Winterise your bike


It is just over a year since we published this excellent advice from the Bike Whisperer about looking after yourself and your bike during the winter months and we thought it was worth running again as a reminder, because at this time of year the last thing you need is another excuse not to get out on your bike.  If you do a bit of preparation you can keep your bike running well whatever the weather and avoid damage.  You can also make your rides a bit more comfortable and safer too.


The next time you have a ride planned and the weather is just too bad to face going out, spend the time instead on preparing your bike for winter.  Alternatively, turn your bike into your winter/hack bike, and start saving for a lovely new summer/racing bike.




Even if you have full clearance for mudguards, you might want to think twice about fitting them.  They are my least favourite job in the workshop!  If you have lots of patience, and are prepared to leave them on all year round – then fine, knock yourself out.  Alternatively fit a pair of SKS Race Blades (they aren’t cheap at about £30 – but cheaper copies are a false economy, and the SKS come in black, silver, fancy carbon look – and white!), or a pair of the new Crud RoadRacer Mudguards (about £25).  Both are designed for road bikes that don’t have standard mudguard frame mounts.

Sticking with Crud, their classic mountain bike fender the Crudcatcher, has been updated it still fits in seconds to your mountain bike downtube, and now has a soft nose. You can get replacement parts should you crash and damage the fender. For the rear you can choose between the Raceguard and the smaller Racepak (around £10).




Fit some nice new tyres which will give you lots of grip in the wet, and protect you against punctures.  These might not be as light or sweetly rolling as your summer tyres – but you won’t really care if you can avoid a cold wet spell by the side of the road trying to mend a puncture.  A good compromise is the Continental GP 4Seasons – probably in 23/23, or for extra peace of mind, put a 25mm on the back.




Clean off the sidewalls with methylated spirits – keeps the braking surfaces nice and clean, and reduces the amount of aluminium slurry you end up throwing over yourself and your bike.  If there’s something good on the TV take each wheel and put a dab of wetlube (eg; Finish Line) or oil down every nipple.  It will keep the water out and minimize corrosion.  If you have aluminium spokes and/or nipples you should definitely do this year round – alternatively, use different wheels for winter.  The reason for this is that aluminium tends to corrode – sometimes so badly that the spokes or nipples snap when I am trying to true a wheel.  Some of those aluminium spokes are over £5 each. so if you need to re-spoke a whole wheel due to corrosion, you almost might as well buy a new wheel.




De-glaze pads with sandpaper (if you are careful, you don’t even need to remove the wheels – just tuck the sandpaper between the rim & pad) & dig out anything sharp embedded in them or they will eat your rims.  Consider switching to salmon & black Kool Stops (about £9 for a pair), they work brilliantly in the rain.  If you have wheels with carbon rims put them away until the summer, I haven’t yet found a brake pad that works well on carbon (whatever the manufacturers say!)




Use a wet weather lube, and the most important thing is to wipe the chain really well after every lube (so that the cloth starts to come away pretty much clean – eventually!).  This cleaning ritual prevents the build up of oil and crud around the jockey wheels/rest of the drive train, and stops you getting covered in oily gunk.  Also an oily chain attracts dirt, which acts as a grinding paste causing premature wear throughout the drive train.



Frame protection

If you have a steel frame, consider spraying the inside of it a rust retardant like Waxoyl (try Halfords) and make sure you get the spray, the liquid is a bit gloopy for bikes. This will prevent rust and corrosion from the inside.




Check for frayed cables & whilst you are at it, add caps to any cables where missing.  If cables are a little bit sticky get some oil or wet lube drizzled down into them, turning the bike upside down may help penetration.  This works really well for brake cables, but gear cables need to be pretty stiction free, so if lubing them doesn’t help unreliable shifts, change the cable.  At the same time, check your cable outers aren’t wearing holes through your paint on the head tube in particular.  I find the best thing to invisibly protect a frame is helicopter tape (try ebay) it’s waterproof, thin, durable and you really can’t see it.  If you buy a strip of it, you can customise the shape into a chain stay protector, top tube protector, anything you like protector. 




If you are running a clipless system, be sure to regualrly lube/grease the springs.  Be particularly assiduous if you have Speedplay, it’s really important to keep the cleat well lubed and clear of grit and mud to ensure good performance and longevity.




When it’s cold computer batteries give up the ghost more quickly than in warm weather.  Replace them regularly even before they show signs of failure, most of them take CR2032, you could buy a stock for the house.



Lights (& emergency lights)

Check your batteries, I see plenty of people with great lights, but the batteries are so tired they might as well have no lights at all.  Take some emergency lights and keep them in your seatpack (or always on the bike).  Then you will be covered if you are out later than expected, or if the batteries in your main light die. Knog lights are very stylish, come in loads of colours and are really easily attached.  One new-ish product that I have yet to try is the Fibre Flare (try Wiggle) – I’ve seen it in action though, it looks like a neon strip on the bike or rider.



Finally, keep your bike clean.  I know it’s winter and road bikes will be covered in nasty road slurry, but if you keep the chain pretty clean then a wipe over when you come in will suffice.  Same goes for your mountain bike, wash it when you get in or at the trail centre if you can, the sooner the better after riding. It’s much easier to see any damage, and easier to get dirt off when it’s fresh and most importantly, you will feel better about riding a clean bike. We prefer not to use a pressure washer to minimise damage to bearings and fork seals etc, a hose, bucket and some brushes are usually all you need.





Corinne Knoesen is a BC cycle coach and City & Guilds qualified bike mechanic and has been involved in mountain biking and touring for over 10 years. When she's not fixing bikes she enjoys track cycling, road cycling, commuting, tandeming and touring, having cycled in India, USA, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, France, Holland and Sardinia.

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