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Winter weather can be hard on your bike, but take care of your bike, and your bike will take care of you. However, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. To help you through the winter we consulted our mechanic extraordinaire, John, who shares his now not-so-closely guarded tricks of the trade that’ll keep your bike running year-round!
Take Care Of Your Tyres
Riding in the winter exposes your tyres to the elements – whether it’s a piece of glass, sharp flint, a pinch or just general wear and tear, your chances of a flat are much higher! As the only part of the bike that is actually in contact with the road, it's important to take care of them. Invest in some good quality, puncture-resistant tyres and check them periodically, looking for any cuts, tears or sharp objects – the last thing you want is to have to deal with it when you’re miles away from home in the cold and wet.
Also, if you don’t have one at home, consider a decent track pump. Mini pumps are fantastic when you’re on the move, but can be more difficult to use, which means you’re much less likely to use it at home! Regular tire inflation will help prevent pinch flats, punctures, and general wear and tear. However, even with the best prep, flats still happen from time to time, so don't forget to always carry a puncture kit with you!
Bonus Tip: Keep some disposable gloves in your puncture kit to avoid getting grime all over your hands and ruining your kit!
Coming To A Stop
Without pointing out the obvious, braking is quite important when it comes to riding bikes! However, the combination of wet weather and dirty roads will result in a buildup of grime and grit which can compromise your stopping power, so it's important to keep them in good working order.
Rim brake pads wear down over time, which is only accelerated in the winter, so make sure to check them periodically and replace them when they're worn. To make them last longer take the time to clean your rims, even if it’s just with a rag. This will remove the worst of the dirt and grime that can cause the pads to wear down faster. Disc brakes aren’t such a concern in the winter – check your pads, keep your rotors clean with specific disc brake cleaner and a fresh rag, and avoid getting any oil on your rotors when cleaning!
Keeping The Engine Running
The drivetrain is the heart of your bike, the part that’s responsible for making it move, so it's important to keep it at least somewhat clean! While some people are religious about cleaning their drivetrain, for general use, it's okay to not be so fussy. A bit of a clean and re-lube every now and then will do the trick – little and often is the key here, as you want to avoid any build up of oil and grime, but it’s okay if you forget to do it sometimes!
When it comes to a thorough clean, a quick link can make a huge difference as it will be a lot easier to remove the chain for cleaning. Once removed, soak the chain in your cleaner of choice (for a quick clean with the chain on the bike, use a clean rag and degreasing spray). Make sure to wash off the degreaser and relube (remember to use wet lube in the winter).
Bonus Tip: Chain cleaner tools can be good, but aren’t necessary – a rag, degreaser and some elbow grease goes a long way!
Check Your Cables
Brake and gear cables can get overlooked in the winter, and can leave your bike feeling sluggish as often bikes will come fitted with cheap cables that might corrode or get rough. To avoid this, use good quality stainless steel cables and lube them regularly. We always use stainless steel cables in our workshop, as well as on our personal bikes!
Bonus Tip: If your gears are feeling clunky, it might not be the cables – check for a bent hanger. While we’d recommend getting a professional to fix your hanger, diagnosing it yourself can save hours spent tweaking and trying to find a fix – the more gears you have, the more of an issue a bent hanger will present.
Mudguards Are Your Friend
If your bike can take mudguards, put them on! Winter is hard on bikes, and one of the best ways to protect them is to use mudguards. These will stop road spray in its tracks, steering the grime away from your precious drivetrain components. We see many seized front mechs in our workshop, most of which could’ve been prevented simply by installing mudguards – prevention is better than cure!
Aside from your bike, mudguards will also keep you dry when riding on wet roads, so you don’t have to deal with a soggy bottom every time you hit the road.
We’ve all been there, desperately trying to remove a seatpost but nothing will make it budge. Seizing is more often than not caused by a lack of grease. This is a simple fix – before it’s to late, remove the seatpost and grease it every now and then. Galvanic corrosion can happen when steel and aluminum parts are in contact, so if you’ve got an aluminium seatpost in a steel frame, make sure to use grease to prevent this!
Having the right tools for the job is important. While cheap Allen keys might seem like a good idea, they could result in some serious headaches down the line – if they don't fit well, they are much more likely to round off bolts. There are many good options out there, we like to use ParkTool in our workshop, but other brands are available!
A torque wrench is a nice-to-have tool, great if you’re dealing with expensive carbon parts or like tinkering with your setup. Where torque wrenches are most important is the handlebars, stem, and crank bolts. If you’re just a general rider or commuter, it's not a necessity.
Bonus Tip: Consider investing in a stand. While this is somewhat of a luxury, having a way to hang your bike while working on it will make maintenance a lot easier.
Light The Way
Bike lights are essential for day-to-day riding anyway, as they allow you to see and be seen while riding. From a bike preservation perspective, they light up any oncoming hazards like potholes or debris so you don’t damage you tyres, crunch your rims and most importantly don’t hurt yourself! Check your lights regularly and charge/replace the batteries as needed.
Bonus Tip: If the road is rough, don't be a dead weight – try lifting your weight slightly or standing on the pedals to prevent any unnecessary force going through the bike.
Regular bike maintenance isn’t as difficult or time-consuming as you might think, and a little bit of effort goes a long way in preventing problems down the road. By taking care of your tyres, brakes, drivetrain, cables, and using the right tools, you can make sure your bike is always ready to go.