Excuse the attention-grabbing headline, but it’s entirely justified. There are many ways in which you can (and should!) prepare your bike for winter. More than six out of the ten top tips here and we reckon you’ll be on the right path for winter shredding and springtime fitness…
1. Get the grease out
While this might not make an immediate improvement to your bike, you’re going to thank us in the spring time when you need to get that axle out, or move that seatpost. A half hour now, going over your clean, dry bike with a rag and a pot of grease will pay dividends – and save money in the long term.
Remove and grease your dropper post, remove your forks and check those headset bearings. Add a smear of grease to crown race, thru-axles, any ‘sticky’ bolts. This will also give you a chance to check your bike over for cracks or other issues that it might have gained over the summer.
2. Check your rubber
That rear semi-slick that did you so well all summer is probably going to be less happy schlepping through Badger Woods on a wet evening. Fitting knobblier tyres, set as soft as you can get away with will do more for your winter riding confidence than anything elsee.
3. Guard yourself
I don’t care that your pals think they look silly. Fitting front mudguards, preferably the longer ones like the Mudhugger FRX+ or the Crud Catcher XL will save you getting a face (and body) full of mud whenever you ride. Why not add a rear guard too? It’s not like anyone is judging you on your smooth looks in your full waterproofs…
4. Replace things before they wear out
While you’ve got your bike clean and dry, now is the time to swap that shifter cable and brake pads. Yes, they’ll probably need doing again in the spring, but if your gears and brakes are working smoothly through the winter, that’s less to worry about and it’s better than having to replace a gritty cable mid-January…
5. Wash up
Winter riding is mostly about preparation. If you know that you can get your bike clean and lubed quickly and efficiently when you get home, you’re more likely to keep your bike clean and working for the next time. Now is the time to get some dedicated bike brushes, some cleaner and and a hose/bucket.
Wash your bike the second you get back, while you’re still in your gear and warm. A bit of water splashing won’t hurt you and you can clean jackets/shorts and shoes knowing you can whip them straight off when you’re inside waiting for the kettle to boil. Oh, and make sure you ALWAYS have crumpets in the cupboard. There’s nothing better than crumpets and tea after a winter ride.
6. Lube refresh
Get yourself down to the bike shop and stock up on some decent winter lube. Get a tub of grease while you’re there too, and probably some bike cleaner. Then get to the builders’ merchants and get the biggest can of WD40 you can. There’s nothing worse than having a clean bike that’s going to go rusty overnight…
UK availability only.
7. Lights, lights, lights
Up here in Yorkshire it starts going dark about 3pm on a cloudy day. At the bare minimum, make sure you have a rear LED light and a get-you-home front light in your bag (charged!) at all times.
But really, winter riding is synonymous with mid-week night rides. It’s a chance to catch up with your pals, ride some more local trails and finish in a pub. It’s not training, it’s just managing the winter decline. And it’s great fun. Get some lights and get out there.
8. Prepare beforehand, tools too
Q: What’s worse than having a mechanical or a puncture on a cold, wet night?
A: Not having the ability to fix it.
This is not the time to find out that your spare tube has a hole in it, or that your pump seals have dried, or that your tubeless plugs have solidified. A winter mechanical can quickly lead to everyone getting cold(er) and so the quicker you can repair it, the better. Keep a tool, tube and repair gubbins close at hand so that you can be the hero that fixes a problem in seconds flat.
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9. Buddy up
If it’s raining and dark, you’re statistically 1685% less likely to go out in it than if it was a dry warm summers’ evening. Make a pact with a friend or a group of friends that you’ll always go out on a Monday night, or a Sunday morning or whatever, whatever the weather. If you know that your pals are waiting/counting on you, you’re more likely to make the effort to get out.
And once you’re out, you’ll love it. Guaranteed! Sliding around in the woods like kids, sharing a bit miserable weather and hiding from the hail makes for great memories. You’re always going to be glad you got out. (OK, sometimes you aren’t, but that makes for a good story too). Putting in the time now to prepare your bike for winter will give you a much greater chance of fun too.
10. Or not.
Or don’t go riding. It’s up to you. You might decide to stay in on the turbo and play cycling MarioKart with other virtual cyclists on Zwift, or beat yourself to a pulp with Sufferfest. Or you might decide that a December taper is what you need to recharge the batteries, see your non-cycling friends and drink some of that dark beer you’ve been hoarding. After all, it’ll soon be spring, right? Right?
And before you know it, spring will be here. You’ll be able to tell the riders that have been riding through the winter weather. Wet roots won’t phase them, a bit of bad weather won’t trouble them, and they will seem to be fitter and smoother than the people who spent all winter staring at a wall on the turbo…