Beat the Winter Blues: 5 Simple Ways to Look After your Bike in Cold Weather (Spec blog)
Cycling in winter doesn't have to be a drag. Look after your bike and you'll have fun riding year-round.
We've all been there. Laying your winter cycle gear out the night before, getting the pannier ready and telling yourself you'll definitely bike to work in the morning. When morning comes, you struggle to get out of a warm duvet. It doesn't take long to convince yourself that the tube is only a 10 minute walk away and that cycling to work was an insane idea.
Ahh the morning struggles of winter cycle commuting! The hardest part is always getting the clothes on, but once you're on the bike we promise, honestly, that it's worth it. There's something a bit smug about arriving at the office looking completely fresh-faced and feeling ready for the day while your colleagues stumble out of their cars, still freezing.
While you can learn to love a winter cycle ride, your bike, unfortunately, doesn't. It needs just a little extra TLC during the cold months to keep it protected from the elements. But by putting in just a little additional effort, you'll keep the bike running through winter and beyond, making sure that your trusty steed stays more "trusty" than "rusty". Here's what you can do to make sure that winter cycling remains fun, equipping you to ride through until spring.
Get Mud Guards
Prevention is better than the cure. And if the cure is you spending an hour cleaning mud off your down post, then prevention is essential. Mud guards don't just protect you from getting sprayed by all the water, grit and debris found on the roads during winter, but they protect your bike too. Even the raciest of racing bikes these days tend to have eyelets for attaching guards - measure the clearance to ensure that you get the accurate sizing. If you're unsure, bring your bike into the store - when buying mud guards with us, we'll fit them for free.
Store your bike under cover
This is a no brainer for most Londoners. Let's face it, if you're keeping your bike outside in London then don't worry about the rust - most likely it won't be there in the morning anyway. But for those of you who double and triple lock it outside in your backyard, it should absolutely be covered up to avoid water and frost damaging the parts. If you can't store it under cover (a bike hook could help - this will hang your bike long-ways which can be an indoor space-saving solution), then purchasing a bike cover or at the very least two robust plastic bags on the saddle and over the derailleurs/cassette will help.
Give it a regular clean
Clean your bike at least once a week during winter, if you're riding most days, or if you do a long cycle ride then give it a rub down on your return. Grit and mud can get into even the most unexpected places - believe us, when your mudguards are rusted onto the frame, you'll wish you'd given them a rinse more regularly. There are loads of good quality bike-cleaning products on the market. Alternatively, a bucket of warm soapy water and a hard-bristled bush or toothbrush can also work for the main frame, but you'll need to degrease the chain and cassette with a proper degreaser. This is one area that shouldn't be scrimped on. Whatever you do, don't just pressure wash the bike with a hose - grit will get up into moving parts and cause more issues this way.
However you clean it, start from the top down, thoroughly degrease the drivetrain and lube the chain back up when it's clean and dry.
If your bike is looking really ropy and you want a professional service and clean, take a look at our prices here [link] or bring it into the shop for a chat.
Check your chain, tyres and brakes
OK. These are a little more technical, but at any cycle level we do recommend that you know how to check that your brakes and chains are functioning properly, and how to change a tyre. Rain washes debris into the road during winter, so you're much more likely to get a puncture at this time of year - and changing a tyre at the side of the road in the dark is no fun! Particularly if you then give up, park your bike at the nearest tube station and worry all day that it won't be there when you get back...Tubeless tyres or reinforced tyres can be a really good winter option to help prevent punctures. They're a tad heavier than normal tyres but to be honest, can be ridden all year unless you're competing and are looking for speed.
As for the brakes - with V-Brakes, make sure you remove any dirt from the wheel that could prevent the brake from gripping. Check the brake pads regularly - they take a real beating during winter but can be changed pretty easily and cheaply.
The chain is a little more complicated, but bear with us. During winter, it will pick up all sorts of grease and debris from the road, which gets shifted into all of the moving parts of the bike and can really cause a lot of wear and tear if not looked after. Make sure it's sparkling clean - a chain cleaner can be a low-cost investment and easier than going at it with a brush! Look out for warped links too. If you have any problems at all with shifting gears then it could be that your chain is stretched and needs replacing. There are tools out there that can help you check this yourself, but if in doubt then just come in and we can look at it for you.
Light up like a Christmas Tree
Not exactly a maintenance issue but absolutely essential nonetheless. Do not even THINK about getting on your bike in winter unless you have lights. Even if you don't think you'll be back in the dark it's worth having an emergency set with you. If you're riding in the city then one set in the front and the back may be sufficient. However, you may want to consider two sets so that you can keep one on a steady beam and the other on a flashing beam. If we know one thing about weather it's that rain makes both pedestrians and drivers behave like madmen, so be visible at all times!
If you want to get your bike checked out for your winter cycling endeavours, we'd be happy to help. Just come into the shop for a chat, email us on xxxxx or call us on xxxxx.