Whether you’ve got a dedicated Winter bike or not here’s my top tips for getting your bike through the wet and wild English Winter...
Water-proof your Bearings.
Bottom brackets, jockey wheels, hubs and headsets wear out dependant on the conditions and left unprotected can last as little as a few rides. Replacing the grease in these parts with a thicker waterproof grease helps prolong the life of the steel bearings as well as standing up to all the extra cleaning you’ll be doing post ride. Most bearings can have this treatment and we include it in our “Winterproofing Service”.
Fit new Brake pads and keep them clean.
Brake pads wear more quickly during winter due to the particles of dirt suspended in the water and grime that you’ll pick up along the way. These should be thoroughly cleaned after every ride with a cleaner such as Muc-Off which cleans without leaving a residue (unlike household cleaners). Winter specific pad compounds like Swiss-stop’s BXP will work better in bad weather than a standard pad. If you don’t clean anything else make sure you clean your wheel rims and brake pads.
Clean your Cogs.
If you’ve been good and cleaned your brake pads don’t stop there, get your gears cleaned up to. This will massively lengthen the lifespan of your chain, cassette and chain rings as any dirt will quickly become a grinding paste in the wet weather. Park makes a great chain scrubber which comes with a brush and the fluid you’ll need to completely degrease the whole drive train. It’s strong stuff so I always make sure I wash it off with lots of hot water – I also get all of this gear ready at the back door before I go for a ride so I can guilt-trip myself into doing it when I get home, every two of three rides. Once the drivetrain is clean, I rag off all the water so that the chain and cassette are dry before re-lubing the chain with a Muc-Off wet lube and running through the gears.
See where you’re going.
And importantly let other road users see you...Leyzyne make a range of lights to see with and lights to be seen whilst riding at night. Some hi-viz on your clothing helps too but the crucial thing is to have a light that flashes – this is because the human eye works best when it detects movement and the flash of the light mimics this movement, even when the rider is riding directly toward or away from the driver.
Fit some better boots.
When it comes to winter tyres the thing that really makes the difference is compound. Believe it or not tread pattern has no real affect, but compound and pressure are critical to performance. Simple puncture protection often adds too much stiffness to a tyre and that’s why a really good winter tyre is worth the extra money – the best puncture protection will actually expel debris like glass, rather than leaving it in the tyre where it can damage the tube later. Continental’s 4Season and Schwalbe’s Durano are my favourites as both still feel like a summer tyre whilst keeping me upright when the weather goes bad.
Keep the grime away from you.
The number one way to protect your bike, your kit and your clubmates from dropping you is to fit mudguards. Even if you think they look naff, they’ll save hundreds in repair bills over the winter by separating you and your bike from the worst of the mud, grime and water. If you’ve got mounts fit some nice metal ones, if not SKS make several good solutions, my favourite being the Raceblade Long, which fit to most bikes and don’t rattle. Fitting them with the proper fittings and some rubber grommets stops the annoying clatter.
If all else fails buy a decent Turbo!
Jokes aside, at some point it’s going to be too cold or too wet for even the hardiest ‘cross racer. Some time spent on a decent turbo will make the difference to your Spring fitness and can actually be fun – Olly’s written a blog about how to get the most from your Turbo which you can read by clicking on this text... but don’t forget you’re never more than a quick bikewash and warm shower away from the TV, so make sure you keep riding your bike through Winter.
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points Series and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and 'Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany @eightbikeco #aeightracer