Your bike takes a hammering in winter, so reliability, ruggedness and weatherproofing are paramount. So here are some top tips to help you keep on trucking through til spring.
Get your bike serviced before winter
Mechanical breakdowns are a pain at any time of the year, but getting a puncture or suffering a mechanical are a major headache at winter.– wet, dirty roads, grit and salt play havoc with your bike’s components so it’s always wise to make sure you bike is fully serviced and regularly maintained throughout the winter period. Brake and gear cables are more prone to corrosion and the ingress of dirt, so a complete cable service before the weather turns really nasty is a good idea. Chains and gears take a lot of abuse too, down in the firing line of cold, gritty, salty water. Keeping your chain clean and lubed with a quality bike specific product is your best defence. There are specific lubes for extreme weather conditions, which give much better protection from the elements. Look for ‘wet’ rather than ‘dry’ lubes.· Fit mudguards if you haven’t already
Mudguards will help to keep you and your bike clean, dry and in good working order
As well as preventing that horrible stripe of dirty, icy water up your bike, mudguards will help to keep your bike clean and dry, confining the road spray to the wheels only and keeping much of the muck off your transmission and out of your bike’s headset. When it comes to winter mudguards, the longer the better. SKS produce an ultra long version of their classic 'guards, called the 'longboard' which extends much further around the front and rear wheels, keeping your feet dry and preventing dirty road spray from being flicked into your teeth, and those of the rider behind you.
Make sure your lights are up to the job
Winter time can often mean riding to and from work in the dark, so good quality, reliable lights are a must. Like everything else though, the cold and rain can play havoc with them, so it’s a good idea to give the insides of your lights a squirt of WD-40 or other water dispersant spray to keep moisture and corrosion at bay. It’s also a good idea to carry spare batteries and have some sort of backup lighting, should your main lights fail.
Upgrade to tough winter tyres
Winter is harsh on tyres too. Heavy rain washes lots of debris onto the roads, which makes for more punctures and challenging grip conditions. The best way to combat this is by ensuring that you’ve got some robust rubber fitted. Look out for tyres with plenty of tread, puncture protection strips, robust construction and reflective sidewalls. You might lose a little straight-line speed but you’ll more than make up for it in reliability. Let’s face it – nothing is worse than trying to fix a puncture in the rain with freezing hands when you’re in a rush to get to work.
A top tip is to protect your bikes headset and seatpost with a neoprene cover or a homemade inner-tube alternative. Companies like Lizard Skins make neoprene shields for headsets, chainstays and suspension components. Keeping dirt out of your headset is a great idea if you want to keep the bearings in good condition. You can make your own out of a section of innertube, though it won’t look quite as neat. Marine quality ‘boat grease’ is also great for headsets. Because it’s designed to work in extreme maritime environments, it’s great from winterising your headset bearings and protecting them from road spray.
The same goes for seatposts – aluminium seatposts in steel frames are a particular problem. Removing, cleaning and applying an anti seize compound such as 3 in 1 Copper Grease will ensure that your post won’t electrolytically ‘weld’ itself inside your frame. An innertube ‘boot’ made from a section of innertube and zip-tied over the seatpost/frame junction will also help prevent water ingress. Another top tip is to give your whole bike (apart from contact points, tyres and braking surfaces of course!) a spray of GT-85 or similar. This is a water dispersant and repellent, containing Teflon, which means that your whole bike will have a protective film against the winter assault.