter, just keep the chain well lubed and wipe down after a wet ride.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [910 posts]
24th October 2013 - 11:58

31 Likes

Just as a matter of interest, how often over the winter do you strip and clean the headset and bottom bracket?

southseabythesea's picture

posted by southseabythesea [83 posts]
24th October 2013 - 12:56

32 Likes

3 is even better, a old dog as you describe, and big heavy gate with wheels that can take a hit from the pot holes, hub gears add to the misery. As you say all the hard slogpays off in spring and that first trip out on your carbon pride and joy. Roll on April Smile

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [264 posts]
24th October 2013 - 14:54

40 Likes

southseabythesea wrote:
Just as a matter of interest, how often over the winter do you strip and clean the headset and bottom bracket?

just when they start sounding crunchy. Guards tend to save both of those parts from the worst of the winter anyway.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [910 posts]
24th October 2013 - 15:47

28 Likes

I fail to see the attraction of buying a dedicated winter bike, sure if you've recently upgraded and kept the previous 'best' bike, but to spend some serious money on a heavy steed with the sole purpose of convincing you to ride it when the temperature drops to freezing, snow is in the air and lashings of rain are all but guaranteed? Not for me, I'll stick with the 'best' bike I ride all year, but will look after it even better, in fact after every ride, including fitting mudguards. And I'll be smiling until, not when, spring eventually arrives. The one concession I do make is stick on a sturdy set of wheels.

Cruds Mk 2 are fiddly to fit initially, but work - not had any issues last winter after doing about 4000k on them, and my kit still looks good, unlike the lighter coloured jerseys I've used before they were fitted!

posted by Metjas [312 posts]
24th October 2013 - 18:46

32 Likes

Im another +1 for having a dedicated winter bike/ commuter - however you need to spend a bit of money so that you enjoy riding it.

I used to ride a Scott Speedster 50 which for some reason I never got on with once I bought a racier bike. This January I pulled the trigger on a Kinesis TK3 which I adore to ride and doesnt mean that I'm put off by the wind/ rain/ snow/ sleet.

Id rather not spend 20 minutes giving my Venge a good clean down after every ride when you are cold and wet and all you want to do is throw some GT85 on your chain and get in the shower. - Personal preference though

posted by benwatson1989 [2 posts]
25th October 2013 - 12:32

2 Likes

Applause Kool Stop dual compound are superb. Crudguards MK II are good but only have enough clearance for a 23mm tyre (on wide rims-such as 6800 wheelset). If you don't have a full winter/cross/touring frame available, some 32x36 spoked wheels with 28mm tires and raceblade longs are the way to go!

posted by Kim Chee [16 posts]
25th October 2013 - 17:30

1 Like

PhilRuss wrote:
What are "brake-pads"? They are them thingies what you put on motor vehicles. We bikies use brake-blocks, ....
P.R.

I've got brake-pads on my bike!

posted by wormscoffer [13 posts]
12th November 2013 - 18:19

23 Likes

totally agree. crud guards are a bit of a joke if your serious about doing miles in the winter.

posted by philtregear [81 posts]
12th November 2013 - 20:43

25 Likes

southseabythesea wrote:
Just as a matter of interest, how often over the winter do you strip and clean the headset and bottom bracket?

About every two years

William Black's picture

posted by William Black [196 posts]
12th November 2013 - 21:01

28 Likes

philtregear wrote:
crud guards are a bit of a joke if your serious about doing miles in the winter.

I'm doing serious miles over every winter and wouldn't want to be without crud guards.

posted by Metjas [312 posts]
12th November 2013 - 21:12

1 Like

Kim Chee wrote:
Crudguards MK II are good but only have enough clearance for a 23mm tyre (on wide rims-such as 6800 wheelset).

I run 25mm Conti GP4 season tyres on Fulcrum 5 rims with Crudguards MkII without a problem.

posted by Metjas [312 posts]
12th November 2013 - 21:16

1 Like

I have MKS full mudguards on my Tricross all year boring but simples Wink

posted by sodit [75 posts]
13th November 2013 - 10:21

1 Like

Say nothing about the sheer cold which has a detrimental effect on steel components from the contraction and expansion due to temperature.

posted by dogcc [124 posts]
13th November 2013 - 11:31

26 Likes

Swis stop brake pads and Schwieble tyres (grade 6 punture protection) plus keeping it clean and oiled works for me. I also have a full set of back up lights.

I've ridden all through winter for the last 10 years and this combination of brake pads and tyres has proved very reliable. Really good lights are a must.

Wind proof longs and over shoes coupled to decent gloves make it bearable too. No reason to sit in the garage flogging the turbo trainer, unless you like that sort of S&M thing...... but that's another story Big Grin

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [264 posts]
22nd November 2014 - 19:23

0 Likes

Here's my 2 pence as a professional bike mechanic, who also rides mountain and road bikes all year round.

