Following on from our Winter Road Biking Tips (Part 1) where we looked at how best to stay warm and pick the right winter cycle clothing, this time we look at how best to prepare your bike or set up a dedicated winter bike.
One of the most obvious additions for your winter bike is mudguards, keeping your feet, lower legs and ass dry make a massive difference to your overall comfort on a winters ride. There are various options on mudguards from the tiny 'ass saver' which is a waste of time to the fully fitted full-length front and back guards dependent on whether your frame has mounts.
The fitting of mudguards also shows respect for your club mates, there is nothing worse than to have taken time and effort fitting mudguards only to be following someone with no mudguards and soaking you through anyway(note:refrain from all out rant)!
Winter Tyres & Tyre Pressure
Everybody hates to get a puncture, no matter what time of the year! In winter the probability of getting a puncture increases due to the increase in stones, grit and glass from the bad weather. Look for a tyre with a thick reinforced breaker belt between the rubber tread and carcass, this will help prevent flints and glass from puncturing the delicate inner tube.
Tyre pressure is also important, and especially 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 in the summer months when the roads are generally dry, it's a good idea to run at between 90-110psi to give you that bit more traction.
SAFER ROADS: In winter when the weather is icy it is also worth taking note on where the council prioritise gritting/salting, this can help you plan a safer route! In North Lincolnshire we have a map detailing priority gritting and in North East Lincolnshire we have the following map image.
Spares, Tools and Essentials
The last thing you need in winter is to have a mechanical and not be able to sort it out! It's a good idea to get into the habit of carrying what you need and not to be reliant on others. Here are some of the items that is worth carrying with you in either a dedicated saddle bag or pockets, mine tends to be larger in the winter;
- Spare tube(s)
- Pump / Co2 Pump (+cartridges)
- Tyre Levers
- Multi-Tool (+chain splitter & quick link)
- Zip Ties
- Surgical Gloves (Keeps hands clean while fixing)
Even in the winter daylight it can be quite often be dull, so it is also worth having lights on your winter bike to make you stand out that little bit more.
Regular cleaning is essential to keeping your winter bike in good condition through the winter, if you don't have time to clean the bike then at least give your chain a quick wipe down! 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.
Even if you don’t wash your winter bike regularly, you’re going to need to keep the drive-train well lubed. Hear a squeaky chain? That’s not a good sound; you don’t want to be hearing it.
Check your brakes
Your brake blocks will wear out a hell of a lot quicker in winter than they do in the summer because of all the extra grime and grit, regularly check these and replace them before they get too worn!
If you want to take it one step further then you can strip your bike down before winter and add addittional grease and lubricants. I know some people also drill a small hole in the lower bottom bracket to allow drainage (not carbon) and seal other holes where water can penetrate. The cables can benefit from extra grease and sealing. There are plenty of guides on how to do this in more detail such as on the bikeradar website.
Hope this helps?