While some riders transition onto a bombproof, mud-guarded old hack bike for winter miles, spare a thought for those with one bike for all seasons. With those in mind, here are some tips for getting through winter on a road bike.
Mudguards do a decent job of protecting riders (yourself and others) from getting very wet and covered in road / trail grime. The type of mudguard you can fit depends on your bike and how much clearance there is between the wheels and the frameset. Some bikes come with mounting ‘eye’ attachments built into the frame – these are ideal for full mudguards. Racier road bikes don’t usually have muguard eye mounts and usually have less clearance, so these need specific mudguards for race bikes, such as the Crud Road Racer Mk3 . If you regularly head out on your own, and would prefer to get home with less road filth on your clothing, try the budget option of an Ass Saver. The simple, cheap device stops a decent percentage of filth and is very easy to fit, it can even be tucked back under the saddle when not needed. If you’ve never used mudguards but moan about getting filthy, give them a go.
Your washing machine outlet filter will thank you for it.
Show fellow riders that you truly care for them by investing in a proper rear mudguard flap. If you are too tight to buy one, or fancy a challenge, make your own! Simply cut a section from an old water bottle or a section of old fat MTB tyre and using self-tapping screws, attach it into the last inch or so of your rear full-length mudguard. For the full pro look, do a matching, smaller one on the front too. This will better protect your feet from spray off the front wheel.
Protect your pride and joy going into winter with clear helicopter / leading edge tape. Concentrate on covering the main frame tubes, especially where cables touch or pass close by. Taping your cranks can also stop your overshoes from wearing a little patch off the finish on your cranks. Before applying the tape make sure the area is clean and dry.
Winter Puncture Resistant Tyres
If the thought of changing a tube in freezing conditions leaves you cold, invest in some decent quality and grippy puncture resistant tyres. The grit and extra filth on the roads demand more hard-core protection than thin, racier tyres can provide. If your frame will allow wider tyres, it’s great to build in some extra comfort for winter. It’s worth a double check to make sure that your wider tyres will fit your frame when your mudguards are in place. It is also well worth carrying an extra spare tube, especially for longer rides – just in case.
Alternatively, go tubeless. Using tubeless tyres with sealant is the ultimate best way to keep rolling and let the sealant keep your tyres inflated. The main downside to tubeless is the often time consuming setting-up process and initial research into which tyres work well with which rims. Once set up, a little top up of sealant evey few months should keep eveything inflated and rolling nicely.
Riding one bike all year round demands huge cleaning / maintenance discipline. Straight after each ride, get it clean! Road salt, grit and grime can wreck a decent bike within a few weeks. Degreasing and lubricating your chain and cassette is vital to keep your bike rideable all winter. Should your bike start to ghost shift or remain slightly out of gear (with the accompanying annoying clicking) it could well be time to pay more attention to your drivetrain. As well as degreasing and re applying lubrication to the chain and cassette, try to get extra lube into gear cables. They can dry out and become sticky, shifting can become ‘hit and miss’ when this happens. If you have time and skills why not strip and rebuild your bike mid way through winter, it’s your bike’s reward for putting up with all that filth.
Light It Up
One of the worst aspects of winter is the darkness. Dark mornings and dark afternoons are also very dangerous times to be riding. Even if you are not riding in full darkness, get some decent quality lights fitted for those very grim days. You need extra visibility for those bleak rides. It is also wise to ride in lighter coloured clothing or clothing with reflective panels.
Make sure your winter clothing collection is up to scratch. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices. Decent quality overshoes such as those from the specialists at Spatzwear (below) and winter gloves will keep your extremities protected. A good quality base layer is also a necessity. Get the best winter bib-tights and jackets that you can afford, as well as keeping you warm they will last a few winters if well cared for. If you really can’t stand getting cold, consider a thermal skull cap, waterproof socks, neck warmer too.
Don’t Get Lost
While fumbling around unknown lanes and bridleways might me relaxing fun in summer, it’s a different ball-game in winter. Getting lost when it’s cold, in the windy, wet wilderness can be a pain and is best avoided. Fortunately, some GPS head units, such as the Wahoo Elemnt Roam, are pre-loaded with detailed maps for on and off road riding. Ideal for not getting lost. Features such as Route to Start (shortest route) can get you back home, into a hot shower (and then your warm slippers) much quicker.
If you can’t commit to a relentless cleaning and maintenance regime to keep your road bike in top condition, there are low cost, lower maintenance, bike options. Gravel bikes make great winter bikes: bomb-proof, reliable, comfortable…Can you see where this is going….
Merlin Malt Gravel bikes are ideal for adventuring off the beaten path and getting you through those relentless winter miles. From the £529 Malt G2 Claris, to the £1299 G2X GRX, these are well specced bikes. Featuring geometry designed for competancy and fun off road, or long hours in the saddle on-road. All the bikes in the value-packed Malt range feature thru axles, carbon forks, mudguard & rack mounts and a full Shimano groupset.
Riding a different, specific bike for winter also gives you the ability to look lovingly at your summer bike, whilst it’s tucked away through winter in its full glory.
Regardless of how you go about it, and what your cycling targets may be, get out there and enjoy it. Remember the often used old road rider’s adage;