Setting up your bike for winter

Winter cycling needs no introduction. It’s chilly and demotivating at times. But most of all, it’s a whole lot of fun, just like cycling the rest of the year. To keep riding through our English winter a few simple tweaks to your bike will make things easier for you and for your bike.

Winter Mudguards

Mudguards for your winter bike setup

Mudguards not only prevent murky water from getting you soaked, they also prevent water from spraying into the face of whoever is unlucky enough to be riding behind you.

For mudguards you generally have two options. The first is the classic mountain bike mudguards you often see. They are cheap, easy to fit on almost any bike and they do the job.

There’s also mudguards that look similar to the ones in the picture above. They provide superior waterproofing but won’t fit all bicycle types. We’ve recommended the SKS Bluemels Mudguards previously and we stand by our recommendation.

If you don’t have the proper attachments on your frame then the intelligently designed Crud RoadRacer is a great alternative.

You can easily ride out the winter without mudguards but your bike won’t thank you for it. All that murky water that is flicked up from the road often contains mud and petrol residue. Not an ideal combination for your chain, derailleur and brakes.

Winter Tyres

Schwalbe durano winter cycling tyres

If you are riding with thin tyres for speed (23mm or less) then you may wish to consider something a little wider (25mm and above). This will provide a smoother ride and better grip. Also, look for tyres with additional puncture protection. This will help you avoid standing by the side of the road repairing a puncture in the rain.

I’ve always relied on the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres which provide good grip during winter and very strong puncture protection. However, the newer Schwalbe Durano tyre is also very impressive. It provides more speed as well as many miles of good service. However, it lacks quite the same level of puncture resistance.

(See also: Tips for riding safely in the winter)

If we face a particularly bad winter this year then studded tyres may be a consideration. These perform far better in patches of ice and will keep you upright in bad conditions.

Bike lights

Here are four of the best bike lights that are essential for the winter bike setup.

Lubrication

During winter you need to step-up your cleaning and lubricating routine as it is washed away by rain and there’s more danger of rust. Remember to not go overboard as dirt will stick to the lube you apply and cause damage to your bike.

(See also: Which part of your bike should you lubricate)

Maintenance

This is not the time of the year to skimp on bicycle maintenance. Loose brakes could lead to a disaster. Grab our Bike Doctor app or head to the nearest bike shop and make sure your bike is ready to go.

See also:

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16 Responses to Setting up your bike for winter

  1. Andrew 16/11/2011 at 9:11 am #

    A few tips based on my own experience:

    * Wash your bike as soon as possible after riding in the rain. The dirt comes off much more easily.

    * Check your chain for accumulated dirt and grit after riding in the rain and give it a good clean with one of those chain tool cleaners (I can’t recommend the expensive Park Tools model I have – it breaks far too easily). You don’t always need to use expensive degreaser – I find even 50% diluted “Muck Off” solution is good enough provided I clean the chain once a week during rainy weather.

    * Get in the habit of checking your chain for wear every time you clean it – chains wear much faster when riding in wet/gritty conditions. I use a double sided tool which gives checks for 0.5% wear and 0.75% wear. I order a new chain when 0.5% is reached and actually replace it when 0.75% wear is reached. By doing this you will greatly reduce wear on your bike’s groupset. Chains are much cheaper and easy to replace.

    * After degreasing your chain and re-lubing, make sure you use a clean dry cloth to wipe all excess lube off the chain. This will help to prevent muck from sticking to your chain.

    * For road bikes, the removable SKS mudguards are good, but they do take some time to get correctly adjusted. These are easy enough to remove/refit that you can just put them on when rain looks likely.

    • Andreas 16/11/2011 at 9:45 am #

      All good tips Andrew. When lubing the chain the correct routine is:
      1) Clean the chain (chain cleaner as you suggested is best and more recommended than soaking it in strong degreaser as this can speed up wear)
      2) Let the chain dry
      3) Apply lube – the ideal place for the lube to sink in is between the rollers so aim for that and don’t go overboard.
      4) Let the lube sink in
      5) Wipe away any excess with a clean cloth

  2. Matt 16/11/2011 at 11:11 am #

    After having 8 punctures in a 9 week period I switched to Armadillo tires. Theses are fairly cheap and 9 months later I’ve not had a single problem with them.

    Also, due to the quality of light I would advise switching your lights on to a flashing combination earlier in the day. Batteries are cheap and it’s worth using a few more up to make sure you are seen.

    • Al_Mazzles 16/11/2011 at 1:07 pm #

      I can second that. Armadillo’s are cheapish, saw me through last winter, and I’m still riding them without a single punc.

      I’m sure I’ve just jinxed myself doing this, need to find some wood to touch!

      • Andreas 16/11/2011 at 1:52 pm #

        8 punctures in 9 weeks! That’s a horrible streak. Pleased to hear the Armadillos solved it.

  3. Seb 16/11/2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Set yourself up too. Merino socks are lovely, shoe covers essential, and good baselayers to make sure you’re toasty but don’t stay drenched in sweat.

  4. Andrew Ebling 16/11/2011 at 12:05 pm #

    I stopped to help someone who had a puncture the other day and he had Armadillo tyres on his bike, so they don’t completely eliminate the problem.

  5. Steff 16/11/2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Try the Durano Pluses (Duranos with a thinner version of the Marathon’s foam rubber protection layer). My commute takes me through the slick of glass at the top of Brick Lane in all weathers, and they’ve been great thus far. A lot less terrifying in the wet than Gatorskins, too.

  6. Richard 16/11/2011 at 3:12 pm #

    For regular chain cleaning I use an old fluffy towel soaked in WD40 to clean it and the rest of the bike. It shifts the oil and muck plus leaves a nice rust inhibiting finish. I hate chain cleaners and as a result use them far too infrequently but this gets rid of 80% of the muck in a couple of minutes – no excuses!

  7. Cyclelogical 16/11/2011 at 5:31 pm #

    These are great for earlier dark evenings for side reflection.
    http://www.cyclelogicalgear.com/products/reflective-chopspokes.html

    • Amoeba 17/11/2011 at 9:44 am #

      Got something similar from Halfrauds.

      • Amoeba 17/11/2011 at 9:13 pm #

        They are Wowow spoke reflectors

  8. Amoeba 17/11/2011 at 9:43 am #

    I had a front puncture with my Schwalbe Marathons. It was a ~ 7mm long piece of stainless steel wire, much thinner than a dressmakers’ pin. Somehow it worked its way through the Kevlar. But otherwise the Marathons are particularly puncture resistant. Despite that, I carry tools, a pump, spare tube and puncture repair kit.

  9. brucie445 17/11/2011 at 8:17 pm #

    I agree specialized nimbus armadillo’s are made of sturdy stuff but they deliver a large of amount of spray when its wet (26 x 1.95) which I have fitted onto a mountain bike.

    For my road bike I have been using the bontrager R1s for a year with two punctures, but the did come with the bike. I plan on replacing them with vitorio rubino ones though.

  10. debencyclist 19/11/2011 at 5:49 pm #

    I got the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres earlier this year after Andreas mentioned them before and they’re great. Reckon I’ve done 400 miles on them now and not a single puncture.

  11. iamnotacyclist 20/11/2011 at 11:14 am #

    Schwalbe Marathon Plus are indeed fantastic. One puncture in a year – caused by half an inch of glass shard. I am lucky enough to have sealed drivetrain, hub gears and rollerbrakes, so I don’t have to worry about cleaning the bike or in fact any maintenance (apart from compensating for cable and chain stretch) – so riding in the winter is exactly the same for me as riding in any other season.

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