As we move through the seasons and the weather changes, you need to make sure you protect your bike from the elements. We provide you with 7 basic tips to prepare your bike for winter.
Winter is a harsh time of year and can take it's toll on our two wheeled friends. If you're going to carry on commuting and riding throughout the winter there a few steps to take that will make life easier for you and save money in the long run.
[part title="Winter Bike Accessories: Mudguard"]
Love them or hate them, mudguards are an essential part of winter riding (unless you're mountain biking or riding cyclo cross, in which case getting dirty and muddy are a pre requisite!). They'll keep your bum, lower legs and feet dry making things more comfortable for you. And, if you're riding in a group they're incredibly important to keep a certain amount of spray off the person behind you.
Which mudguards you fit will depend on the type of bike you have and whether or not you have mudguard mounts, little eyelets at specific points on the frame. Fortunately now mudguards come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit most models and tyre sizes.
Have a look at the previous feature on 'How to choose which mudguards are for you' for more information.
[part title="See and be seen"]
Winter and bike lights go hand in hand. If you're a commuter, chances are at least one of your rides is in the dark. Even if it's not dark lights never go amiss on grey and dingy day, just to ensure you're a little more visible to passing motorists.
Last weeks article on commuting throughout winter covered a lot of the pointers but the major thing you need to decide when purchasing lights is what type of riding they are needed for, do you ride mostly in daytime or on brightly lit paths? If so you need lights to 'make you seen'. If you ride regularly along dimly lit roads then you need lights to 'allow you to see'.
For more information on the law and lighting up for bicycles, check out our lowdown on lumens article.
[part title="Rolling smoothly"]
3. Winter tyres
The roads in winter are wetter, dirtier and hold a lot more debris than any other time of year which can turn your ride into puncture roulette. To help prevent punctures, try not to hug the gutter (for safety purposes too) as this is the worst place for glass, sharp stones, and all manner of nasties.
No tyres are 100% puncture proof, but some do offer more puncture resistance than others therefore making good winter tyres. They are made from heavier duty compounds and have a thicker sidewall making it harder for sharp objects to penetrate. It is also a good idea to use slightly wider tyres to offer more grip and run all tyres with a little less pressure again giving more grip and making them slightly less susceptible to punctures.
Inner tubes filled with sealant are worth thinking about too. They are a little more expensive than normal tubes but are filled with a liquid which seals any small puncture holes allowing you to continue your journey and carry out any repairs in the warmth at home.
[part title="Be prepared"]
4. Saddle bag
If there is any time to carry a saddle bag and accessories it is now. At minimum you should have a spare tube, patches, pump, tyre levers and a multi tool, so if you do puncture or have a minor mechanical you can repair it to get you on your way. When replacing an inner tube remember to check that the object that caused the puncture isn't lodged in the tyre otherwise exactly the same thing will happen again.
The saddle bag can stay on your bike permanently meaning it's one less thing to think about when you are getting ready to go out. Don't forget that if you use a tube or patch remember to replace it.
Your saddle bag doesn't have to resemble a caravan, we've collected together all the cycling essentials small enough to stow in a teeny tiny saddle bag. We know that when you transport everything under your own steam, then small is most definitely beautiful.
[part title="Keeping clean"]
Bikes don't like dirty roads. All those moving parts suffer from being exposed to salty, wet roads. If left to its own devices, salt will begin to corrode and rust your shiny steed. It's amazing how quickly a chain can turn a nice shade of orange after a winter ride.
It's a good idea to get into the habit of giving your bike a wash down and dry, there are lots of specialist bike cleaning fluids on the market but a bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge and soft brush is better than nothing. A clean rag will be fine to dry off.
[part title="Don't seize up"]
Lube is a liquid that is used to keep your drivetrain (i.e. chain, rear cassette and front chain rings or crank/chainset) running smoothly. While it's okay to wash your bike with washing up liquid rather than a specific bike cleaner, nothing should replace lube. A chain that sounds like you have field mice nesting in it is not good. This little bottle of liquid will prevent this and help to prolong the life of these components.
If you're using your bike every day to commute then washing it after every ride may not be practical, but at the very least you should clean, dry and lube your chain and cassette. Doing this will only take five minutes or so and will prolong the life of these parts.
On a daily basis use a spray based lubricant like GT85. It will help to disperse any water in the chain and keep it running smoothly, be careful not to get any onto braking surfaces. Use a rag to dry off your chain and between the cogs on your rear cassette, then spray some lube onto the chain, turn the pedals and as you do so change up and down your rear gears allowing the chain to move up and down the cassette distributing the spray. Wipe off any excess with a cloth.
On a weekly basis give your chain a more thorough clean and use some specific chain lube dotting it onto the chain in the manner described previously. Lube comes in a few different guises depending on the conditions you are riding in, as a general rule of thumb wet lube should be used in winter and dry in summer.
[part title="Keep an eye out"]
You need to be a little more vigilante in the winter with maintenance and checking parts for wear and tear. Check your chain regularly for wear, they stretch over time and if they aren't replaced will wear out rear cassettes and chainsets too. Paying £15 or so to replace a chain regularly can save you the £100 upwards that it could cost to replace the whole of your drivetrain!
Tyres should be checked for nicks, tears or pieces of glass and stone lodged in them.
Check your brakes regularly throughout winter too. Because they have to deal with a lot more dirt and grit they can wear down more quickly and if they aren't replaced it can be dangerous for you as a rider. It can also damage your wheel rims potentially costing you more money again.
If you're not comfortable in doing any of the checks above yourself, schedule your bike in for more regular services over the winter at your Local Bike Shop.
It may sound like a lot to think about but once you get into the habit of carrying out these steps, we promise it will become second nature to you and your bike will love you for it!
Author of this article Bev Blakeman has been a part of the bike industry for a few years, she was the first female store manager at Evans Cycles and until recently managed a cycling cafe.