Get your bike ready for winter riding
Riding through the winter is, unfortunately, as much a part of cycling as those lovely long sun-drenched July rides. Being ready to cope with the wet and cold months can go a long way to making your riding experience better and will also keep the amount of maintenance your bike needs to a minimum.
Whether you are commuting or just getting in the winter miles in preparation to take on your summer goals, you are going to need to set up your bike to deal with harsher road conditions. Many, more economically adept riders will pack away their prized summer bike for the chillier months and bring out a specific winter bike, however, our tips for winterising your bike will help you whether you have one bike all year round or the luxury of many.
1. Get a grip and keep punctures to a minimum
Whether it is wind, rain, snow hail or untimely landslides, the conditions through winter lead to more debris being on the road, not to mention ice, deceased animals and grit salt. these conditions increase your chance of puncturing dramatically so stronger tyres are in order.
Specialized's All Condition Armadillo Elite Tyres provide a great barrier against punctures thanks to their hardened secondary layer that helps to prevent any intrusions from foreign objects.
If you are commuting through the winter you are also going to want tyres that do not wear down quickly as poor road conditions will speedily abrade regular tyres’ grip. Thankfully this is not the case with the All Condition Armadillo tyres as their centre compound is reinforced for longevity.
A further essential part of winter tyre care is reducing their pressure. taking the PSI count down in your tyres will slightly widden the contact patch that the tyre makes with the ground, thus affording you slightly more grip in potentially slippy conditions. Depending on your weight dropping your tyre pressure by 10% to 20% will dramatically help your traction on wet and dirty roads.
If you ride enough through the winter though, punctures are an unfortunate inevitability. Make sure you are always carrying a couple of inner tubes out on your ride as well as a CO2 inflator or mini pump in a trusty saddle bag. Other items like multi tools are also very important as they will allow you to make road-side repairs and adjustments without having to call for help or visit your local bike shop.
2. Avoid the dampening effects of road spray
Riding through most of the year in the UK can be a wet affair but in the winter months it can be particularly bad. There is usually enough water falling from the sky to keep you occupied so any extra coming up at you from the ground, in the form of wheel spray, is definitely not welcome.
Investing in a good set of mudguards is an absolute must as they will not only reduce the threat of getting soaked, they also help to keep your bike clean and prevent small particles of dirt and grime from being propelled at high velocity into the mechanical parts of you bicycle.
For lasting protection, look to something like the SKS Raceblade Long 2 mudguards. Fitted with an XXL spoiler, these mudguards provide even more protection and are especially useful if you are riding in a group as they help to prevent your road spray from impinging on whoever is behind you.
3. When the Road is dirty keep your bike pristine
Filthy roads mean a filthy bike so to avoid unwanted wear and damage you are going to have to clean your bike more often than in the summer. Thankfully there are an enormous range of cleaning products that help to make this as fast and effective a process as possible. A good set of brushes is essential as is some wet and dry lube to keep everything running smoothly.
The area most prone to grit-induced malfunction and wear is your drivetrain so make sure you concentrate on keeping this running clean. If an unknowing passerby would think you have a black cassette and chain then a good clean is on the cards. A quick degrease and lube once a week will go a long way to prevent your parts from wearing rapidly and a hasty spray-off and dry with a hose will help preserve your ride’s box-fresh feeling and appearance.
Alas, cleaning and lubing your bike will only carry you so far. Taking your bike to your local workshop for a full service is a great idea at the beginning and end of the winter period if you have done a lot of riding. Here a mechanic will be able to replace and adjust any worn or stretched gear and brake cable will also re-greasing areas like your bottom bracket and headset.
4. Be seen to be safe
Riding through the winter regrettably means riding in the dark, especially if you are commuting where you'll most likely do all of your riding in the dark till late March.
Lights are a must-have and a legal requirement if you are riding on the road in the UK in the dark. If your are in the city then lights that are bright enough to make you visible are all you need. However, if you are heading out into the suburbs or countryside you are going to want something that is going to illuminate the road in front of you too.
Exposure's Switch Front and Flare Rear light combo straddles these two needs perfectly, with a bright 350 lumen output on the front and 110 on the rear, this lightset will keep you visible while also helping you to see the road ahead.
Hi-vis clothing is also essential, especially on parts of your body that are prone to a lot of movement while you ride, as this will help to catch drivers' attention. Having hi-vis overshoes, gloves and helmet stickers is are all great ways to make others on the road take notice of you.
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