Here are a few tips to look for when buying a winter bike. You'll need provision for mudguards, not to mention fatter tyres. Strong wheels and lower gears are a good idea too. And there's more.

Winter conditions can really take their toll on road bikes. The cold and wet weather plays havoc with road surfaces meaning bikes can take a real battering from even the shortest of rides.

The amount of debris, spray and especially grit brought up into the frame and parts means components can wear out in a surprisingly short space of time.

Add to this the effect the cold and wet weather can have on the rider and you can see why your stripped down, lightweight summer race bike may not be the best option to ride in winter.

A winter bike therefore needs to be a dependable, comfortable bike able to take a fair amount of abuse and add ons to make things more comfortable for you and harder wearing for it.

Mudguard clearance

Mudguards not only keep spray from the rider, they protect parts such as brake calipers and also keep your feet warmer as they stay drier for longer.

Previously winter bikes had to have large amounts of clearance between wheels, stays and forks for mudguards to attach to but in the last few years the choice of clip on guards available has increased dramatically.

Clip on versions tend to be thinner to fit the closer clearances but they still give a great amount of protection and are suitable for most race bikes as long as the tyres aren’t too thick.

A bike with slightly more clearance gives a lot more choice in mudguards and fitting much easier. Only point to watch out for is that you may need a longer drop brake caliper on certain frames to make sure brakes hit the rim braking surface properly.

Tyre clearance

Fitting wider tyres for winter or even gravel tyres (to provide extra traction) makes sense for several reasons. The wider tyre offers more contact with the road increasing grip; the larger volume of air gives more cushioning making it more comfortable and wider tyres can have more protection added to strengthen them and help avoid punctures. Winter bikes therefore have more space between the wheel and frame/ fork to allow wider tyres to be fitted.

Stronger wheels

As mentioned above, road conditions deteriorate in winter so your wheels take more of a bashing. While it’s nice to have some lightweight nimble wheels for summer, winter wheels should be more about durability and comfort so usually have more spokes and are slightly heavier but it’s small price to pay.

Relaxed geometry

Winter riding is more about social rides and longer distances than speed so comfort is important. Winter bikes tend to have more relaxed geometry to help soak up bumps and allow for more clearance.

The important thing is to make sure all your measurements are the same from your summer bike so it’s easier to transition between them. If you can use the same saddle and handlebar even if it is a lower spec that will also help when switching bikes again.

Lower gearing

A lot of riders use smaller gears during the off season to help encourage spinning and keep pressure of the knees. Also as fitness levels drop it makes it easier to get up hills especially as winter bikes tend to be heavier!

Don’t be surprised to see long cage rear mechs and compact or triple chainsets to cope with the increased spread of gears.

You don’t need to spend a fortune these days to get a decent winter bike, something like the Merlin Performance PR7 Road bike (see below) costs less than a set of race wheels.

Or how about getting a gravel bike that can be used all year round on rough stuff as well as being more than capable of taking the abuse winter can throw at it?