Winter has once again descended upon us. It’s the time of year when getting ready for a ride is a complete PITA. It’s dark outside and we’re battling multiple layers of kit on in an attempt to survive the wintery apocalypse that awaits. The struggle is real… But hey, unless you’re riding indoors or in the sun, there’s no other choice! Beyond the bone-chilling cold, relentless headwinds and generally misery inducing British weather, winter cycling can provide a kind of therapeutic solace, offering a rather wonderful sense of accomplishment. Anyhow, whatever bike you own, basic winter maintenance is going to make all the difference to you and your bikes happiness. In this article we’ve compiled a list of essentials to coax your bike through the winter, ensuring it survives until the arrival of spring. (we hope!)
No need to sugarcoat it—we’re well aware that winter means enduring rain and navigating salty roads. Why not opt for a specially formulated chain lubricant tailored for such harsh weather? Wet lubes outlast their dry counterparts and resist being washed away by rain, giving your drivetrain a bit more resilience between cleanings
Apply post wash bike spray
After every wash, apply a coating of frame spray. It will disperse water from the frame and leave a lovely streak-free finish which mud doesn’t like sticking to. There are quite a few on the market with various ingredients. I’m a fan of UK-based Juice Lubes. They work well and smell even better. Give it a go! Just remember, whenever using any kind of bike lubricant, cover up your brake calipers. Ripped old t-shirts are great for this. Do not use oily rags for obvious reasons!
If you’ve yet to attach a set of mudguards for winter rides, trust me, you’re missing out! They may not look cool and they aren’t all that aero, but riding on wet roads and tracks with mudguards fitted is worlds away in terms of comfort compared to riding without. For starters, you virtually eliminate all splashback from your tyres meaning your kit and in particular, your rear end stays clean, dry and warm. Mudguards also shield your bike from abrasive road elements like water, grit, and mud that can seep into crucial moving parts and cable housings. Take care during installation to avoid any rubbing on your frame. If attaching mudguards directly to your frame, apply a layer of frame protection to the mounting points, typically the forks and rear chainstay, as grit can find its way under the mounting rubber and quickly wear down your paint job!
Winter roads mean more debris and rain, translating to a higher likelihood of punctures. Perhaps it’s time to consider swapping out your lightweight summer slicks for wider, more puncture-resistant tires. Opt for a size up from your usual tires—28mm is a solid choice if your frame allows. If you’re riding a relatively modern bike, check to see if your rims are tubeless compatible. If so, it’s well worth making the switch to a tubeless setup. If you’re a little apprehensive, you can still take a spare inner tube with you as well as the usual tubeless puncture plugs.
Check your bearings
You know how it is in the UK—rainy days are practically a given. The roads here boast a charming blend of mud, salt, and rain that can wreak havoc on your bike if you let it linger. But before things take a turn for the worse, it’s crucial to inspect your bearings. Ensure they’re well-greased and moving smoothly (no gritty sensations, please). Focus on key areas like the headset bearings and bottom bracket. Luckily, you won’t need to dismantle anything; the tell-tale signs of a worn-out bearing are usually audible grinding or creaking noises. If you detect these, it’s time for a replacement or a fresh coat of grease. The specifics may vary depending on your bike model, so consider seeking professional help or consulting YouTube for the best DIY practices if you’ve got the tools.
Brighten up your day
Consider investing in a reliable set of USB-rechargeable, water-resistant lights, and you’ll be set for years to come. Opt for a red light for the rear and a white one for the front. Powerful lights with high brightness levels are available to keep you riding confidently through the darkness.
Wash wash wash
While it may be a bit of a faff, at the very least you need to be maintaining your drivetrain after every wet ride. If you’re short on time, a thorough cleaning with a quality degreaser and ensuring all road grit is washed away can make a significant difference. Winter rides might not be the most enjoyable, but a well-maintained drivetrain can certainly enhance the experience. Washing your bike can be done in minutes:
- Blast off the worst crud with a hose
- Degrease chain-old kitchen brushes work well here
- wash using a microfibre or wool wash mitt with hot water bike solution
- Rinse with hose
- Bike spray
Whether its spring, summer, autumn or winter, you should always be riding with the bare essentials. I’ve been riding long enough to have ridden with and without the essentials and you know what, it never pays off to be caught short. Believe it or not, I was once riding home with a certain Welsh Grand tour winner who I shall not name, who punctured 2km from home. When he said he didn’t have any spare inner tubes or pump, I almost fell off my bike in disbelief. He simply ‘rimmed it’ the last 2km home, 1km of which was up a 12% gradient. Check out our article on saddlebag essentials here!
- 2x inner tubes
- Micro multi tool
- Co2 pump and 2x canisters
- 2x plastic tyre levers
- Nitrite gloves- stops the white bar tape getting dirty and keeps hands clean
- ICE details on laminated paper
- £20.00 note
MTB & Gravel essentials:
- Spare tube
- Multi tool
- Dyna plug
- Co2 pump & 2x large canisters
- Metal tyre levers
- Chain link
- ICE details on laminated paper
- £20.00 note
- Mars bar/energy bar
Avoid the roads
You know what, sometimes it’s simply not worth going out on the roads if it’s really bad out there. Have you considered indoor training? I’ll be honest, I was sceptical at first but in all honesty it’s brilliant. Granted, you don’t get the same sense of achievement that you may do on a 4-hour winter epic and you’re still going to get wet (even the best fans won’t stop the sweat!) but you’ll stay warm, your bike won’t need to be washed and most importantly, you’re far safer indoors. Give it a go!
We want you to get out there and enjoy your riding. Pedal Cover offer insurance which covers crash and accidental damage as standard, especially useful if you’re riding in poor conditions. Check out the Pedal Cover website for bicycle specific insurance. If you need some help, we have a lovely support team who are always willing to help you, just call 0800 121 4424.