Winter riding is not only hard on riders, it is tough on their bikes too. The last thing you want on a cold winter’s day is for your bike to let you down so good maintenance is essential. With over 30 years of experience and overseeing the maintenance of the vast Great Britain Cycling Team’s bike fleet, Mark Ingham knows how to keep your wheels rolling this winter.
How often should you clean your bike during the winter and what should that washing entail?
“It depends on the conditions, if it has been dry it won’t require much of a wash but if it has been wet or the roads have been salted I would suggest you clean it after every use. If you don’t do this the muck and dirt build up surprisingly quickly on the components and wears them down, this especially applies to rims.
First rinse the bike with cold or warm water and then degrease the chain, sprockets, chainrings and the rims. Many riders forget to degrease their rims but, especially in winter, this is essential to maintain braking efficiency and prolong the life of the rim. Also degrease around the brake calipers as a lot of muck collects there too. Leave the degreaser to do its job for about 5 minutes and rinse it off with cold or warm water. Then give the rest of the bike a good wash with soapy water before rinsing again, drying and re-lubing.
During the winter I would highly recommend Muc-Off Wet Lube on your chain. If conditions are really bad, on top of the wet lube, you can also use a wax lubricant which effectively seals and protects the chain. For the rest of components, such as the front and rear mechs and the brake calipers, a lighter spray lube works well and won’t clog up.”
Do you recommend riders to fit mudguards?
“Yes, absolutely, I’m all for mudguards during the winter. They definitely help with maintaining your bike and will make you more popular with any riders following your wheel. If your frame hasn’t got dedicated mudguard eyelets, my recommendation is to use clip on guards but to make sure you protect your frame before fitting them. Many riders just fit them straight on and this can easily damage the frame through rubbing. All it takes to protect it is a wrap of duct tape or an old piece of inner tube”.
Should you ride your deep section carbon wheels during the winter?
“Definitely not. A standard aluminium rim is far more suited to winter conditions and don’t forget to degrease the rim and brake blocks regularly or the muck effectively starts acting as sandpaper on your rim. If you do switch from carbon to alloy rims for the winter, don't forget to switch your brake blocks over.”
Punctures seem more prevalent in the winter. Why is this and how can you prevent them?
“It basically boils down to road conditions, there is a lot of dirt and little flints that can easily work their way into your tyre. The best way to prevent punctures is to keep an eye on your tyres. After you have cleaned your bike, check your tyres for cuts and any embedded flints, stones or bits of glass. They might not yet have worked their way completely through and can easily be removed. You can then repair the cut by letting the tyre down slightly, putting a drop of superglue into it, allow it to dry and then re-inflate. If it has gone all the way through, you are probably looking at a replacement tyre.”
Are sealed cables worth the investment on a winter bike?
“They are very good and, if you can afford them, go for it. However they are very expensive. If they are out of your budget, thoroughly lube your cables with wet lube when you install them as this will make them last longer and perform better.”
Does it matter that I’ve got a lower spec groupset on my winter bike, will it perform differently?
“The top end groupsets will perform marginally better but the main difference is the weight, that is what you are paying the extra money for. Across their ranges now, both the shifting and braking from major groupset manufacturers is very good and you will struggle to notice the difference.”
Should I be considering a bike fitted with disc brakes for my winter riding?
“Yes, it certainly solves the problem of rim wear and the braking is probably better, especially in the wet and mud. Their use in cyclo-cross and mountain biking has shown this and this should translate to winter conditions on the road. You do still need to keep a close eye on pad wear though. The pads will last longer but it is not just a case of fit and forget.”
Any other tips for successful winter riding?
“Make sure that you have got your lights fully charged and wrap up well. The real secret to a successful and trouble free winter of cycling is regular maintenance. By keeping on top of it using a little and often approach, you will save the hassle and expense of major wear and breakdowns.”