Winter? On a Road Bike?

Winter is on its way for the northern hemisphere. So as we approach the chilly months in this Covid-19 effected year, it’s almost time to battle the urge to close the shutters. Forget about hibernation, it’s time to think about autumn / winter road rides.

Some riders have an alternative bike for the winter. Whether that’s a bombproof, mud-guarded old hack bike or an on/off-roader for winter ‘off-piste’ fun. Spare a thought for those with one bike for all seasons. With those in mind, here are ten tips for getting through winter on a road bike.

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Mudguards

Mudguards do a decent job of protecting riders (yourself and others) from getting very wet and covered in road grime. Certain cycling clubs ban riders from group rides who don’t have full mudguards. Those slightly more liberal cycling clubs, enforce a ‘ride at the back’ rule. This seasonal rule is the cycling equivalent to having to sit in the corner wearing a dunces hat. If your bike doesn’t have mudguard eyelets, you may need brackets to fit them or try the Crud Road Racer Mk3 mudguards which are designed to attach to race bikes. If you regularly head out on your own, but 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. Your washing machine outlet filter will thank you for it.

Flap 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 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.

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Helicopter tape

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.

Go Tubeless

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.

Cleanliness

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 ridable 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 oil 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.

Heavy Metal

Don’t stress about mudguards, lights and reinforced tyres making your bike heavier. Carrying extra weight through the winter will make the transition back to summer riding, even more pleasurable. As a younger rider, my winter bike was double the weight of my race bike, the springtime bike switchover was brilliant.

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Read all about it

This might seem a bit old school but… A copy of last week’s newspaper will keep the chill out when placed between your base layer and jersey / jacket. Particularly useful if you live at the top of a hill; straight out onto a big descent when the temperature is around zero degrees can result in a very icy -20 to -30 windchill. Once the paper has done its insulating job, bin it and carry on with your ride.

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 and leave them 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.

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Comfort

Consider your riding position for winter. If you need to tweak your position following a Bike Fit or to alleviate an annoying niggle whilst riding, it’s a good idea to dial that into your position before the training miles start to rack up. If you are spending time out in the cold, at least make it fully count.

Wrap Up

Make sure your winter clothing collection is up to scratch. Decent quality overshoes and gloves should keep your extremeties protected, quality base layers are 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 and lobster style gloves such as the Sealskinz Waterproof Extreme.

Splash the cash

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. Fit some full length mudguards, pop a rack or panniers on and head off somewhere nice this winter.

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;

Winter Miles – Summer Smiles