Remove the fork and degrease (iso alcohol is ideal) the head tube bearing seats and fork steerer crown race area. Check the condition of the headset bearings. If shot, then buy some new bearings.

Before fitting the new bearings to a metal frame or carbon frame with metal inserts, I'd recommend a generous smear of Shimano Anti-seize or quality bearing grease on the bearing seats. For carbon frames with carbon seats, fit the bearings dry.

Even with a new headset, pop the seals carefully with a scalpel so as to not damage the seal face, and pack some quality waterproof grease like PM600 Military into the cavity, as many bearings come very light on grease (they are designed for high speed rotation, not the limited angular back and forth of headsets). This really helps prevent water and crap getting into the bearing, and if it does, prevents much corrosion. This is very important for the lower headset bearing, which constantly gets sprayed from the front tire.

You can do the same if running bottom brackets with removable bearings like BB30 or PF30. I'd recommend against pulling Shimano HT2 BB apart, but it can be done with right tooling. When refitting the bearings to metal frames or carbon frames with metal seats, use some anti-seize or grease before pressing the bearings into place.

Also, a good layer of bike polish really helps keep the paint and metalwork from being attacked by road spray and salt / grime.

Last tip, to prevent the caliper brake mount bolts from corroding, degrease the back of the fork crown and underside of brake mount on stays, and stick a small square of electrical tape over the mounting, this will prevent any corrosion

From my experience, the 2 items that take a real hammering over the winter are the rear brake and the front derailleur, from being constantly dosed with spray from rear wheel.

Have fun!

posted by hampstead_bandit [220 posts]
24th November 2014 - 12:47

1 Like

Anyone know what Endura trousers are in the main picture at the top? Hummvee? I want a pair like that - winter pants, with waterprooing, but don't look like binbags...

commutingbybicycle.com

posted by Dylanina [2 posts]
24th November 2014 - 13:51

0 Likes

My advice is to get a fixed for winter, a lot less to clean and cheaper to fix/replace parts.

The only problem is getting on that takes guards too.

posted by GREGJONES [140 posts]
24th November 2014 - 14:12

0 Likes

Yep I'm with you on this. I do about 500 miles a month around Newcastle (commuting 5 days a week + a few hours at the weekend) and just have my Kinesis TK3. I just use an Ass Saver and wash the bike down on a Sunday afternoon and re-lube that's it. Can't see what all the fuss is about.

I'm just looking forward to getting discs on my next bike as the long throw brakes aren't ideal on the descents in the wet Wink

posted by stuwhitman [3 posts]
24th November 2014 - 14:40

0 Likes

Not sure why these discussions always focus on crudcatchers for bike not compatible with full guards there pretty poor by all accounts. The other option is sks race blades which fit in seconds, don't rub and work perfectly, even affording following riders some protection.

Not as good perhaps as full guards if your building a winter specific bike but for most people who are using an older main bike perfectly adequate.

Anyway my plan will be a full rebuild of the best bike ready for spring next year and use the Allez which has indistructable 8 speed and marathons on select days through winter.

posted by IanW1968 [205 posts]
24th November 2014 - 15:28

1 Like

Odd that your list doesn't include buying a cheap set of sacrificial winter wheels too.

posted by Yennings [227 posts]
25th November 2014 - 8:29

0 Likes

IanW1968 wrote:
Not sure why these discussions always focus on crudcatchers for bike not compatible with full guards there pretty poor by all accounts. The other option is sks race blades which fit in seconds, don't rub and work perfectly, even affording following riders some protection.

Not as good perhaps as full guards if your building a winter specific bike but for most people who are using an older main bike perfectly adequate.

Anyway my plan will be a full rebuild of the best bike ready for spring next year and use the Allez which has indistructable 8 speed and marathons on select days through winter.


Well I have a set of both, used the raceblades last year, and just fitted the crud roadracers this year.

The extra coverage of the roadracers left the bike looking only a little bit dirtier than it was when I left the house this weekend, considerably cleaner than the raceblades ever did. Granted it wasn't bucketing it down but I was impressed nonetheless.

posted by LarryDavidJr [37 posts]
2nd December 2014 - 20:06

0 Likes

Hampstead bandits list is a list of pretty cheap fixes, winter wheels are a whole load of cost more.

posted by mtbtomo [131 posts]
2nd December 2014 - 20:57

0 Likes

benwatson1989 wrote:
Im another +1 for having a dedicated winter bike/ commuter... I'd rather not spend 20 minutes giving my Venge a good clean down after every ride when you are cold and wet and all you want to do is throw some GT85 on your chain and get in the shower. - Personal preference though

I have two bikes, mostly so that when one gets too mucky and gritty to ride without doing it some harm, I can switch to the other, even if the weather is too cold / wet / dark etc. to do proper maintenance. How nesh is that?

posted by arowland [101 posts]
12th December 2014 - 18:06

0 Likes